All posts by Dan

Parents meetup this Sunday 31st July!

Come celebrate cultural diversity in our schools.

“Mums, Dads and friends of FIRIS”, meet in person to share stories, discuss the future and put a personal face to the current discourse and dilemma in our State School system.

What better setting to meet than at The Immigration Museum, a wonderful venue that explores the stories of real people from all over the world who have migrated to Victoria.

The Museum is currently showing the ‘Cultural Diversity Quest‘. An exhibition that encourages Victorian students to celebrate Victoria’s cultural diversity through artworks in a range of media. Students’ works reflect their investigation of cultural diversity within their school and community.

While our Education Department persists with a policy which encourages prejudice by separating our children from their classmates and promoting one religion over all others, let’s stand together and celebrate the diversity within our schools and within our community.

So bring your kids, speak to other parents and enjoy the exhibition.

Time: 2:30pm on Sunday 31st July

Where to meet:  Just off the first floor is a kind of “Ship” room. This is a fake side of a ship with an internal display of what it might have been like back in the old days. Perfect for kids to mess about and play.

Cost: just $8 entry (Children 3–16 years free entry) and parking right next door. Street parking also possible on a Sunday arvo and its a short walk from Flinders Street Station.

Getting to the museum

Street address: Immigration Museum, Old Customs House, 400 Flinders St, Melbourne


And the comments keep coming in

258 comments and counting on the damning article published by The Age School religion classes probed

Many bring together some of the key moments over the last few months. The evidence of missionary work and the defiant refusal of Martin Dixon to even look into these issues leaves parents stunned by their inaction and lack of concern.


 Just recently, Access Ministries was exposed for selling cartoons from their website which depicted secular teachers as lazy and indifferent to bullying. Concerns have also been raised about them evangelising to Muslim students.

Anglican Priest and sociologist Emeritus Prof. Gary Bouma has criticized Access Ministries’ curriculum as ‘appalling’ ‘crap’.

Two court cases are currently underway pertaining to religion in schools.   A host of teachers’ organisations, mental health experts, education experts, academics, parents, politicians and others are now calling for the current system to be abandoned & replaced with an academically-based teaching.  Such a move would solve a lot of the state and federal governments’ current headaches with evangelicals who simply can’t be trusted in our secular school system.


This program is an offensive waste of money, especially when you consider that money is being stripped from other special education programs such as the provision of teachers assistants and literacy/numeracy program for disadvantaged aboriginal kids as revealed by the age early this week. Whether the overall program is scrapped or not, access ministries should be sacked.
You can’t expect these people to be able to be unbiased. They are strong believers and its going to come through one way or another. How does the education department propose to police it?

I don’t understand why it comes as a surprise to anyone that the aim of SRE classes and the chaplaincy program is to convert children to Christianity. If you believe in God and work for an institution that exists to spread the word of God, then it would be your duty to do so. Of course ACCESS ministries want this. This is PRECISELY why the government must not sponsor this kind of activity.

Peter Garrett is an evangelical Christian – he came to my school around 1986 and gave a sermon in the chapel. The Victorian education minister is a Catholic. Wake up Australia.

‘Make disciples in school’ Access CEO


The Age has published an interview with Mary Bluett, President of the Education Union regarding the contacts she has received from some teachers who have been concerned with the lessons being instructed to young children. Is this now the job of teachers during these half hour lessons? To review each volunteers course content and pass along each concern?

“We have had examples of straight out preaching. Comments such as Buddha is Satans friend”

This comes on the back of some damning evidence sent to The Age of a conference speech made by Evonne Paddison. It is well worth a listen.

”In Australia, we have a God-given open door to children and young people with the Gospel, our federal and state governments allow us to take the Christian faith into our schools and share it. We need to go and make disciples”
FIRIS have been inundated with stories from parents who felt they had no support and nowhere to turn to when their children come home speaking of subjects they cannot possibly understand. We have heard from teachers not willing to speak up. We have heard again and again complete confusion over the content of these classes that have not been communicated to parents because even the schools dont seem to know.
‘What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools.” Evonne Paddison
Given there are no standards in how CRE is conducted in each school (Martin Dixon has made it clear this is up to the individual schools to figure it out for themselves) , we cannot rely on a teacher acting as content police in every situation. What we have are large gaps in control over what is taught by these volunteers. We have the CEO of ACCESS Ministries stating the obvious, that their missionary work is in our schools, and to make disciples of each child. Anybody with a basic understanding of Christianity would not be surprised that this missionary work is taking place. It is indeed required. Evonne Paddison has stated clearly that this access to our young children is God given and that it should not be squandered.


With the head of the organisation stating this clearly how in the world can Archbishop Freier and Bishop Stephen Hale make the claim that the volunteers themselves would not be enacting this mission themselves? Our many emails from parents with their own horror stories of what their children are being told makes it very clear indeed that this is what is occuring in many schools. How does this keep happening? Because nobody is telling them to stop. Because as the messengers for God they have a duty to save these children. We all understand this, so why does Peter Garrett and Martin Dixon not? They clearly need to receive some instruction themselves from a CRE volunteer to understand these basic truths.

Front page news!

On March 27th 2011 Age reporter Michael Bachelard wrote a compelling piece that appeared on the front page of The Sunday Age both in print and online. View it here. It was titled ‘Backlash as God forced into schools’.

Our website was promoted on this article and following its publication we were inundated with page views as well as emails. On top of this the Humanist Society of Victoria’s website actually crashed due to the huge number of people trying to access it.

From what we have been made aware there has been more than 90,000 views of the Age article and hundreds of tweets and other social media shares.

Among the many emails of support, some of the comments appearing again and again have been stories of children and parents being pressured to attend CRE, children being bullied who do not attend, parents having little to no idea about what is actually being taught to their children in this half hour time and schools making up variations of the rules because the direction from the Education Department is left wanting. Some schools have opt-in and some opt-out. Some schools offer CRE outside school hours and most offer during. Some schools reject the offer of CRE and some feel they have no choice.

The situation is in disarray and parents are left to contact us in desperation, asking what can be done in their schools to stop this discriminatory setup.

A few things we would point out is that it would be useful to conduct a survey of the schools parents to garner their views and understanding of the current setup and what they might want changed.

You could address your school council and push for opt-in rather than opt-out.

You could ask for CRE to be moved outside of school hours so the actual teachers can get on with educating the children.


Keep coming back to the website for more updated and information. And join our newsletter as well as our twitter feed.

Article by The Age’s education editor

Jewel Topsfield is the education editor for The Age. Her new article ‘Let us get God out of the classroom’ has once again pointed readers to our group. We welcome your stories, feedback and support.

The most telling section of the article was a response from Professor Gary Bouma, an Anglican priest at Saint John’s church in East Malvern and the UNESCO chairman in Interreligious and Intercultural Relations. He described the curriculum developed by Access Ministries as appalling. ”Now, unfortunately, most of the Christians out there trying to train the next generation are putting them off with the kind of crap they serve,” he said.

This is an issue that is not about Humanism, it is about fairness and equality. It is about ensuring our children are not separated according to creed in our public schools. This includes both religious parents and non-religious parents.

And don’t forget to read down to the many comments which are very favourable of our message.

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