Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 30 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
Public school funding is falling behind private schools in part due to the states failing to meet the targets set for them six years ago, spurring calls for a special deal to be struck for the Northern Territory, which has the biggest gap. For public schools, the states were set a 75% funding target by 2023 and the federal government a 20% target. For private schools it was the reverse, with schools receiving funding above their SRS to transition down by 2029. The federal government has almost met its targets, but the states have not. (24 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released a summary of results from phase one of the 2026 Census topic consultation, during which 260 public submissions were received (including one from the Census21 – Not Religious? campaign, in which the NSL participated). In line with the campaign's submission, the ABS has indicated that they are intending to review the question design and response categories, and will seek specific feedback on the impacts of potential changes. Phase two of the consultation is running from 27 July until 8 September 2023. (27 Jul 2023)
Read more at the ABS website
Around the Country
VIC: A former Ballarat schoolboy says the Christian Brothers have refused to discuss a civil claim he brought against the congregation over alleged historic child sexual abuse. John (an alias) said he felt ignored after the Christian Brothers, who ran the college, refused to come to the table to mediate the claim and applied for a permanent stay to halt legal proceedings. In a statement of claim filed to the state's Supreme Court, John alleges the Christian Brothers were negligent by failing to implement a complaints’ system and were aware of widespread sexual abuse at its institutions from as early as 1930. (24 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Herald Sun
NSW: The New South Wales government appears to have wiped its hands of any responsibility over the teaching of creationism content in the state’s public schools as part of Special Religious Education, with education minister Prue Car stating that the religious organisations delivering SRE were responsible for that part of the curriculum. (25 Jul 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
VIC: A Catholic councillor who successfully pushed to have prayer rituals re-imposed as part of formal meetings at the Nillumbik Shire Council in Victoria has said that any non-religious colleagues who felt uncomfortable about having to sit through a prayer would "just have to suck it up". (26 Jul 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
Commentary and Analysis
Editorial, The Saturday Paper: Class warfare
"Private education serves no purpose but to sustain inequality, to pass it on between generations. Parents pay to divide children and the state pays to help further this division. The promise at the end is networks and connections and more division. Nowhere else is taxpayer money used so lavishly or destructively. ... It is a lie to say private schools take pressure off the public system. In fact, it is the opposite. Private schools take money out of public classrooms. They entrench inequality. They create and maintain privilege." (22 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Saturday Paper
Alicia Bridges: Civil celebrants oversee the majority of weddings in Australia, but 50 years ago they were illegal
"This July marks the 50th anniversary of when civil celebrants were legally allowed to perform marriages in Australia. More than 80 per cent of wedding ceremonies are now performed by civil celebrants — up from about 50 per cent in 2001 — according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2021. But [Celebrant Carol] Astbury said it was a time of social upheaval when Attorney General Lionel Murphy and the Gough Whitlam government moved to establish the Civil Marriage Celebrant Program in 1973. There was resistance to the change, she said, which would also provide more options for divorcees whose weddings were sometimes shunned by the church." (23 Jul 2023)
Read more at ABC News
Colonel Phillip Hoglin: Still Losing our Religion
"The observation that such a large proportion of recruits have no religious affiliation, and that this is simply a characteristic of the demographic from which they are drawn, supports an assessment that the decrease in Defence members’ religious affiliation is set to continue unavoidably until at least 75 per cent have no affiliation by 2030. Increasingly, it seems that a proportion exceeding 80 per cent by 2040 is also now likely. This raises questions around why there is a paucity of uniformed secular wellbeing support options and no apparent plans to change this outside of a small number of Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officers in Navy." (26 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Forge
ABC Life Matters: She was a committed Christian at a Christian school. Then she fell for a woman
"As a teacher at a Christian school, Steph Lentz had preached against homosexuality. Then, she began a passionate affair with a woman from church. After coming out to her school, not only was Steph fired, but she was forced to ask herself: could she be gay and still be a 'true Christian'?" Join guests Steph Lentz, former teacher and author whose new book is called In/Out A scandalous story of falling into love and out of the church, and Ghassan Kassisieh, legal director of Equality Australia and lead author of a new Equality Australia report looking into religious exemptions in Australia. (27 Jul 2023)
Listen to this episode at ABC Radio National
Lucy Hamilton: Australia’s Right is importing Orbanism: we can’t ignore it
"Senior Australian “conservative” figures continue to attend conferences backed by illiberal Hungarian leader Viktor Orban. The Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) hosted its 2023 London Summit in late June, featuring Alexander Downer and Greg Sheridan as two of the five speakers. Australians must focus on connections between our Right with Hungarian fascistic politics. ... The MCC is superficially an educational institution that fosters conservative students and thinkers. In fact it functions as a key part of Orban’s efforts to establish a Western and Christian bulwark that proclaims itself a staunch defender of “traditional” values. These nouns are dogwhistle codes meaning white, anti-Muslim and staunchly anti-LGBTQIA+. It is also antisemitic." (29 Jul 2023)
Read more at the AIMN
Events and Campaigns
The ABS has opened up phase two of their 2026 Census topic consultation.
Make a submission at the ABS website
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.