Education Minister, Martin Dixon, has shown limited foresight in his support for ACCESS Ministries “opt out” discrimination for Religious Instruction whilst suggesting that an extra $200,000 per year in ACCESS coffers will be properly managed “to offer training and also to monitor the instructors”.

If the “Great Aussie Fair Go” as it pertains to Religious Education/Instruction has been exiled from the ACCESS philosophy, then Dixon is placing great faith in the “She’ll Be Right” attitude. With all evidence pointing to the contrary, Martin Dixon has taken ACCESS on their word that volunteers are aware proselytising is forbidden under present guidelines.

It’s particularly unusual in that Dixon was educated at Marcellin Christian Brother’s College and the Australian Catholic University. He holds a Bachelor of Education and a Diploma of Education. Prior to entering Parliament he graced the corridors of Melbourne’s Catholic Education Office as Deputy Chairman of Primary Education. If there is one person the Victorian public have a right to expect honesty, transparency and the willingness to support the secular principle in public education, it is the Hon. Martin Dixon.

Fairfax reported yesterday;

Mr Dixon ruled out changing the program to ”opt in” rather than ”opt out”, or introducing ethics classes as a secular alternative, as is the case in NSW.

”It’s not on our agenda at all,” he said.

”Other than a flurry of discussion at the moment, it has never really been raised as an issue.”

This dismissive response fails to reflect the reality. As noted in the last post, ACCESS Ministries have belittled anyone who questions their monopoly by dismissing concerns as “humanism” .  It has done so since late 2008. ACCESS CEO Evonne Paddison suggests “much of the opposition is being voiced by humanists”.

Dr. Anna Halafoff who says ACCESS is “… wrong to claim objections to the existing model came from only humanists; diverse faith and cultural groups objected, as well as some academics.”

Perhaps any education minister who dismisses as a “flurry of discussion” parental complaints of discrimination against his own Education Department, believes Evonne Paddison and hasn’t caught up with the facts on the ground. The parents complaints were lodged with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission solely as a result of ACCESS Ministries indoctrination approach, and the obvious ways in which the DEECD is bringing a divisive and unwelcome element into our education system.  At a time when scientific literacy and critical thinking skills are at all time lows, Dixon demonstrates an at best frivolous, and at worst callous approach.

One of the very few portfolio’s that impinge directly on the intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, development of our future generations.

Dixon’s extra $200,000 per year, to assist ACCESS to monitor it’s recruits, is really just an admission that the system we have is doing a poor job. What is the aim of this “monitoring”? How will it be assessed? What quality control and independent input can our secular education system expect from in-house policing? What penalties will be imposed – or is ACCESS expected to pass with flying colours?  How do we quantify for indoctrination as opposed to zealotry as opposed to passionate instruction? 24 out of 25 religious instruction classes follow this mission:

ACCESS ministries leads the Church in its mission to reach students and school communities in Victoria and beyond with the transforming love of God and His Son Jesus Christ.

ACCESS ministries fulfills this mission by resourcing and serving people and programs that:

  • Provide quality, dynamic and relevant Christian religious education, chaplaincy and other appropriate activities
  • Equip CRE teachers, chaplains and others to teach and nurture students
  • Are student-focused, educationally sound, biblically faithful, theologically clear and contextually appropriate
  • Model Christ’s love, authentically, without discrimination
  • Engage in key relationships

The Statement of Belief asserts:

ACCESS ministries is an ecumenical body committed to the basic doctrines of the Christian faith drawn from the Old and New Testament Scriptures. It is committed to the three ecumenical creeds (Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed) and takes into account the faith statements and traditions of its nominating churches.

I suppose that’s something of a comfort. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve bumped into littlies who take time off from colouring and lunch time chasey, to pace the neighbourhood playgrounds wringing hands and muttering in despair as to the complexities of one of Christian theology’s most profound quandaries. Athanasius was, after all, wrongly believed to have written The Athanasian Creed. Despite us having known since the 17th Century he had no input to the text, it still bears his name.

As disheartening as that is for those of us who would like legislative changes before our children turn 400, the glacial pace of innovation that so defines monotheistic religions is to be expected. Besides, conducted in an environment of rewards, prizes, ostracism, unspoken negatives and perceived punishment, the present RI couldn’t possibly alienate children from each other or family members.

Seven and eight year olds will seize the remotest opportunity to agonise over the metaphysical absolutes or the esotericism of individual human beings. They will forget that young Larry missed out on lollies, love and lounge chairs and abandon play equipment to discuss the Doctrine of the trinity.

“So”, begins Rebecca aged 7 years, three months and nine days, “One could logically – or for the sake of conservatism – hypothetically, take a fearless esoteric inventory of themselves when comparing ones most durable ontology to the larger metaphysical criteria involved in the affirmation of the Trinity and consequential eternal salvation. We better get Larry in on this. Show of hands please – I’m late for face painting”.

Evonne Paddison loves to tell us time and again that “the genius” of Victoria’s legislation is that it:

…. reflects the religious demographics of our society with Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i, Greek Orthodox, Islam and Hindu faith groups all participating.

But of course! Such inclusiveness covers – in The Athanasian Creed taught to 96% of attendees – a crystal clear “reflection” of “faith groups all participating”:

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.

Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.


This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

Apart from sabotaging relationships in the class room and play ground, the angst and confusion that certainly arises from inherent tribalism of children for whom almost everything is competitive, definitive and locked into a rigid hierarchy must spill over the school boundaries. If not, then ACCESS Ministries are failing in their published affirmation:

ACCESS ministries affirms:

  • its faith in God, as One-in-Three-Persons, whose redemptive purpose for the world is revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ
  • that the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed in word and deed the presence of the Kingdom of God through mission and evangelism—a calling of people to repentance and a declaration of God’s love in practical ministry to others by enabling reconciliation, peace, wholeness and justice
  • God’s concern for the whole person in context of his or her being in relation with others and the world, and that God is concerned that justice and mercy form the hallmarks of society
  • the redemptive presence of God in the world, and ACCESS ministries personnel, along with other Christians, form part of God’s presence in the school
  • that the Christian tradition recognises the educative and pastoral needs of people and that these needs are to be respectfully and educationally addressed

Which is to upcoming Aussies of multi-ethnic and multi-faith backgrounds, ever so easy to comprehend in 30 minutes per week. Perhaps Dave Allen can help us appreciate the scale of futility that ultimately underscores this lucrative all expenses paid journey into a world free of reason, evidence or tolerance: