Conference: Separation of Church and State Schools – Time for Reform in Queensland

It’s short notice but the Humanist Society of Queensland is holding a vitally important Separation of Church and State Schools conference in Brisbane, the weekend after next – 13/14 October.

If you’re in or near Brisbane, please consider joining me at this event.

The HSQ has put together a remarkable line-up of speakers including:

  • Ron Williams (plaintiff in the High Court Challenge against the National School Chaplaincy Program)
  • Dr Marion Maddox (author of God Under Howard: the rise of the religious right in Australia)
  • Peter Garrigan (President – Australian Council of State School Organisations)
  • Greg Purches (Deputy General Secretary – Queensland Teachers’ Union)
  • Dr Cathy Byrne (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, researcher into religion in public education – Macquarie University)
  • Hugh Wilson (National Director, Australian Secular Lobby)
  • Peter Harrison, New Zealand Association of  Rationalists and Humanists

Many will not be aware that Australia has no formal separation of church and state (despite Section 116 of the Constitution). This was established in the landmark Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) case of 1981.

Further, as the flyer for the Separation of Church and State Schools conference explains:

“While the Education Acts of NSW, Victoria and the ACT retain clauses requiring only secular material to be taught in public schools, the critically important section above was removed from the Queensland Education Act in 1910 to enable the provision of Bible lessons by staff teachers as part of Christian Religious Instruction—an arrangement that has remained enshrined within Queensland education law to this day.

100 years on, the resulting lack of any secular safeguards within the Queensland Education Act legitimises the widespread inclusion within the K-12 state school curriculum of what Education Queensland’s Religious Education Advisory Committee, REAC, describes as “creationist theory”.

Here’s an interesting overview of the situation:

Shocked? You should be!

Incredibly, when approached by the Australian Secular Lobby, the Bligh Labor government advised they had ‘no intention’ of restoring the word ‘secular’ to the Queensland Education Act. There is even less chance now, with the heavily evangelical Newman Liberal government. It may well be the only way forward is through legal action. As Ron Williams says, there are hundreds of untried Kitzmiller vs Dover cases just waiting to be heard in Queensland.

There is no political will to change this situation in Queensland or, more broadly, in Australia. Only we, the parents, citizens, teachers and principals can make a difference. The first step is to attend this ground-breaking conference.

The HSQ’s Separation of Church and State Schools conference begins on Saturday evening, 13 October,  with the screening of a remarkable film, The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today. Here’s the trailer:

The speaking program is on Sunday at the conference venue:

George Williams Hotel Conference Centre
317-325 George Street, Brisbane

I hope to see you there! If you’re in Queensland, or know people who are – especially parents and teachers – please share the link to this blog post and encourage them to attend.

Chrys Stevenson

Separation of Church and State Schools Conference – Book Now

Recommended reading:

Creationist hijack lessons and teach schoolkids man and dinosaurs walked together

False prophets: Qld LNP votes to remove climate change from schools

Row over creationist’s class lecture

Genesis of a complaint

Mother rails against religion in schools

Mother’s crusade against Bibles at Urangan State High School

School chaplaincy case: a missed opportunity for secular education, by Catherine Byrne

Christian schools a ‘threat’ against secularism says expert [Marion Maddox]

Lobbyists for reform in religion in public education:

Australian Secular Lobby

Fairness in Religion in Schools

Religion, Ethics and Education Network of Australia (REENA)

Humanist Society of Queensland

High Court Challenge

Facebook: Stop the National School Chaplaincy Program

Parents 4 Ethics (NSW)

5 thoughts on “Conference: Separation of Church and State Schools – Time for Reform in Queensland

  1. Pingback: The Bear Necessities « Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear

  2. Jan Wyles

    I would LOVE to attend this conference but just can’t make it.

    Please keep us informed of any practical steps that come out of this conference. So far sending money to Ron Williams is the only practical step I’ve taken.

    The problem needs to be tackled Australia-wide but I find most people I talk to about it are very apathetic!

    Jan Wyles

    Reply
  3. Julie McNeill

    What an excellent program – I will book and see if my daughter(a teacher) can come along. Meanwhile our Wivenhoe ALP branch is having a forum on State issues at Fernvale on Saturday 6th October 2pm so I will put the flyer up there.
    The only surviving Ipswich Labor MP Jo-Ann Miller will be speaking. What do you know of her religious affiliations and policies?

    Reply

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