Victoria to scrap religious lessons

Victoria to scrap religious lessons

An outfit called Access Ministries may have to shut down shop as a result of a decision last week to scrap religious instruction in Victorian schools from next year.

A new relationships education programme, announced by Education Minister, James Merlino, above, will replace religious lessons. It will be taught by qualified teachers to help children understand global cultures and traditions, recognise and prevent family violence, and appreciate and understand diversity.

Not surprisingly, Access Ministries is mortified. Rob Ward, a spokesman the organisation – the main provider of special religious instruction in Victoria – claimed that his organisation had not been consulted by the government, and he was disappointed by the decision.

It’s hastily made and poorly advised. Nobody has seen this new curriculum as yet, and I’m not sure how a primary school teacher will teach well and capably the basic beliefs of the five major religions.


Access Ministries was already losing its grip on schools when the announcement was made. According to this report, Lara Wood, above, head of Fairness for Religions in Schools, a parent-led campaign against religious instruction by Access Ministries, said:

At our last count 50 schools have chosen to cease the program due to lack of interest. It’s very significant.

In 2011, religious instructors were present in 70 per cent of public primary schools in Victoria. By August of last year  they were less than half.

Access’s  CEO, Dawn Penney, insisted that evangelism is not the point of the classes.

No, we do not proselytise; it is not something we promote. It is clearly in our training that it is not the way that we wish Access Ministries to be seen in the school.

Really? In 2008, Access’s then CEO Evonne Paddison, addressing an evangelical conference, praised the work of Access and said:


Then earlier last year the group was embroiled in a scandal when one of their instructors handed out copies of a booklet called The Biblezine.

It preached against safe sex and said homosexuality was a sin. The Victorian Department of Education investigated, and concluded that the incident was in breach of policy.

Then one of Access’s very own, George Aslanis, quit his position as an Access Ministries teacher, saying he believed its classes were inappropriate.

I didn’t see it different to a Sunday school encounter – similar sort of format, a bit of play, some songs some fun activity, some drawing in, some Q and A, and ultimately, where possible, just putting a seed there, just hoping that it would grow one day to mature into a fruit.

Merlino said about 20 percent of primary school students took part in religious instruction, while the remaining students occupied themselves with other activities, such as reading.

You can’t have 20 percent of school kids undertaking special religious education, while the other children are not getting teaching or learning, during precious curriculum time. I understand that some people are going to be upset by this decision, but it’s the right thing to do.

Fairness for Religions in Schools said the move was overdue. Lara Wood said her organisation received feedback from parents concerned about religious instruction nearly every day.

These parents are angry that their kids are losing four days’ worth of school time each year for a very small minority of students.

Kids who do take part in the program are being told they will go to hell if they don’t believe in God, and we had a report of one child last year being locked in a closet while taking part in religious education.

Merlino is so courageous in making this decision, because there will be a backlash from a small section of the religious right, but he’s done the perfect thing.

18 responses to “Victoria to scrap religious lessons”

  1. Broga says:

    Religious belief can only be taught as statements of fact with no analysis and no challenge allowed. Otherwise it crumbles and its incredibility is exposed. The BBC relies on its dictatorial religious mafia to force this approach on its increasingly fed up audience. The same applies in schools. The nonsense can only be taught if protected from debate or challenge.

    The howls of outrage and the cries of anxiety and pain are from those who know they have no defence other than censorship and threat. They fear for the existence of their dotty beliefs and the privileges it provides.

  2. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Well done Mr Merlino. It’s about time this sort of religious indoctrination was stopped in all schools. Can’t see it happening any time soon here in the UK unfortunately.

  3. barriejohn says:

    Brilliant news. Access Ministries also call themselves The Council for Christian Education in Schools. What pretentious claptrap! I know their type well; I well remember when I first joined a Brethren assembly and was presented with a booklet supposedly produced by the “Committee of Youth Leaders” of the church. No such body existed, of course – it was all the work of the “leading elder” and typical of the way that they operated. Here’s a link to one of Abscess Ministries’ web pages:

    We believe that our SRI program provides significant benefits for students who participate. The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008) outlines goals for students to be successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens. Such students:
    – Have a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing
    – Have a sense of optimism about their lives and the future
    – Develop personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience, empathy and respect for others
    – Act with moral and ethical integrity – Work for the common good, in particular sustaining and improving natural and social environments.

    Does that sound like any Christians that you know of? How can any child have a “sense of self-worth” when he or she is told that they are guilty, hell-bound sinners deserving only of God’s righteous judgment, and dependent upon the mercy of this capricious and vengeful creature?

  4. barriejohn says:

    More about them here, of course:

    “Accusations of proselytising”? Who’d have thought it?

  5. Dave Godfrey says:

    “…I’m not sure how a primary school teacher will teach well and capably the basic beliefs of the five major religions…”

    I quite agree. So it would be better to scrap the idea all together and teach something useful instead.

  6. Barry Duke says:

    Here’s a helpful list for teachers who need to explain to kids the basics of the major world religions, and some minor ones. What more do youngster need to know?

  7. L.Long says:

    “how a primary school teacher will teach well and capably the basic beliefs of the five major religions.”
    Easy ….. religion is essentially BS on a stick. Now onto something important like ethics!

  8. AgentCormac says:

    @ Barry Duke

    V funny – and so true. I’m sure most ‘believers’ would find 99% of that list funny too. Until they got to the bit about their own religion, of course. Remember Isaac Hayes (AKA Chef) throwing his toys out of the pram when they mocked Scientology on South Park?

  9. Vanity Unfair says:

    James MERLINo,
    George ASLANis.
    Who can even hope to win against those two?

    Normally I wouldn’t make light of names but that is a great combination.

  10. 1859 says:

    Great news – I hope it spreads throughout the other Aussie states. Why is it they can sometimes make such sensible decisions down under, while the UK always dithers with inaction for decades?

  11. Justin says:

    If only there was a place where interested parents could send their kids, perhaps once a week, perhaps on a Sunday, to learn about their religion. If parents had that option they could just do that instead of having the State foot the bill.

    It’s so awful I live in a country where that isn’t allowed!


  12. dennis says:

    some days are wonderful moments in human evolution. may this minor change move quickly into all educational management around the world. Thank you Mr Merlino.

  13. Trey says:

    It was stupid to try and teach 5 major religions in a class.especially since there all different. The God of the bible is the only true God but it should be taught to only those that want to hear it in a separate class setting with a teacher who knows the bible like the back of their hand. Also the same with evolution which in my opinion is built more on faith than most religions I have read about.It shouldn’t be treated as science since it is not very scientific

  14. Cali Ron says:

    “The God of the bible is the only true God”. Bold statement, but completely unsupported by any facts. The only true god’s are the one’s in believers deluded minds.

  15. Robster says:

    Hang on Mr. Trey, the deity marketplace is a big one, there are literally thousand of available gods, each one can be moulded to match each believer’s particular views and match each believer’s favourite dislikes. No matter what a believer desires to hate, there’s a god just right for them. To say that piece of capricious nastiness in that bible thingy is the only real one is a bit of a stretch.

  16. Atabale says:

    Mr Trey, something is either science, or it is not. That is the beauty of the scientific method. Evolution today, is science. It philosophical under pinning would have been a proposition, in other words seaming a bit counter intuitive, until proof could be brought forth.

  17. 1859 says:

    @ Mr. Trey: I say this without any intention to make you feel bad or inadequate, but if you think evolution has more to do with faith than fact, then you do not understand how evolution works, ‘Faith’ is the cosy, cotton-wool retreat of those who find it too hard to understand the facts, how they are linked together, what they mean, what they imply, etc. This is why science and religion make bad bed-fellows. Throw away faith and there is nothing left to do but think.