Members of the Queensland Labor Party have sent a strong message to the Palaszczuk government that they want Religious Instruction (RI) classes to be moved outside of class time and teaching time given back to professional teachers.
Delegates at the party’s state conference, held in Mackay on the weekend, unanimously passed a resolution on RI. The motion put to delegates asked that RI be removed from lesson time to lunch time or before or after school, or, alternatively, that non-participating students continue with learning the curriculum.
The resolution was passed among a package of 170 resolutions, but was one of three resolutions that drew a special mention by the mover.
This development puts further pressure on Education Minister Grace Grace to remove RI from class time, after the recent public backlash to the comments by Christian missionaries that they use public schools as “mission fields” to “harvest” children for the Lord.
Since the intense media reporting in early March, a number of sitting Labor MPs have publicly called for changes to RI.
Despite the conference resolution, the Labor state government is not obliged to take action accordingly.
Currently, the normal curriculum is put on hold at public schools each week to allow religious missionaries to take over classrooms to deliver RI to those children whose parents or carers have given consent for them to take part.
Minister Grace (pictured) has continued to insist that the government has no plan to change RI.
Mark Robinson, a Christian MP in the Liberal-National Party, has called on Minister Grace to “hold the line” and keep RI in public schools.
Secular advocacy group Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools has argued that acting on RI should be “low-hanging fruit” for the Palaszczuk government, which has successfully tackled religious hot-potato issues such as decriminalisation of abortion and legalisation of voluntary assisted dying.
In March, the Rationalist Society of Australia urged Minister Grace to reconsider the government’s position on RI and to take the opportunity to conduct a proper review of the program with the view to making much-needed reforms.
The RSA also asked her to investigate whether RI materials promoting creationism were being used in Queensland schools, given that the syndicated materials were found to be in use in New South Wales.