At the HSV Sunday meeting May 11 in Hawthorn, two members of the PATHWAYS Coalition for Diversity Education demonstrated the PATHWAYS presentation designed for Year 10 students.    

 The presentation opened with personal stories, from a Christian viewpoint by Paul Tonson, coordinator of the PATHWAYS Coalition, and from a Humanist perspective by Sam Mason-Smith, a member of the HSV committee. In response, the HSV audience was invited to simulate a Year 10 class by asking questions to the presenters.

PATHWAYS Coalition is currently launching a program of such presentations, especially aimed at government schools. Arrangements for presentations will be made by personal approaches to school principals and senior teachers, in order to ensure understanding of the program and to adapt it to each local school.

The emergence of the PATHWAYS Coalition corresponds to a watershed in the realm of dialogue between different worldviews. Such dialogue has emerged through the ecumenical movement of the early twentieth century, through cooperation between Jews and Christians after World War II, and through conversations with Islam after the disaster of ‘Nine Eleven’. Now throughout Greater Melbourne there are 24 municipalities with Interfaith groups covering all faiths, and there are 7 in regional Victoria.

Key leaders in interfaith co-operation in Australia are advocating the inclusion of Humanist and Rationalist voices alongside Faith in contributing to public policy. Cooperation between Faith and Freethought groups emerged in October 2010 with a submission to the Victorian Multicultural Commission regarding Citizenship in a Multicultural Victoria. The submission was signed by adherents of both faith and freethought worldviews and by several leading academics.

There are ten faith and freethought groups that have given formal support to PATHWAYS, including HSV. Stephen Stuart is a key member of the PATHWAYS management team. Each supporting group is committed to a protocol whereby presenters show mutual respect and present information about their own worldview without argumentation.

The PATHWAYS Coalition represents a common concern in the realm of public education. On the one hand, we seek an alternative to a system that tends to privilege one faith, Christianity. On the other hand, we consider that all students should have education about Beliefs, Religions and Ethics (BREE) that covers major religions and enlightenment worldviews.

The PATHWAYS Coalition offers the voices of Abrahamic and Asian faiths alongside Humanist, Rationalist and Atheist voices. It deliberately includes the voices of Indigenous spirituality and of sustainability activism, both of which are significant for young people in contemporary Australia. Schools may nominate their preferred combination of three voices.

The PATHWAYS program is one way schools can demonstrate and encourage the general capabilities identified in the new Australian curriculum: Intercultural Understanding, Ethical Understanding, Critical and Creative Thinking, and Personal and Social Capabilities.

Paul Tonson

To support PATHWAYS or become a presenter, E-mail Paul, <>.

See also Issues.

Share →

One Response to PATHWAYS: a new faith and freethought project

  1. Paul Tonson says:

    Please note the changed email for PathWays Diversity Education is now 01 April 2014.
    Expressions of interest from young adults to present are welcomed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *