Remember the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, that charming religious organisation –

  • that contributed $1 million dollars to the No campaign in the same-sex marriage postal survey
  • that reportedly is considering the introduction of a property policy to ensure church-owned buildings are used only for “acts or practices which conform to the doctrines, tenets and beliefs of the diocese”, that is, that it would be inappropriate to use church-owned property for “advocacy for transgender ideology (e.g gender-fluidity)” and “advocacy for expressions of human sexuality contrary to our doctrine of marriage”
  • who published scripture materials deemed by the Queensland Department of Education and Training to contain materials that –
    • were “inappropriate for the target age group” (topics including murder, prostitution and animal sacrifice)
    • “may encourage undesirable child safe behaviours”, such as the keeping of secrets and the formation of ‘special friendships’ with adults
    • had “the potential to affect the social and emotional wellbeing of particular students”
    • posed risks to health and safety, such as mixing bleach and cordial in front of children
    • were aimed at converting students to Christianity
  • who even after reportedly reviewing their materials in response to the QLD DET’s report, still demonstrated their inability to self-regulate their own behaviour and self-assess their material as age-appropriate and instructed SRE ‘teachers’ to have six-year-old children mime being choked to help them understand what happens if you don’t listen to God.
  • who reportedly promoted messages in secondary SRE classes regarding ‘headship’, that is, their belief that women should submit to their husbands as their leader in order to emulate the gospel and model the way in which “God’s people yield to the headship of Christ.”

– if you do, you might be interested in knowing that on Tuesday (20 November 2018) the Anglican Diocese of Sydney was given two chairs on the NSW Department of Education’s SRE Consultative Committee.

According to the Department the Committee and the Special Education in Ethics Committee provide advice to the Department about SRE and SEE

The committees provide an opportunity for the department and key stakeholders to engage in dialogue regarding matters relating to special religious education and special education in ethics in NSW Government schools.

However, if one follows the history of the amendments to the enrolment process since 2013 one would be justified in concluding that the SRE Committee drives Department policy decision making and ensures that the self-interests of religious groups are met at the expense of the rights of a large cohort of the NSW public school community.

Therefore, parents, caregivers and NSW citizens should be very concerned that a religious organisation which promotes values contrary to the values of public education is now able to play a part in directing the policy decisions of the NSW Department of Education.

However, it might not be that much of a shock to reasonable members of the NSW public who have been wondering at what point the NSW Minister for Education and the Secretary of the Department of Education should be asked to answer questions about any conflicts of choice they might have in the decision to grant seats on the Committee to their church.

It should also be noted that the Sydney Anglicans have vested financial interests in the ongoing presence of SRE in NSW public schools given that their publishing arm, Youthworks, is responsible for Connect and Think Faith, two of the most used SRE curriculum in NSW schools.

A reasonable member of the NSW public might begin to think that it is not a matter of chance that one of the Sydney Anglican’s representatives on the SRE Committee is also the CEO of Youthworks.

In addition to their position on the SRE Committee, it seems that the Sydney Anglicans want to take their place at the helm of SRE lobbying in NSW.

The draft minutes of the 17 October 2018 session of the 51st 2018 Synod contained the following –

6.6 Membership of the Inter-Church Commission on Religious Education in Public Schools (NSW)

Mr Matthew Robson asked the following question –

Noting that the Standing Committee has agreed to apply to “re-join” the Inter-Church Commission on Religious Education in Public Schools (NSW) Inc (ICCOREIS) (4.9, Book 1, p.13) –

(a) In what year did the Diocese withdraw as a member of ICCOREIS?
(b) What were the reason/s for withdrawing at the time?
(c) What are the reason/s for re-joining?
(d) Have the reasons for withdrawing been addressed?
(e) Noting that the membership of ICCOREIS includes the Catholic, Uniting, Seventh Day Adventist and Salvation Army Churches, what steps will be taken to ensure that the Diocese will be able to participate without compromising our evangelical doctrine
and heritage?
(f) Will the Diocese incur membership fees in re-joining ICCOREIS?
(g) If the answer to question (f) is ‘yes’, what is the annual cost of membership?
(h) If the answer to question (f) is ‘yes’, which organisation will bear the responsibility for payment?

To which the President replied –

I am informed that the answer is as follows –

(a) At the end of 2008.
(b) The view that ICCOREIS had become only a “friendly, ecumenical discussion group”, and that as there was a small financial cost in being a member it was no longer worth participating.
(c) The NSW Government has indicated it wishes to deal with peak bodies, rather than individual stakeholders, and attacks by opponents of SRE are increasingly targeting smaller, less-resourced SRE Providers. The view has been formed that the Sydney Diocese, recognised by many as the leader of SRE curriculum development and SRE teacher training, can better protect and advance the place of SRE within the NSW Education system in closer collaboration with other key Christian Providers by re-joining ICCOREIS.
(d) Yes.
(e) It is the responsibility of ICCOREIS to advocate for the place of Christian SRE within the NSW Education system. Under that umbrella, each individual provider of SRE is free to deliver its own authorised SRE curriculum by its own accredited teachers.
The authorised curriculum of the Sydney Diocese is that produced by Youthworks and our teacher accreditation process is overseen on my behalf by Youthworks.
(f) Yes.
(g) The estimated fee is $9,200.
(h) For 2018, Synod Fund Contingencies.

It is evident that the Sydney Anglicans see themselves as the saviour for the damaged product that is SRE in NSW.
Their lack of self-awareness is almost unbelievable.
As noted above, the Sydney Anglicans do not have the competence to self-assess their own materials, let alone declare themselves to be “the leader of SRE curriculum development”. Let’s not forget that it was the parents who make up Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools who exposed the age-inappropriate and irresponsible content within the Connect SRE materials. It was QPSSS’ hard work that led to the QLD DET’s major review of the  materials.
In  consideration of this, FIRIS is not sure who the ‘opponents of SRE’ are who the Sydney Anglicans claim are targeting smaller, less-resourced SRE providers. They obviously cannot be referring to the concerned parents at QPSSS.
Could it be FIRIS?
But how could it be us when we are so caught up investigating and reporting on the failures of the entire SRE system, the activities of the major providers (including the Sydney Anglicans), other large stakeholders, such as ICCOREIS / ChristianSRE  and predominantly, and most sadly, the NSW Department of Education.
If only the problem that is SRE in NSW Government schools was that small that we only had to focus on small providers.