Children as young as three will learn about gender ­equality in a state-funded ­playgroup program. Generic picture
Children as young as three will learn about gender ­equality in a state-funded ­playgroup program. Generic picture

Kindergarten kids to learn about gender equality

CHILDREN as young as three will learn about gender ­equality in a state-funded ­playgroup program.

Preschoolers will be taught that dads can change nappies and stay at home while mums work under the $145,000 ­program.

During the sessions for children aged three and four, boys will be encouraged to be sensitive and girls will be told to take risks.

The interactive sessions, based around music and singing, are run by Drummond Street Services and Playgroup Victoria, with an aim to break gender and family stereotypes at a young age.

"Unbeknown to most of us, the children are taking on board our adult behaviours and storing messages about gender roles, gender bias, and societal expectations," Playgroup Victoria media manager Sinead Halliday said.

"The idea that boys are stronger, and girls are weaker still prevails."

But Opposition education spokesman Tim Smith said it was "a bit much frankly".

"These kids haven't had their first encounter with the tooth fairy yet, yet we're ­exposing them to complex ­political issues," he said.

Amanda Testro, creator of Hullaballoo Music For All, entertains Grace, 15 months, Piers, 2, and Lukas, 18 months, with music, song and props. Picture: David Caird
Amanda Testro, creator of Hullaballoo Music For All, entertains Grace, 15 months, Piers, 2, and Lukas, 18 months, with music, song and props. Picture: David Caird

Parents would also be educated through the playgroup sessions and given factual information on the gender wage gap and other workplace equity issues. "Bad habits are formed early in life," Drummond Street program manager Helen Rimington said.

"Violence and discrimination, while not specifically ­addressed, are part of the unfurling of learnt behaviours."

She said girls deserved the same opportunities as boys.

"We need to create that change in society, and parents are major influencers," she said.

 

Ms Halliday said the sessions were "fun and funny; it's a fantastic mix of silly and sincere". "Simple things are reversed," she said.

"Boys are encouraged to be gentle and sensitive, while the girls are empowered and encouraged to take risks. The option to be whoever they want to be is laid out."

Mr Smith said he wanted to "let kids be kids".

"Having discussions about society and the role gender plays in it is very important, but not for toddlers," he said.

"Let's get the politics out of the classroom."

Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Natalie Hutchins said ending violence in the home was crucial.

"Programs like this will help to ensure that future generations of Victorians can live free from violence," she said.



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