Australian television host Sonia Kruger has ignited controversy with her treatment of a scholarship for LGBT children on the television show Today Extra.
She reported that the Australian Business and Community Network Scholarship Foundation (ABCN) has begun to focus on high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) to receive mentoring or financial scholarships. The television host said she thought it was highly unusual to ask Year 10 pupils about their sexual preferences.
Year 10 students in Australia who are citizens or permanent residents can win the scholarship, which consists of $7,000 to cover their Year 11, 12 and their first year of college. The scholarships are to be used for study resources or to assist those with financial hardships, writes Sinead Maclaughlin for Daily Mail Australia.
This year is the first time that the ABCN has included questions about prospective students' sexual and gender identity. Previously the foundation has only asked whether students were male or female. Kruger said she thinks scholarships should be given according to the merit of the student.
National Policy Officer for Family Voice Australia Damien Wyld told The Australian that the new scholarship was an example of ideological activism. Family Voice Australia is a Christian lobbyists group.
"Many 15-year-olds are still working through issues around sexuality. Offering a financial incentive to identify as âlesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex' is completely inappropriate," said Wyld.
Kruger's co-host David Campbell said that anyone who took issue with the questions asked by ABCN was "living in the dark ages." He added that sexuality for young people is different than it was when he was in high school. In view of the wide range of scholarships offered to students in today's world, the questions asked about sexual identity are not a big deal, he continued.
Earlier this year, Kruger was criticized for commenting that Australia should ban Muslim migrants. During a panel discussion on the show, the TV host claimed there was a connection between the size of the Muslim population in a country and the number of terrorist attacks.
"Personally, I would like to see it stop now for Australia because I want to feel safe as all of our citizens do when we go out to celebrate Australia Day," she told the panel.
Responses to Kruger's remarks ran the gamut from praising her for her honesty to calling her statements "disgusting." Kruger responded to the criticisms by stating:
"Following the atrocities last week in Nice where 10 children lost their lives, as a mother, I believe it's vital in a democratic society to be able to discuss these issues without automatically being labelled racist."
The new scholarship targeting has won praise from the LGBTI community. LGBTI advocate Rodney Croome said students in this demographic face discrimination and abuse of other types which can affect their educational performance, reports The Sydney Morning Herald's Aja Styles.
He added that it was a bold move for the ABCN to recognize this community just as they have done for Indigenous and rural students.
Kruger continued by explaining that she felt the scholarship questions boiled down to "reverse discrimination."