Hon. James Merlino, MP
Shadow Minister for Education
Melbourne, Vic. 3002
By email: [email protected]
Copy: Daniel Andrews; FIRIS
31 August 2014
Dear Mr Merlino,
Re: Victorian Labor Policy on Education about Religion
It is apparent the Napthine Government’s policy on Special Religious Instruction (SRI) is a mess.
Following revelations by parents’ group FIRIS (Fairness in Religion in Schools) about the discriminatory and offensive nature of materials being distributed by religious groups under the aegis of ACCESS Ministries, Education Minister Martin Dixon issued Ministerial Direction 141 to clarify the circumstances under which SRI should be delivered. Now, after pressure from religious lobbying, he has flip-flopped on MD141. Amendments to the MD effectively allow students to proselytise and invite adults into the school to support their proselytising.
The Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) has been urging the Victorian Government to conduct a public consultation about the place of religion in Victorian government schools. We know this is a very sensitive topic within the bureaucracy, and is a ‘hot topic’ with the media. The time is right to put pressure on them.
The Victorian Labor Platform 2014 states that an Andrews Labor Government would enhance Victoria’s admirably multicultural society and ensure children can enjoy a safe learning environment at government schools. However, it is curiously silent about the continuation of SRI, a program that for years has consistently undermined social cohesion in government schools by dividing children by religion, and that has recently allowed homophobic materials into government schools.
SRI is supported by evangelistic religious organisations. The more progressive religious organisations – and the majority of parents – would welcome the removal of the divisive, discriminatory SRI in favour of a professionally developed, professionally delivered program on Ethics and Religious Culture such as the one in Quebec, Canada (see here).
Will you, as Shadow Minister for Education, take a leadership position on this contentious issue?
Dr Meredith Doig
Attachment: Quebec pamphlet on Ethics and Religious Culture