Sometimes you're grateful for the little things, because the little things can make a big difference.
For Sam Rodda the turning point came when he was 16, after years of moving between schools, desperate to escape the kind of bullying and exclusion that often comes with the territory when you happen to be young and gay.
Eventually he enrolled at Princes Hill Secondary College – one of the founding members of the Safe Schools Coalition when the program began in Victoria in 2010.
The school's membership alone was enough for Sam to know that it welcomed diversity, and that finally, he could just be himself.
"It creates an ease of mind," says the 22-year-old, who is now doing a legal studies degree at RMIT University.
"You're at school – you're meant to be focused on school things and not be worried about other things from a negative angle, such as social expectations and friendships. The program is just trying to create openness and a safe environment for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students. And it did."
It's been six years since Sam appeared on the front page of The Ageto share his story about coming out gay. Back then, the Safe Schools Coalition was a novel concept, starting with 11 founding members including Methodist Ladies College, Bellarine Secondary College, MacRobertson Girls High and Hallam Secondary.
Fast forward to present day and the initiative has been rolled out nationally, with 250 members in Victoria alone – including a handful that joined last week, immediately after the federal government announced it would review the scheme.
Malcolm Turnbull's decision to examine the program came after conservative MP Cory Bernardi used a party room meeting on Tuesday to call for it to be defunded, claiming it was being used to "indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism."
But those who have actually been involved the program couldn't disagree more. The aim, they say, is to promote acceptance of LGBTI people (who are 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers) and to give students and teachers awareness about gender and sexual identity issues.
"Professional development days for staff is so valuable because that's when things turn around," says Melba College teacher Marg Henley, who has been involved in the facilitating the program since it began. "When you present the research, that's when they say: "oh I hadn't realised that before."
If you want a sense of the program's effectiveness, consider this. Students who spoke to The Sunday Age reported feeling more comfortable simply because their school had signed up. One school, in Melbourne's west, reported that in the two years since joining, language occasionally used by students had gone from "extremely homophobic" to no homophobic commentary at all.
And then there were other positive signs of acceptance: a proliferation of student groups that focus on challenging homophobia; more transgender students being open about it in school (from one person to 54 within six years); an increase in the number of private schools taking part in the program (41 in Victoria); and a rise in the number of students overall (more than 300,000 in Victorian government schools alone).
"The momentum hasn't slowed down," says Roz Ward, the manager and co-founder of Safe Schools Coalition Victoria.
Nor will it – unless the Turnbull government decides to pull the pin. But even then, the Andrews Government has an election commitment to roll out the program to every public school by 2018 (although it is not yet clear how much this would cost or whether the state – which jointly funds the program with Canberra – could pick up the full tab).
Equality Minister Martin Foley confirmed that Labor's policy to expand the Safe Schools Coalition remained in place, and lashed out furiously at the Prime Minister for allowing the "extremists in his party to attack young kids."
"For the sake of appeasing what I would like to think is an unrepresentative rump in his own party, we have this attack on vulnerable LGBTI kids, who through this program, shine and achieve their potential," Mr Foley said. "If this program saves one life – and I'm sure it saves plenty of lives – then it is worth every dollar."