Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 17 December 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
This will be our final Wrap for 2023. We'll be back on deck again in mid-February.
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At the National Level
Public schools must be fully funded to combat inequality and all students should be regularly screened to see if they need additional support, a major review into school resourcing has found. The panel examining the National School Reform Agreement — which determines how schools are funded — said the gap between privileged students and those at disadvantaged schools was growing and that inequality was "entrenched". The group said almost all public schools were not funded to the school resourcing standard (SRS), but on average non-government schools were funded at or above their full government funding level. (11 Dec 2023)
Read more at ABC News
The ABS has released an update on its 2026 census topic review, confirming that they are looking to "update the [religion] question design to support more accurate data collection" by switching to a two-part question. This would be in line with the change suggested by the Census21 campaign, of which the NSL was a member. The ABS is testing the change of question wording to "do you have a religion?" and then using a free text field for responses. Over 100 submissions to the ABS's review specifically requested change to the question on religion. (12 Dec 2023)
Read more at the ABS
According to new NAPLAN data, public schools are outperforming their private counterparts across Australia. But teachers say there is still a huge funding gap that needs urgent attention. (15 Dec 2023)
Watch more at SBS News
Around the Country
VIC: Ballarat was an epicentre for institutional child sexual abuse for many decades in the 20th century. The regional Victorian city, 115 kilometres west of Melbourne, is where some of Australia's most notorious paedophile priests, including Gerald Ridsdale, Robert Best, and Edward Dowlan worked. Their crimes continue to have devastating effects throughout the entire community. Now the city is creating the first Australian memorial to acknowledge all survivors of sexual abuse, as part of a journey of healing. The project's drivers hope it will become a place of national significance, and an example of global best practice in memorialising trauma. (11 Dec 2023)
Read more at ABC News
WA: Last Sunday, southwest members of LGBTIQA+ communities and their allies held a protest rally out front the office of Bunbury MLA, Don Punch. Bunbury PFLAG coordinator, Hazel Wood, said Punch and the Cook Government had to be held to account and keep their promise to update the Equal Opportunity Act. “Labor promised to stop discrimination against LGBT teachers and students in faith schools, to abolish the Gender Reassignment Board to allow a better system for trans and gender diverse identity documents, and to outlaw harmful speech against LGBTIQA+ people. Now they look like backing away from all these promises, despite other states being well ahead of WA on these laws. This is not acceptable." (11 Dec 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
NSW: The New South Wales Teachers Federation has dubbed scripture enrolments at public schools in the state's Hunter region as "damning". 99 per cent of students opt out of the lessons in some of the Hunter's largest schools, prompting growing calls for religious education to be scrapped entirely from the timetable. Special religious education (SRE), otherwise known as scripture, has been part of public school life in NSW for decades - up to one hour a week, but typically 30 to 40 minutes. (12 Dec 2023)
Read more at 9News
WA: The City of Perth council will continue imposing acts of Christian worship at its council meetings after ignoring concerns from the Rationalist Society of Australia about the practice being exclusionary to most of its residents. According to the 2021 census, 50 per cent of the Perth local government area's population has no religion. (12 Dec 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
TAS: Conversion practices will still be allowed to continue in Tasmania if the state government's draft legislation purporting to ban them becomes law, LGBTQIA+ advocates say. Conversion practices, or "therapy", aim to change, suppress or eradicate a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The Tasmanian government promised to outlaw the practices early last year following a Tasmanian Law Reform Institute report that found they continued to cause severe harm to sexually and gender-diverse Tasmanians. LGBTQIA+ advocates say the draft legislation contains too many loopholes, and will not prevent the conversion practices from occurring. (14 Dec 2023)
Read more at ABC News
Commentary and Analysis
Lucy Hamilton: Resisting Christian Nationalism: Secularism Australia’s inaugural conference
"Spiritual and cultural Christians – indeed such people of all faiths – need to consider allying together with those who identify as belonging to 'no religion'. It is the fundamentalist authoritarians who would divide and constrain us all that need exposing as the small minority they truly are. We must make them as powerless as their numbers, goals and hypocrisies merit. At the first Secular Australia conference in Sydney on the 2nd of December, people gathered to hear presentations on maintaining the line between church and state in Australia. Jane Caro ably ran proceedings, opening by explaining that the conference’s goal was to build a stronger voice for secularists in the way the nation operates. We can no longer passively expect our interests to be represented when our parliaments are becoming more not less religious. The organisations and individuals maintaining our line between church and state must coordinate action. Some freedoms, Caro reminded, are only possible in a secular society." (11 Dec 2023)
Read more at the AIMN
Chrys Stevenson: Christian dominionism: Follow the money
"The dominionists’ plan for achieving total world domination is called the Seven Mountains Mandate. Followers of this ideology are encouraged, trained and mentored, to infiltrate and conquer the Seven Mountains of Influence. These “mountains” represent: government (including law, the military, and our electoral system); business (including unions); education; media and the arts; entertainment; religion; and the family. The Seven Mountains Mandate is a political strategy devised and promoted by a large, but nebulous group, called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The NAR’s leaders, revered as “prophets” and “apostles”, aspire, eventually, to sit atop each one of these mountains on every nation on earth – at which point Jesus will return to rapture them to eternal glory in Heaven." (11 Dec 2023)
Read more at Rationale Magazine
Amy Fallon: Government pushed to scrap ‘unfair’ financial reporting exemptions for basic religious charities after new report
"The government is facing renewed calls to remove the financial reporting exemptions given to thousands of religious charities after a new Productivity Commission (PC) report recommended doing so 'to enhance public transparency and accountability'. The proposal to scrap 'basic religious charities' (BRCs), which control more than $6 billion in assets, has been welcomed by the Greens, secular organisations and former Jehovah’s Witnesses who are sexual abuse survivors. The review, which was released on November 30 and is part of an inquiry into charitable giving in Australia, calls for the removal of BRCs so that these charities are subject to the same Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act (ACNC) governance and reporting requirements as others." (11 Dec 2023)
Read more at Crikey
Neil Francis: Religiosity in Australia, Part 5: Religion, morality and values
"What impact does religious affiliation, and the devoutness of that affiliation, have on the ethical values of Australians? This is the question that Neil Francis for the Rationalist Society has set out to answer in this volume in a definitive fashion that only hard numbers drawn from reliable sources like peer reviewed scientific literature and high-quality university survey data can provide." (15 Dec 2023)
Read the full report (and the rest of the Religiosity in Australia series) at the Rationalist Society of Australia
Events and Campaigns
Residents of NSW, there is a petition running that calls on the state parliament to run scripture (SRE) and ethics (SEE) lessons outside class time in NSW public schools.
View the petition at the NSW Parliament House website
The Australia Institute are calling on federal parliament to pass truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech.
View the petition at The Australia Institute
The Human Rights Law Centre are running a website for those who want to support an Australian Charter of Human Rights & Freedoms.
Visit the Charter of Rights website here
A change.org petition has been started, calling for churches to lose their tax-free status and for "the religious influence of churches in Australian politics and society" to be limited. It's currently up to 30,000 signatures.
View the petition at change.org
Reason Australia are encouraging Victorians to email the state government asking to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read more at the Reason Australia website
Have you faced discrimination at a religious school or organisation? Equality Australia wants to know!
The Australian Education Union is running a campaign calling for “every school, every child” to receive fair education funding. Support the campaign here.
The Human Rights for NSW alliance has launched a campaign calling for NSW to pass a Human Rights Act.