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An open letter to the Prime Minister of Australia

By Mike Cullen

Dear Prime Minister,

I wasn’t sure how to address your government’s latest announcement yesterday. The age old belief that announcing unpopular moves late on Friday no longer has the same power it did in the years before social media. Social media now means an unpopular announcement now trends on Twitter within minutes of the announcement and, if it’s on a Friday, that announcement has the weekend to fester and build momentum.

When I read about your government’s decision to not only make substantial changes to the Safe Schools programme, but to cease its funding I was initially enraged. I wasn’t very coherent, but then again neither were a lot of people who took to social media in shock at the Government’s decision.

I know you have a social media team, frankly I felt sorry for them yesterday, who manage your Twitter account. They would have been first hand witnesses to your mentions exploding as people attempted to reach out and express their distress. I have to give them credit where it’s due, unlike most of your front bench they don’t block people who disagree with you. You might want to have one of your social media team explain to the social media teams of your Ministers that blocking dissenting voices doesn’t mean the people themselves are silenced, but I digress.

In September 2015 the Liberal Party voted to remove then Prime Minister Tony Abbott from a position he was obviously never capable of fulfilling. They chose to replace him with yourself. The popular, man of the people with a penchant for leather jackets and taking selfies while using public transport.

For a moment there was a collective sigh of relief. No longer would Australia have to endure a man determined to make himself a wartime leader. No longer would every media conference be a series of three word slogans. No longer would people watching the media conferences have to count the number of Australian flags before Tony Abbott appeared, to ascertain whether this particular media conference was about stopping the boats, axing the tax, or an imminent invasion of ISIS on our shores.

The man, who had regularly led the preferred Prime Minister polls since the time of the Julia Gillard Government, was finally in place. The man who was a fierce supporter of Climate Change, who publicly spoke against his own party when it came to Marriage Equality and the wastefulness of the Plebiscite. The man who publicly supported a referendum on Australia’s independence from having the Queen of England as our Head of State.

This man, the one who regularly took selfies of himself with “the people”, who took the train or ferry at every given media opportunity, the one with principals that both Liberal and Labor supporters alike supported, had rolled the government on it’s head. In your press conference after securing the Prime Ministership the country thought “well, there’s that done. The darkest period in Australian political history is done and dusted“.

Dyed-in-the-wool Labor voters threw a collective fit as they saw their best chance at winning the next election relegated to the back bench. All but the far right wing nut jobs of the Liberal voters cheered, as they saw a return to the golden days of Menzies and Howard with an intelligent and successful Liberal Leader back in power, one the Labor party wasn’t going to be able to beat.

That was in September 2015. It wasn’t long before those who don’t vote Liberal simply because their families have for generations, began to wonder what you’d promised your party for votes. The Government Minister who publicly declared the Marriage Equality plebiscite to be a ridiculous idea, as Parliament had the power to make the change themselves, suddenly was all for supporting the costly and divisive public poll. No date, just some time in the future.

The Prime Minister who, when ousted as Opposition Leader, wrote a scathing attack on Tony Abbott’s climate change blindness suddenly reversing his position. It even appears that public letter you posted on your blog was removed.

It became obvious very quickly, you were not the man you had led us to believe. Your government is stuck in inertia. It hasn’t moved on from the policies that brought about the end of Tony Abbott. It’s still pushing ahead with policies that will, ultimately, split the country down the middle.

You talk a good game of innovation and exciting times, but you’re not showing any innovation through your actions.

Senate Voting Reform, initially a Labor idea that was met with howls of “stacking the deck”, has just passed under your watch. I fail to see how it is now considered innovative reform, designed to put the power back in the voters hands when it was stacking the deck when suggested by Labor.

You do realise without the Liberal Party preference deals, your own Minister for Employment and Minister for Women wouldn’t have won her Senate place, scoring a smaller number of votes than Ricky Muir did.

I don’t say all of this to offend you. I say it as someone who refused to vote for Tony Abbott in 2013 but, publicly stated he would have voted for you had you been the opposition leader at the 2013 election. I say it as someone who made the mistake of trusting that you were the man of principles you claimed to be, despite knowing people who have known you most of their lives who told me you were nothing like the public image, that you were ruthless, power hungry and would sell your soul to win another election.

I didn’t believe them then. I still believe that somewhere beneath the veneer of charm there is a real man, who sits back at night and sees the damage he is doing to our country and its people, and worries that he gave away too much to get a job he could be so much better at if he did what he believed, not what he promised backroom power brokers.

I say this to express, in the only way I know how, my utter disappointment and the disappointment of many other Australians.

But, back to the changes your government have announced in regards to the Safe Schools program. I struggled last night to think how I could put this in words. I wanted to be clear, but not rude. I decided to sleep on it. It seems to have been a good idea. Last night I was choking with rage, about all I was good for was inventing new swear words and that wouldn’t have done anyone any good.

An open letter filled with vitriol and abuse would have been ignored. No one who reads this would have gotten beyond the first paragraph, let alone if by some miracle, this link arrives on your iPhone one morning on your commute to your Sydney office.

This morning I thought about addressing this issue with you again and decided I’d tell you a story. For readers of my blog, it’s not a new story. But it is a story about young boy who was different and the pain he experienced growing up. A pain that even today manifests itself in ways he didn’t expect, even though he’s now a 42 year old man.

I was told when I was younger that bullies will never win. That ultimately people see them for what they are; scared, lonely little people who need to tear others down to feel any form of their own power. Yesterday, your government handed the bullies – both in your Government and outside of it – the win they’ve been craving and the public recognition that hate is something to be nurtured.

The story I want to tell you begins in late January 1979. I was five years old and just starting Kindergarten. I can still remember my family telling me how exciting it was to be a big boy, that going to school was going to be a great adventure. It was also the year I learned my family tells lies. School was not a great adventure. It began as it ended, a tortuous place where a small boy was victimised and bullied, daily!

As an only child, I was very lucky I had family and cousins by the truckload. But in my family I was the only child my parents could have. The years before school were filled with fun and games, and lots of love. Going to school I was told, would be the same. It would be where I would learn new things, meet new friends. There’d be friends and games, parties and a whole new world.

The first time I was called a fairy was the second day of Kindergarten. I didn’t know what it meant. The older brother of a classmate and his friends called me that. He told his brother – my classmate – it meant I wanted to have sex with boys, and boys didn’t do that, only evil boys did who wanted to go to hell. And so it began.

Fairy, became pansy. Pansy, became poofter. Poofter became Faggot. Faggot become AIDS carrier (by then it was the early 80’s and HIV was all over the news). AIDS carrier became Dirty Faggot. Dirty Faggot became, well it became a lot of things but I’m sure you get my point by now.

School – remember Prime Minister, we’re still in Primary School here – became a daily war. I was sick all the time. Every single day I tried to stay home. It must have been hell for my parents. The crying, the battles to get me on the bus, to make sure I stayed on the bus and didn’t get off at the next stop and walk home. The vomiting as the bus came around the corner.

We didn’t know it then, and it would take many years for me to find out what it was, but dealing with a child terrorised and filled with anxiety attacks before his age hit double digits must have been hell to deal with for my parents. I know it was for me.

I learned early not to go to the bathroom at school if I could avoid it. The first time I was ever hit, I was washing my hands in the boys room. Two of the school bullies saw me at the sink and hit me because obviously I was there to have sex with people. I was told I wasn’t allowed to use the toilets and if they caught me in there again, they’d beat me up.

For a seven year old boy surrounded by bigger and older kids, who’d already endured two years of psychological abuse, I believed them. So I taught myself to hold on. To endure the pain, and to try and sneak out of class if I could.

By the time I reached high school I was six feet tall and fat as a barn. I ate, because it was all that gave me any form of pleasure. When I got older food was replaced with alcohol, but that’s a story for another day. You would think at that size, I would have been able to defend myself, but you’re wrong.

By the time I reached high school I was broken. Seven years of daily torture, teachers turning a blind eye, physical and emotional attacks if I so much as looked up at someone left me broken. The best a teacher in primary school ever did was tell my parents I needed to toughen up. At the time I was five.

High school was a whole new level of torture. I went to an all boys catholic high school. All the catholic schools in the area funnelled their teenage boys into that place. Hundreds of fresh faces, and a hundred or so that I’d been stuck with for seven years. It didn’t take long for me to realise that while there were fresh faces, there was also fresh tormentors.

As the boys all amalgamated into new groups, expanding their social networks word spread.

See that fat bloke, with the freckles. He’s a f*cking poofter. Don’t go near him or he’ll try and have sex with you.

Suddenly from a hundred or so tormentors and torturers, it felt like there were thousands of them. Not only in my year, but in every year there were people who hit me, pushed me out of the way, locked me in rooms. I found solace in the library for a time.

Until they found me there, and the librarian told me that I needed to get more sun and exercise and I was banned from the library unless it was Thursday.

Being a teenager is hard enough and by then I knew the torturers were right. I was gay. I realised that the minute my hormones kicked in. I knew by the end of primary school these boys were correct. I was a poofter. I was going to burn in hell. I was going to get AIDS and die, alone, hated by everyone. I knew I deserved the beatings, the abuse. I never raised a hand in my own defence. Why would I? They were right. I was a disgusting, perverted faggot. They’d known all along, thanks to the older brother of a kid I was in Kindergarten with.

When I was in Year 10, I was called to the Principals office. We had a new principal that year. He was younger – by about 50 years – than the old one. He had curly brown hair and thick rimmed black glasses. He told me to sit down in a leather chair that faced his desk, and then he sat on the other side of the desk in his own brown leather chair.

I had no idea what I’d done wrong. I had never been in trouble. I’d never spoken if I could avoid it. Brother Dean looked at me, he rested his chin on steepled fingers.

“Mike,” he began. “It’s been brought to my attention by your teachers that your life here is hell. The teachers have told me about the abuse you receive, and have said you never complain, you never go to them for help. They’re powerless to step in, if they do it will only make it worse.”

I looked at this man, the first teacher in my entire education experience who addressed the issue head on. I’m going to expelled for being gay, I thought to myself. I mean seriously, where else could this be heading?

“Mike, I need for you to defend yourself. You’ve not got much longer here at the school before you leave us and go to another school for your final two years of education. You’re a bright boy, smarter than you let on. I want you to know, that if you need to defend yourself physically there’ll be no punishment. The teachers and I are in agreement. The only way to get out of this alive is to fight back. Pick the loudest voice and knock him flat on his back.”

Can you imagine that Prime Minister? A high school Principal who had the backing of the entire teaching staff, telling me to fight. Telling me he’d stood as witness to the abuse I was receiving and decided I had to be given this power, that no other student ever had. I remember thanking him for his concern and leaving.

I was relieved I wasn’t to be expelled for being a pervert. I never once thought of using the permission I was given in that office that day.

About a week later, the physical abuse ramped up a notch, and I can still feel the brick wall slamming into my back as he student pushed me into it when I think about it. I can still feel his hand as it grabbed hold of my crotch, squeezing until pain and tears came into my eyes. I can still hear him, as he used his own body weight to hold me to the wall while he told me if I wanted to be a girl so much he’d show me how it felt. I can still feel him grabbing my wrist and shoving my hand into his shorts, while he told me I’d enjoy it because I was poof and a dick was a dick.

Funny story, that was the first time I felt another penis, but I digress.

The only reason it stopped was another guy walked around the corner. He never picked on me, but never spoke to me either. I was invisible to all but the ones who made it their mission to torture me. He simply grabbed the other guy by the neck and threw him into a garden bed and told him to f*ck off.

He never looked at me, never even acknowledged I was standing there still pushed against the wall but this time by own weight as I waited in fear of his attack.

The first guy simply snarled at me as he pulled himself from the garden bed and told me he’d kill me. Several years later, he moved into my suburb. I didn’t realise it. I was trying to lose weight at the time and had gone for a late night walk. I heard a foot step scrape on the gravel road, and when I turned around there he was, a whipper snipper chord in his hands. His friends had followed him, and they made sure nothing happened.

I heard a couple of weeks later he’d committed suicide. I couldn’t feel sad about that.

The straw that broke my back completely happened when I was in Year Eleven. I went to the bathroom, it was just on the end of lunch and the quadrangle had been deserted. I assumed I was safe. I wasn’t.

One of the bully packs in the new school – and there were so many to chose from really – was waiting for me just inside the door. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit.

He was holding a dildo, I’m sure you know what they are. He and his friends held me against a wall and told me if they saw me in school again, they’d use it on me. Once they’d delivered their ultimatum I walked out of the school, not just the bathroom but the school. I put my locker key on the desk at reception, and walked out.

I never went back. I walked to the station, got on the train and came home. That day, 18 months from officially finishing my high school career, my school education ended.

Still, for all the abuse I was lucky. You see, I was raised in the time before social media Mr Prime Minister.

I was raised so when I walked into the house, and closed the door behind me I was safe. Today’s kids, be they LGBT or just different to the pack, don’t have that luxury. They walk in the front door and there’s social media: Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter. The victimisation and the bullying continues even when they’re supposedly safe in their homes.

Had I not had that respite I wouldn’t be sitting here, telling you things I’ve never told anyone, writing to you to implore you to do something other than tell your rabid backbench to “behave nicely”.

Even with that respite I almost wasn’t here. The darkness of those days followed me and to a degree they still do.

I read last night on Twitter that children need bullies because it makes them tougher. It was a tweet sent out by someone supporting your government’s Safe Schools decision.

To that, I call bullshit. Children don’t need bullies. It doesn’t make them tougher, it runs the risk of breaking them altogether.

I’m now 42. I’ve been out of school for more than 25 years. In the dark of night I still hear them, the children I went to school with. In the dark of night I still hate myself for my weakness. In the dark of night I still feel the pain I endured. Abuse does not make a child stronger, it takes from them their innocence and worse of all, it takes from their hope and trust.

I hear people talk about their school years with nostalgia, for me even the thought of school still fills me with fear.

Prime Minister, your government made a monstrous decision on Friday. By announcing not only substantial changes to the Safe Schools programme, but also the end of funding in 2017, you have told the most vulnerable students in our country their lives don’t matter.

You have told those children they deserve no respect from their peers. You have taken a program originally released to combat the rising number of teen suicides and thrown it away, all to appease back benchers who will never support you.

Do you believe that Cory Bernardi or George Christensen will now throw rose petals on the ground as you walk past? Do you think they will now be on your side, supporting you in your role as Prime Minister? Of course they won’t.

You effectively gave the bullies your lunch money. They know now they only need to start a campaign for you and your Government to cave in.

I may have been bullied a lot as a child. I may have not spoken much and I may not have had friends. But I never gave the bullies my lunch money even if it could have bought me a week of peace and quiet.

I may have been next to useless in standing up to the bullies around me – something it appears we may have in common – but I never sold anyone else down the river to appease them.

In September 2015, you and Julie Bishop stood beaming at the podium heralding a new age in Australian politics. You made promises to the people of this country to rule in our interests. Since then you have done nothing to turn the growing tide of hate that has infected us since September 2013.

You have ensured your place in Australian history. You are the Prime Minister. No one will ever be able to take that away from you. But whether or not you are good, useless, or the shortest termed Prime Minister in our history is still for you, and the electorate, to decide.

In closing Prime Minister, I hope to impress upon you the importance and consequences of your government’s decision yesterday. It is of no value for you to step forward and blame an independent review when this all goes to hell.

You can not wash the stink of this decision off your hands, no matter how many bottles of expensive after shave you may bathe in. Your government’s announcement yesterday will have two certain effects.

Firstly, vulnerable children will be the ones effected the most, and that will cause more long term damage than you can possibly imagine. Secondly, you have damaged your reputation among LGBT people and their families. No one with an LGBT relative, child, niece, nephew or grandchild can look to you and say “With Malcolm Turnbull in power, my child will be safe“.

All they can say with any assurance is that the man who takes selfies, is interested only in himself.

This letter was originally published on Mike’s blog Writing in Shadows.

022c96aa7e307531e61351d20087135d About Mike Cullen: 41 year old Australian writer currently working on the first of a planned three book Epic Fantasy series. Mike currently works as the Director of Corporate Events and Policy discussions for a boutique conference and events company in Sydney, Australia. When he’s not writing policy discussions, or tales of swords, Gods, and magic, he can be found making a mess in the kitchen, and turning perfectly good ingredients into crimes against humanity.

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  1. cuppa

    Heartbreaking. Thanks for nothing, MT (Empty).

  2. Clean livin

    Good timely message, Mike.
    However I used the Rage bit, and emailed the PM with a 3 word slogan “you fu::::ing Whimp” without the ::::
    Same message. Shorter version.
    Well done. You speak for many people in n the community, and not just LGBetc…

  3. Kaye Lee

    It is immeasurably sad what this government will do for political purposes and personal ambition. Scott Morrison even once said that they should “exploit” the fears of the community. We should fear terrorists, environmentalists, asylum seekers, feminists, gays, Muslims, the unemployed, the burden of our aging population, government debt, the cost of action on climate change, the liberalisation of our children….

    Culture of fear (or climate of fear) is the concept that people may incite fear in the general public to achieve political goal.

    Look at how the Liberal Party trawl back through decades trying to find dirt on people. Look at the language they use. They want the right to offend people saying that allowing hate speech shines a light on dark places. What it has done is put the spotlight on some very ugly individuals and the moths are gathering to the flame.

  4. mstaindll

    Mike, I went to a Catholic boys boarding school and was bullied continuously and mercilessly. But I think I had it good compared to you. I feel I know every bit of what you write about. I thank, and admire, you deeply for the courage and clarity with which you wrote it. Be/stay strong, and thank you. Michael.

  5. Kaye Lee

    To Mike Cullen,

    Two very wise Aboriginal women once said to me, every experience in life, good or bad, teaches you something. The pain you endured should never be felt by any person let a lone a child. Your message is very powerful. You are indeed standing up to the bullies and I hope you realise that the vast majority of us stand with you. Your past has given you the experience and the courage to make a positive contribution to the future. None could read your words and be unmoved. I hope sharing your heartache and torment like this has not reawakened demons. You should be proud of the person you have become and I admire your strength.

  6. Andrea Charlton

    I hated the government’s decision even before I read this story, but now I hate it even more. I am so pleased that Victoria’s state government and the ACT Territory have decided to support this necessary program despite the Commonwealth’s decision. I hope the other states find enough courage themselves to stand up to the terrified bullies that are trying to tell us what to do. Bon courage!

  7. Erin Fore

    As someone who was raised Catholic and indeed went to a catholic school, where bullying of any kind was not tolerated and our parish priest made it very clear that God loved all his children regardless of sexual preference. I apologise to you my dear darling man you did not deserve this and I can only hope that you have found someone to love you the way you most certainly deserve to. I hope that if labour get in you will have your choice to marry and that our safe schools program will stay in place.
    A few weeks ago I spoke to LGBTI alley group at the University of Wollongong they introduced me to a young man who like yourself was bullied until his school implemented the safe schools program once his peers understood him the bullying stopped and he is still here, like you are we need this for our babies to stay safe.
    So much love and light to you xoxo

  8. Jaquix

    Thank you for sharing your personal story with us Mike Cullen. I feel exactly the same about Malcolm Turnbull. So glad his approval rating continues to go down, but Im amazed at the number of voters who claim to intend to vote for this reactionary government full of old fogeys. Mind you, its a Newspoll poll, so there could be better news hidden under these figures.

  9. Michelle

    Mistrust, Fear, Hate. The new slogan for our government. They do not govern for the people, for families, imagine if their 3 word slogan was Trust, Accept, Love… What a wonderful world it could be.

  10. Stevie Christy

    Mike thank you, this bought tears to my eye’s, I’m 60 years old, and was bullied in primary school. Girls punching me in the breast’s and beating me up all the time, cause i was different, I was never a loud child, and i was always into peace. I too suffered at school. And turned to alcohol to try and blank out my childhood years.

  11. guest

    So it is true: Malcolm is all about Malcolm. His main concern is about keeping his job – and money. He has disbanded all his principles. He has sold himself to the devil. He is a muppet manipulated by unpleasant people.

    We only have to read Mike Cullen’s sad but brave story to realise that this is but one story among many that could be told. And when we read John Ward’s comparisons between Labor and the Coalition as a post today we see the macro picture of what is happening to this country.

    That so many people accept the Coalition without so much as a whimper is beyond comprehension.

  12. Lee

    I remember a bully who depends on the fact that most ppl don’t wish to start a fuss, who want to appear to be a likeable guy, so the fellow laugh situation the bully created off to appear likeable while in truth he is grinding his teeth in frustrated anger. And I’ve regretted that moment of taunting ever since and that was fifty-five years ago, what I should have done is ripped his balls off and born the consequences, because I was more than capable of doing it.

  13. Loz

    Thank you Mike Cullen for giving me the privilege of hearing your story. It is more and more apparent that this government (like the previous government) does not respect the the majority of the electorate who agree that the safe schools program should be implemented in full. I can only hope that the Australian people come to their senses and ensure that this awful government is not re-elected.

  14. Carol Taylor

    My concern is that by basically abandoning the Safe Schools program, that Turnbull has provided empowerment to bullies, the same as Abbott’s endorsement of Andrew Bolt provided empowerment to racists.

  15. Adrianne Haddow

    Mike, thank you for sharing your story.

    Your writing is powerful, please make sure it is shared far and wide. I do hope you sent this to Malcolm Turnbull.

    I would suggest Cory Bernardi and George Christensen but I suppose it would fall on deaf ears, as they were probably committing the very same acts of terror on other children in other schools.

    I hate what our country has become, and can only apologise that our society has not been more vigilant in protecting our vulnerable brothers and sisters from these beasts.

  16. Miriam English

    Mike, bravo! This is an extremely important piece. I hope Malcolm Turnbull’s social media researchers show it to him.

    It is easy to see that the Safe Schools program is a good thing in the way it protects kids from the school-yard equivalents of Cory Bernardi and George Christensen. (I bet they spent their school days throwing punches, kicking, and spewing hate at weaker kids.)

    What is less obvious is that it also protects weak-minded individuals from turning into bullies. It stops them becoming twisted moral cripples whose hate stunts them from ever growing into full human beings. It stops them from becoming engulfed by their ugly fear and hatred and infecting others with the disease. It gives those who would have become monsters a chance at a worthwhile life and it helps to stop fear and hate from spreading and damaging our society for decades beyond school.

    As you said, Malcolm Turnbull has made a terrible miscalculation. He is hoping that by doing something distasteful to appease them now he will have the support of those in his party who hate him, but he is wrong. He has let Australia down, and those he was hoping to buy support from now see his fear and will only become more vicious. He will get nothing from them. They are bullies. They will savage him the first chance they get. It is their way. They never had a Safe Schools program or honorable parents or friends to teach them otherwise. I feel sorry for them. And I almost feel sorry for Malcolm Turnbull.

    You, Mike, grew up to become a fuller human being, whereas the bullies who tormented you are either tormenting themselves with shame for the rest of their lives, or else never grew up and are still bullies — ugly inside, shrivelled, hateful monstrosities, incapable of growth, unable to feel much more than superficial empathy for any beyond a few people closest to them, if they can feel any empathy at all.

    You, Mike, have the loving support of millions of your fellows. Remember, there are probably around 2 million gay people in Australia. Add to them all their straight friends and family.

    The bullies wasted their lives and the lives of all they affected. The poor bastards dined on fear and hate, not realising there’s no nourishment there because it was never a food, it is a debilitating drug.

  17. Gangey1959

    Thank you Mike.
    That must have taken a great deal of courage.
    Our prime minister has sold Australia’s soul to the bullies and brainless religious fanatic zealots of the far right. Mr turdbullshitartist signed the contract on Friday last.
    The only thing we need now is for bernardi and christenen, along with the rest of the ipa dung beetles to don their black uniforms with perverted cross armbands a la the nasty party of 1930s Germany and we will know exactly where we stand.
    Today’s announcement that the lnp thugs are going to sink their jackboots into (first) the unions via the abcc, or we will go to the polls for a DD is just proof of the pudding. After that, on the basis that the lnp win which is highly likely cosidering where uncle ruperts allegiances lie, he is gone, and project x (insert name here) from the ipa will be installed as our pm.
    The rest of us will be left to stew in our own juices, and remember how well things were back in the last century.

    Take care Mike.
    We haven’t voted yet, and there is still a High Court challenge in the offing just to keep everything up in the air.

  18. margcal

    Thank you, Mike.

    I have posted this link on the FB pages of Turnbull, Frydenberg, Bernardi and Christensen. (My being blocked on the last must be coming soon. It was however, pleasing to see a growing number of critical voices there along with the usual brain dead).

    I would have posted it on Tim Wilson’s too but only ‘friends’ can post. I do hope that members of the LGBTIQ community will see through him, that he’s for Tim, first, last and always, and will abandon them if it suits his purposes.

    I heard the news on Friday from a young (late 20s!) gay man. It was heartbreaking to hear the pain in his voice. A comment he made that I’ve not heard elsewhere …. That in needing parental permission to participate even in the watered down version of the Safe Schools Programme, it will be the children who need it most who will miss out … the young person still grappling with their sexuality and not up to coming out to ask, and the bully who “doesn’t need it”.

    Shame on Turnbull for the appalling example he has set in allowing bullies to win. Although bullying of a different type … it’s not his life or personhood at risk, just money and power.

  19. Keitha Granville

    thanks Mike, incredible story. You need to make sure it is told in every school by parents and friends up to the election. There are “Mikes” all over the country being bullied right now, not knowing where to turn.
    This is where they can turn, to people like you who are not afraid or ashamed to tell their story – and to the Principals like yours who might tell all the bullied children in their school to fight back. Those principals also need to tell the bullies that they are on notice, that they have been noticed, and their time is up.

    Can’t wait to read your epic fantasy series !

  20. David

    Bravo Mike, the courage you have shown is sadly lacking in the Turnbull’s DNA and will come back to haunt him. Also wise words Carol Taylor ” by basically abandoning the Safe Schools program, Turnbull has provided empowerment to bullies, the same as Abbott’s endorsement of Andrew Bolt provided empowerment to racists.” ….he certainly has.

  21. Backyard Bob

    Whilst it’s a bad political action on the Government’s behalf to dilute the content of the SSP and to not renew its funding, I don’t see any impediment to the States taking up the slack. If they can’t find $2M a year between them there’s a problem.

  22. Tugsley Too

    BRAVO Mike Cullen , BRAVO.

  23. jimhaz

    I don’t have kids, but if I did I would show them this article and life story.

    Glad to see you’re alive. It sounds like it could have been touch and go as a young adult.

    I pretty much only read fantasy/sci-fi . Most modern fantasy stories start off with the main character overcoming extremely severe times, including bullying when young. I cheer for them, and I cheer for you.

    The Safe Schools program is not a high cost one – perhaps more success could be found via State governments. We now know for certainty that Turnbull is the classic opportunist we expected him to be, and that the federal LNP remains under the same nut job control as Abbott engineered, so maybe pressure could be applied to State governments instead. Firstly ALP govs in Vic and Qld, who could be amenable, then the NSW LNP gov (who yes are full of similar nutters to the feds, but you have to try).

  24. Backyard Bob

    Tweeted to the PMs feed. I don’t have a lot of followers but we’ll see how many retweets we can muster.

  25. Carol Taylor

    Backyard Bob, with the States’ budges for schools and hospitals run down by untold millions of dollars, there are going to have to be choices. Will we fund the disability integration program or the Safe Schools program? I’m pleased to see that Victoria has said that they will continue with the funding. However, surely the point is that the current Prime Minister can kowtow to the far right wing so-called Christians in his government at the expense of the mental health of children. Par for the course I suppose with this government. Also the hypocrisy of a man who can cheerily take ‘selfies’ at the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras one moment and cut funding the next.

  26. Greg Wright

    You should be ashamed at what your doing to our country. Where’s our jobs Malcolm. What about our kids and grandkids Malcolm. Stop looking after corporations and look after the people your a public servant not corporate servant. ?

  27. John Skene

    I copy this letter and sent to my local member of parliament and ask him to pass it on to the Prime Minster.

    I know it won’t do any good as he is a National Party Member

  28. Bill Malkin

    Thanks for your courageous and well written insight into the torture you were forced to endure for so many years from such a young age. It is a criminal offence to abuse children and also a criminal offence to neglect them. Malcolm Turnbull has committed a criminal offence now by enforcing the neglect of vulnerable children, and justice must be served quickly in order to begin the process of eradicating this torture. Turnbull brought us great hope and this has now been replaced by huge disappointment. He is nothing more than a slick Tony Abbott. He is a national disgrace who is actively preventing the protection of vulnerable children.

  29. wam

    there has been little change in bullying gays because religion keeps reinforcing the lifestyle choice.

    It would be frightening to know how many of us were bullied for being different even in one instance, even by misinterpretation through rumour which is passed ending with a silent unfathomable bashing.

    the ignorance that results in racist, sexist and homophobic politicians and public servants is only vulnerable to education by programs like safe schools.

    Sadly all ignorant pollies think they are educated, QED

  30. silkworm

    Excellent article.

    Turnbull was savaged on tonight’s QandA over this and other failures. Worth a watch.

  31. Ele

    Hi Mike I cried when I read your letter. I am an 80 year old female who did not really get hurt at primary school but lived in fear of what people threatened.My family was seen as stuck-up and I was often told I needed “taking down a peg or two”. Doesn’t sound much but was terrible at the time so I sympathise with what you were copping. Glad you have triumphed over all the adversity and commend you for a heartfelt, well written letter. Best wishes and I endorse all you have said.

  32. cliveah2014

    One of the most powerful letters I have ever read. It describes what most honest Australians feel, and sets to shame the vacillating nature of our Prime Minister, in whom the country had so much hope after the appalling performance of the previous incumbent of that post.

    I salute your bravery Mike Cullen

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  34. Ben

    Pretty much a carbon copy of my life except for me it wasn’t boys calling me a fairy in kindy it was the female teacher calling me a pansy and making me dance with the girls on the inside of a circle of boys.

    The effect of being singled out and humiliated like this in my first year of school at such a young age had a profoundly damaging effect that 42 years later I can remember like it was yesterday. I can also remember the rage I felt and the pot plant that I smashed on the floor.

    It was the beginning of 15 years of torture and shaming that just like Mike I internalised because there was no support. Not a single adult in my life had a clue what to do. The teachers pretty much turned a blind eye which as far as I’m concerned makes them complicit. I didn’t make it to year 12 because by the time I reached year 10 I couldn’t take another day and left.

    Yep the so called education system pretty much screwed me over and left me broken like so many others. I really should have sued their arses and I hope that somebody does. I finally went to uni at the age of 42 and graduated with distinction. I’m 47 now and often feel this is something I will struggle to overcome till the day I die.

    I have found that many people don’t like to hear this kind of thing. It makes them feel uncomfortable to know that the schools they send their kids to may be like this. Some people think you should just “toughen up” and stop being a victim but the fact is that when you’re victimised over such a long period of time in your most vulnerable years it has a long lasting effect and you cannot just shake it off by wishing it away.
    It’s abuse and abuse impacts the victims life in ways that those who have not experienced it can never even imagine. It can stunt people and stop them from flourishing. Surely to flourish is the birth right of every human being.
    It took me till my mid-late 30s to even realise and admit to myself that I was not ok or coping and that I needed help. As much as I know I need to be strong, this recent move by the government feels like just another homophobic nail in my coffin.

  35. Elize Huckle

    Mike Cullen, you are an extraordinary human being. Thank you for articulating my thoughts to Malcolm Turnbull. Bullies are everywhere. Male and female. Young and old. They like nothing better than stealing someone’s joy but Mike we’re still standing. True to ourselves and true to others. No advisor in MT’s inner circle has given him such gilded advice as you have otherwise he wouldn’t be where he is today. You’ve cautioned him, on behalf of many of us, to take stock. Let’s see if he heeds. Thank you Mike, wishing you all that’s best.

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