Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 23 July 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
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At the National Level
The no campaign in the referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament is targeting migrant communities and parts of Sydney that voted strongly against marriage equality in the 2017 postal vote, Warren Mundine has said. The campaign believes there is a cohort of religious and socially conservative voters who are open to its messaging on implications of the voice. “That’s why we’re choosing the mosques, Hindu communities and temples and the like,” Mundine said. “Even though I was a yes voter for same-sex marriage, we saw the polling from the plebiscite. In western Sydney, it was 70% against because of their religious beliefs and conservatism, and so we’re going to sit down and have a chat to [those communities]." (17 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Around the Country
SA: A Christian councillor has continued to defy the new rules around silent prayers in meetings and recited the traditional prayer at an Adelaide City Council meeting. Councillor Henry Davis has been rebuked for reading a prayer in defiance of the change, and has accused the council of religious discrimination. Cr Davis has advocated a broadening of the prayer to include non-Christian beliefs, but said he will keep reading a prayer in accordance with his beliefs. (12 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Advertiser
SA: The dominant role of Christianity in an Army parade in Adelaide this month highlights the urgent need for secular cultural reform and modernisation of the military, says the Rationalist Society of Australia. A number of male priests led Army personnel from 1st Armoured Regiment and military equipment, including tanks, through the streets of Adelaide on Saturday 8 July before attending a Christian church service. During the one-hour-plus church service at St Peter’s Cathedral (watch it here), the unit’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Henderson, led the troops in a prayer ritual which required them to “dedicate ourselves” to “the honour and service of God”. (19 Jul 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
QLD: The Queensland education department appears to have misrepresented the nature of school chaplaincy roles under the new federally funded National Student Wellbeing Program (NSWP). In the preamble to a survey sent to a school community and questioning respondents on whether they would prefer a chaplain or a student wellbeing officer, the department differentiated the kind of support provided in the roles. While student wellbeing officers were said to “support general wellbeing of students”, the survey claimed that chaplains “support students to find a better way to deal with issues ranging from family breakdown and loneliness, to friendships and mental health”. However, under funding agreement for the NSWP, signed earlier this year by all states and territories, the only differentiation between the roles is that chaplains are still required to have the endorsement of religious institutions. (20 Jul 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
Commentary and Analysis
Jordyn Beazley and Caitlin Cassidy: Private school funding increased twice as much as public schools’ in decade after Gonski, data shows.
"Real government funding to private schools has increased almost twice as much as funding to public schools in the decade since the landmark Gonski review recommended changes designed to fund Australian schools according to need. From 2012 to 2021, per student funding to independent and Catholic schools rose by 34% and 31% respectively, while funding to public schools increased by just 17%, according to parliamentary library data provided exclusively to Guardian Australia. In Queensland, the growth in government funding to independent schools per student has been nine times greater than to public schools. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (Acara) data shows that 98% of private schools are funded above the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) recommended by Gonski and more than 98% of public schools are funded below it." (17 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Read the entire "The Gutting of Gonski" series here
Hugh Harris: How Queensland’s state schools remain ‘mission fields’ for ‘harvesting’.
"According to government policy, state schools must halt curriculum learning for up to one hour per week for RI classes. Children from Year 1 onwards attend RI in the religion nominated by their parents, assuming lessons in that faith are available. More than 95 per cent of RI is Christian, mostly preaching a conservative version of the faith. Segregated from their classmates, non-participants cannot continue with curriculum learning. Instead, they do unstructured free reading or revision supervised by a teacher. These days, only 25 per cent of students opt in to RI. Given our stagnating literacy and numeracy rates, we are losing precious class time for the benefit of a shrinking minority. The materials used for RI are neither vetted nor approved by the education department. In 2016, I published several articles outlining inappropriate and disturbing classes, including the roleplaying of beheadings as part of the David and Goliath fable, and age-inappropriate horror stories about vampires. ... The fundamental problem with RI is that learning settings are appropriated to present beliefs as facts. RI is evangelism posing as education." (17 Jul 2023)
Read more at Rationale Magazine
Cr Tim Baxter: Taking On Far-Right Bullies Who Target Rainbow Storytimes.
"...time and again, Councils have felt compelled to cancel these events to maintain the safety of staff in the face of opposition from tiny yet coordinated far-right terrorist groups. In doing so, Councils have handed a victory to the far right, comprised of neo nazis and religious extremists, among others. The terrorists celebrate each win, advertising it as a victory in their war against “groomers”, a term they use to describe anyone who accepts that queer people exist." (17 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Star Observer
Rhiannon Shine: On their own terms.
"By the end of this year, all Australian states will have operational VAD laws, and the ACT is looking to follow. While the laws might differ in each jurisdiction, they all require a person to have decision-making capacity throughout the entire process. Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of neurocognitive diseases which cause a progressive decline in a person’s functioning. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) estimated there were more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia in 2022. It was the nation’s second-leading cause of death and the number one cause for women. With an ageing and growing population, the AIHW predicts that figure will more than double by 2058. Mandatory reviews of VAD legislation are about to start in the two states which first legalised the process — Victoria and Western Australia. Since the laws came into effect in Victoria in 2019, around 880 people have accessed VAD. In the first year it was available in WA, 190 people accessed it and over 500 made the first application. While the mandatory appraisals will only focus on the operation of the current laws, they have still prompted calls for fresh consideration to be given to whether people with dementia may one day be able to access VAD. But even some of the strongest advocates for assisted dying draw the line there." (19 Jul 2023)
Read more at ABC News
Van Badham: Public schools are struggling as St Posho’s builds wellness centres with taxpayer money. It’s wrong and unfair.
"A Guardian Australia series published this week has borne disturbing news about Australia’s ongoing education inequality crisis. Government funding to private schools has increased almost twice as much as funding to the, uh, public school system that educates the overwhelming majority of Australia’s children. From 2012 to 2021, “per student funding to independent and Catholic schools rose by 34% and 31% respectively, while funding to public schools increased by just 17%”. Private institutions, by definition, do not serve the public good. This whopping misdirection of shared resources away from shared outcomes is corrosive to the nation’s longterm educational interest – as well as morally disgusting." (22 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Events and Campaigns
Equality Australia are running a petition calling on the Federal Government and all remaining states and territories to remove unnecessary legal carve-outs for religious schools and organisations and ensure laws protect everyone equally.
Read and sign the petition at Equality Australia
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 28,000 signatures.
View the petition at change.org
Reason Australia have started a new petition to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read and sign the petition at the Reason Australia website
Have you faced discrimination at a religious school or organisation? Equality Australia wants to know!
Humanists Australia have launched a Change.org petition calling for full separation of church and state in Australia. View and sign here.
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.