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Lunchtime religious teaching in Victorian schools under fire

Lunchtime religious teaching in Victorian schools under fire

LAST UPDATED // Friday, 20 June 2014 15:06 Written by // James Findlay

Religious groups operating extracurricular activities in government schools in Victoria, which are not accredited by the Department of Education, will be prohibited from doing so as of next school term.

Currently, many religious organisations are operating the ‘lunch groups’ in government schools for those of religious faiths.

New supporting policy introduced by the State Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) will come into place next month, which only allows accredited religious groups to provide Special Religious Instruction.

“The supporting policy will be clear that the only religious organisations permitted into government schools in Victoria are those accredited by the Department to deliver special religious instruction,” a Department of Education Spokesperson told MCV.

One group called ‘Mustard’ operates in over twenty secondary schools in Melbourne, at least six of which are government schools.

According to their website, Mustard is a group for students to further explore religion.

“It’s an opportunity to meet other students, ask questions, be encouraged and discover more of what it means to be a follower of Jesus,” the website states.

When MCV recently spoke to the group, they were unaware their program would no longer be taught in government schools from next term.

Australian Equality Party member and mother, Jacqui Tomlins, is sending one of her children to Kew High School next year, which currently hosts Mustard lunch groups, and was very concerned religious organisations were allowed into state schools.

“I am very glad to hear that DEECD has tightened the rules on what religious groups can and can’t do in a secular, state school. I believe that religion is a private, family matter that has no place in our state school system.

“As a parent raising three kids in a same-sex relationship I think it’s extremely important to ensure that religious groups are closely monitored and controlled when they are going into our schools,” she told MCV.

MCV has also become aware that Scripture Union (SU) operates a similar program in primary schools around Victoria called SUPA Clubs (Scripture Union Primary Age), to ‘learn about Jesus’.

Scripture Union confirmed the SUPA Clubs still run currently, but did not want to comment any further.


James Findlay

James Findlay

James Findlay is a Melbourne-based journalist and broadcaster who has worked in community media for many years. He has won awards for his work on The Naughty Rude Show on SYN, and can be heard on JOY 94.9's breakfast program, Triple Threat, and Hide and Seek - exploring sex, sexuality and self. He is currently completing his Master of Public Health specialising in Sexual Health at Melbourne University, and a tutor in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University.

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