Research Grants Program 2021

About the RSA

The Rationalist Society of Australia is the oldest freethought group in Australia, promoting reason since 1906. Members and supporters hold that all significant beliefs and actions should be based on reason and evidence, that the natural world is the only world there is, and that answers to the key questions of human existence are to be found only in that natural world. The RSA stands for Reclaiming Secular Australia.

The 2021 Research Grants Program

Expressions of interest were sought from suitably qualified academics for funding research projects in the following areas:

  1. The impact of freethought and secularism in Australia.
  2. The effectiveness of critical thinking skills teaching in Australian schools.
  3. The role of experts in media and public policy in Australia.
  4. Privileges granted by law and government policy to religious groups in Australia.
  5. The influence of organised religion on healthcare policy and practice in Australia.

There are two categories of grants:

  • The Ian Robinson Grants for Emerging Researchers: funding of up to A$5,000 to individual emerging researchers.
  • The RSA Patrons’ Grants: funding of up to A$15,000 to individual researchers or teams of researchers.

Expected output for each grant will include but not be limited to:

  • at least one article that could be published in a suitable peer-reviewed journal.
  • at least one (for the Ian Robinson Grants) or two (for the Patrons’ Grants) articles for a general audience in outlets such as The Conversation.
  • at least one (for the Ian Robinson Grants) or two (for the Patrons’ Grants) presentations of the research output at an RSA event.


Approved Research Grants for 2021

The RSA has approved three applications for research grants in 2021 they are:

Ronli Sifris Headshot

Dr Ronli Sifris
Senior Lecturer, Monash University; Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law

Grant approved: RSA Patrons’ Grants

Area of research: Influence of religion in beginning and end of life medical treatment in Australia/conscientious objection in abortion and VAD law

This research project seeks to answer two questions:

1. How has religion influenced beginning and end of life medical treatment in Australia? It will answer this
question through a combination of reviewing existing literature relating to rates of conscientious objection
amongst Australian medical practitioners and empirical research aimed at answering this question.
2. How should conscientious objection be addressed in the context of abortion and voluntary assisted dying
legislation? This will involve a comparative analysis to consider how other countries address the issue of
conscientious objection in these contexts. It will also involve an analysis of existing scholarly research from
disciplines such as law, bioethics and public health.

Dr Jennifer Bleazby
Senior Lecturer, Monash University

Grant approved: RSA Patrons’ Grants

Area of research: Religious Education in Australian Government Schools: Do the Current Laws, Policies, Practices, and Curricula Undermine the Fundamental Aims of Education?

This project will examine existing laws, policies, practices and curriculum materials pertaining to the teaching of
religious education in government schools, focusing on the extent to which they align with, or undermine, fundamental
educational aims. Thus, the project will undertake a systematic evaluation of the educational value of these laws,
policies and programs. Drawing on John Dewey’s influential educational theory, three key educational aims will be
articulated, defended and used as criteria, namely: (1) the development of the capacity for inquiry (which includes
critical thinking); (2) understanding of key, common knowledge; and (3) fostering democratic communities. It will be
shown that these aims are inherent in contemporary Australian educational policies. Using these criteria, examples of
SRI, GRE and philosophy based ethics curriculum materials will be evaluated. If it is shown that any of the existing laws,
policies, practices or programs undermine the fundamental aims of education or, even just that they have little
educational value, this would provide powerful reasons to amend current laws and ban such programs.

Liam Elphick
Associate Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Monash University

Grant approved: The Ian Robinson Grants for Emerging Researchers

Area of research: Secularism and ‘religious freedom’: the role and impact of academic experts in post-marriage equality law reform

Research Questions

1. How have academic experts engaged with law reform inquiries on ‘religious freedom’ in postmarriage equality Australia?
2. To what extent are academic experts influential on outcomes from law reform inquiries on ‘religious freedom’ in post-marriage equality Australia?
3. To what extent are religious perspectives and backgrounds prioritised by public policymakers in law reform inquiries on ‘religious freedom’ in post-marriage equality Australia?
4. To what extent do religious academic experts have greater impact than other academic

Future Research Grants Programs

Further Grants Programs may be announced by the RSA in future years.

All the more reason.