The HSV congratulates the Andrews government on its recent announcement to move special religious instruction (SRI) out of class time. Since the early 1970s HSV have campaigned to have SRI removed from state schools. We consider state school education ought to be secular. Therefore allowing religious people to proselytize during normal class time was a violation of secular education as it blurred the separation of church and state. If parents want their children to learn about a religion this ought to be done out of school hours.

Instead of volunteers coming into schools to give instruction on religion, HSV have repeatedly recommended that all students should be taught about the range of worldviews, both secular and religious, by trained teachers as part of the school curriculum. This is what the govern-ment now proposes for 2016. There will be new content in the school curriculum on world histories, culture, faiths and ethics. In a multicultural, multi-faith society as Australia is, we say and about time.

The main provider of SRI, ACCESS ministries, a Christian organisation, is opposed to this change. They will undoubtedly lobby vigorously to have SRI re-instated back into class time. However, since the state government in 2011 changed the requirement of parents to opt their children ‘into’ SRI classes, the participating numbers have dropped dramatically. This is not surprising. In the years before 2011 SRI operated on an ‘opt out’ system. This required parents to write and request that their children do not attend SRI classes. If parents didn’t actively request this, their child was automatically included in an SRI class, thus inflating numbers.

With the ‘opt in’ requirement SRI enrolments in state primary schools have dramatically fallen by 42 per cent fall. (Read more in The Age editorial 24 August.)

And another thing – Census 2016
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the final version of the census form to be filled-out on Tuesday 9 August 2016.

Of significance to Humanists and other secularists is that the ABS has placed ‘no religion’ as the first response choice for the question ‘What is the person’s religion?’ Humanists have been putting forward submissions requesting this and other changes to the ‘religion’ question for decades.

By placing ‘no religion’ as the first instead of last choice, as in previous censuses, we can expect that the percentage of Australians registering with no religion will rise significantly. Hopefully coming close to what other social science surveys reveal, namely that over 40% of Australians have no religion.

Rosslyn Ives

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