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Should religious education be compulsory?



Melbourne, Victoria, 5 March 2012. The role of religious education in schools has been the subject of media debate in Victoria over the past 12 months. Sections of the community have called for the withdrawal of any form of religious education, while others have argued for a broader, multi-faith approach.

Access Ministries, which is responsible for the provision of Christian religious education in state schools, has come under criticism for its approach. Additionally, a report in The Age in November 2011 suggested that Christian churches are not responding to the spiritual needs of the community.

On Saturday 17 March, Trinity College Theological School will explore the church’s ongoing involvement in education and ministry in schools. The Religious Education Forum will allow members of the community to share their views, and hear from guest speakers Dr Marian de Souza, Australian Catholic University, Denise Nicholls, Access Ministries, Mary Bluett, Australian Education Union, Chris Carolane, Trinity College Foundation Studies Chaplain, and Scott Hedges, parent and commentator.

As Australians increasingly identify with a number of different faith perspectives and practices, Trinity will consider whether the church should abandon the present system of religious education taught by volunteers, whether it should be an opt-in system, and whether the church should advocate for a religious education curriculum across all schools as part of the national curriculum.

Director of Ministry Formation at Trinity College and chair of the Forum, the Revd Canon Dr Ray Cleary, said that Trinity wants to contribute to the current debate in a constructive and educative manner to assist the church and community to respond to the current challenges.

‘We want to explore the options for the church’s ongoing involvement in education and ministry in schools, and encourage and support those already engaged in ministry to young people in schools,’ Ray said.

‘We want to discuss people’s views and whether there is an importance for religious education in some form in our schools as an important element in creating a healthy, tolerant and well balanced society, embracing diversity in religious belief and faith as positive contributors to building and maintaining social cohesion.’

The Religious Education Forum will be held on Saturday 17 March, 9.30am–1pm at the Trinity College Theological School. Book online at http://bit.ly/xy4zUo

Founded in 1872 as the first residential college of the University of Melbourne, Trinity is a tertiary institution that provides a diverse range of high-quality academic programs for Australian and international students. The Trinity College Theological School offers world-class courses in theology for every level of interest and ability for all God’s people, lay and ordained alike.

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For further media enquiries please contact Penny Appleby, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Trinity College on 03 9348 7528 or pappleby@trinity.unimelb.edu.au

For information regarding the Forum please contact Ray Cleary, Director of Ministry Formation at Trinity College on 03 9348 7129 or rcleary@trinity.unimelb.edu.au