Submission: Greater recognition of non-religious Australians needed in national curriculum

Si Gladman / 07 July 2021

The Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) is calling for changes to the proposed national curriculum to include greater recognition of the contribution of non-religious Australians.

In a submission to the Australian Curriculum Review, the RSA warned that the current curriculum “fails to acknowledge the existence, let alone the relevance” of the fast-growing non-religious section of society.

In several instances in the study areas of History and Civics and Citizenship, the proposed curriculum makes reference to “religion” and “religious” instead of “religion or belief” and “religious or non-religious”.

RSA president Meredith Doig applauded the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) for the curriculum’s recognition of Australia as a secular country, with a culturally diverse, multi-faith society and a Christian heritage. 

But she also urged ACARA to stand up to the attacks from religious lobbyists who have accused it of decreasing the importance of Christianity and ‘Judeo-Christian‘ values in the revised curriculum.

“We urge you to stand firm against this onslaught. Those clamouring for a recognition that Australia is a ‘Christian’ country are simply wrong, as our report Religiosity in Australia clearly shows,” she wrote.

Submissions to the consultation process, which closes tomorrow, can be made via the Australian Curriculum Review website

RSA submission to the national curriculum review

Our members and subscribers generally align with the views and values of the Rationalist Society of Australia, the oldest freethought group in Australia, dating from 1906. We base our policies on universal human values, shared by most religious and non-religious people. We support the democratic ideals of freedom of the individual, equality before the law, and a secular society that neither privileges nor discriminates against people because of their religion or belief.

On History

In general, we believe the curriculum should, wherever appropriate, replace reference to “religion” with “religion or belief”.

Rationale: It is the generally agreed international convention to refer to “freedom of religion or belief” not just “freedom of religion”. 

Also, wherever appropriate, replace “religious” with “religious or non-religious”. 

Rationale: according to the 2016 Australian census, the largest grouping of Australians responding to the ‘religion question’ on the census were those who marked ‘No religion’ (30%), and this number is likely to increase at the 2021 census. 

Further, many of those who mark one or other of the religions on the census do so only because of family affiliation, not because they are actively religious. An analysis of Australians’ actual religiosity has been published by the Rationalist Society on our website

By omitting reference to the large number of Australians who identify as “non-religious”, the curriculum fails to acknowledge the existence, let alone the relevance, of this group in Australia.

Year 7

In AC9HC7K02, replace “religion” with “religion or belief”.

In AC9HC7K05, replace “how Australia is a culturally diverse, multi-faith, secular and pluralistic society with diverse communities, such as the distinct communities of First Nations Australians” with “how Australia is a culturally diverse, secular and pluralistic society with people of diverse faith and non-belief, including the distinct communities of First Nations Australians”.

In AC9HC9K06, replace “religious” with “religious and non-religious”.

Year 10

In AC9HH9K13, replace “the impacts of a significant individual or group in the promotion of one these ideas for example, from explorers, politicians, agricultural and industrial workers, colonialists, and landowners, religious groups” with “the impacts of a significant individual or group in the promotion of one these ideas for example, from explorers, politicians, agricultural and industrial workers, colonialists, and landowners, religious and non-religious groups”.

In AC9HH10K21_E3 and AC9HH10K22_E4, replace “describing significant examples of continuity and change in beliefs and values, such as democratic ideals, religious beliefs, egalitarianism” with “describing significant examples of continuity and change in beliefs and values, such  as democratic ideals, religious and non-religious beliefs, egalitarianism”.

On Civics and Citizenship

We applaud the recognition that Australia is a secular country, with a culturally diverse, multi-faith society and a Christian heritage. 

Note: We are very conscious that ACARA will receive many complaints about the perceived diminution of the importance of Christianity and particularly “Judeo-Christian values” in this revised curriculum. We urge you to stand firm against this onslaught. Those clamouring for a recognition that Australia is a “Christian” country are simply wrong, as our report Religiosity in Australia clearly shows. This report draws on impeccable data from the Australian National University to show that Australia is increasingly a non-religious country and even those who identify as religious do not align with the pronouncements of the more extreme religious activists.

In general, we believe the curriculum should, wherever appropriate, replace reference to “religion” with “religion or belief”.

Rationale: It is the generally agreed international convention to refer to “freedom of religion or belief” not just “freedom of religion”. 

Also, wherever appropriate, replace “religious” with “religious or non-religious”. 

Rationale: According to the 2016 Australian census, the largest grouping of Australians responding to the ‘religion question’ on the census were those who marked ‘No Religion’ (30%), and this number is likely to increase at the 2021 census. 

Further, many of those who mark one or other of the religions on the census do so only because of family affiliation, not because they are actively religious. An analysis of Australians’ actual religiosity has been published by the Rationalist Society on our website.

By omitting reference to the large number of Australians who identify as ‘non-religious’, the curriculum fails to acknowledge the existence, let alone the relevance, of this group in Australia.

Year 7

In AC9HC7K02, replace “religion” with “religion or belief”.

In AC9HC7K02, replace “religion” with “religion or non-religious beliefs”.

In AC9HC7K05_E3, replace “other religions such as Christianity or Islam” with “other religions such as Christianity or Islam, or non-religious belief systems such as rationalism or humanism”.

(AC9HC7K06_E4), replace “values and beliefs of religions practised in contemporary Australia” with “values and beliefs of religions or non-religious beliefs systems practised in contemporary Australia” and replace “(for  example, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism” with (for  example, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism or secular humanism”.

Year 8

In AC9HC8S03_E2, replace “or different religious views” with “or different religious or non-religious views”.

In AC9HC8K06, replace “including First Nations Peoples of Australia, religious, cultural and/or community groups” with “including First Nations Peoples of Australia, religious or non-religious, cultural and/or community groups”.

Year 9

In AC9HC9K06_E1, replace “philanthropist, community group or religious group” with “philanthropist, community group or religious or non-religious group”.

In AC9HC9K06, replace “religious” with “religious or non-religious”.

Year 10

In AC9HC10K01_E2, replace “masculinism and secularism” with “masculinism and feminism, and secularism”.

Image: Element5 Digital

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