2016 Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby will be on Wednesday, April 13, at 18:00 at Parliament House, Spring Street, Melbourne.

The agenda for the meeting includes:

1. Attendance, Apologies, Minutes
1.1 Attendance
1.1 Apologies
1.3 Minutes of last AGM

2. Administrative Changes and Election of Office Bearers
2.1 New Act for Incorporated Associations.
2.2 Election of office bearers (President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, 2 Committee Members).

3. Guest Speaker, Maree Edwards, State Member for Bendigo West, on "The Politics of the Bendigo Mosque".

About The Victorian Secular Lobby

what secularism means
Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? .
James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, 20 June 1785

The word 'secular' comes the Medieval Latin "secularis", meaning worldly or temporal in distinction to the eternal. It pertains to the world that we all live in and share, in space and time. In George Holyoake's coining of the term, he noted that secularism wasn't an argument against religious beliefs, but an argument independent of it. "Secular knowledge is manifestly that kind of knowledge which is founded in this life, which relates to the conduct of this life, conduces to the welfare of this life, and is capable of being tested by the experience of this life."

It is not, as commonly assumed, anti-religious, rather it is non-religious. A secular position is to have 'no comment' to make on religion. In terms of the state, a secular position argues for a clear separation of church and state. Religious people, particularly those who are respectful of other faiths, and wish to avoid state-sanctioned bigotry, can also be secular in this manner. Thus one can indeed be a secular Christian, a secular Buddhist, a secular Muslim etc.

The Victorian Secular Lobby is open to all people who support our principles:

1. To promote the principle of the separation of Church and State and equality for all institutions under the law.
2. To resource and promote secular principles to journalists, politicians, and other contributors to public opinion.
3. To encourage co-ordination with like-minded groups to influence public policy.
4. To encourage persons to take up membership and engage in activities that promote secular principles and the Victorian Secular Lobby.
5. To engage in activities, including generating income and expenditure, to further these aims.

Our policies are also available for review.

News reports on this site compiled from the Proxima Thule Press Extracts Service. The Victorian Secular Lobby is a member of the Secular Coalition of Australia.

The Victorian Secular Lobby's contact details are:

POB 15
Carlton South
Victoria, 3053
public AT victoriansecular DOT org

The Victorian Secular Lobby is incorporated in the State of Victoria, Number A00594400A

Islamic centre firebombed, tagged with IS graffiti

An Islamic community centre in Melbourne’s north has been firebombed after the words “Islamic State” were scrawled on the build­ing, which had already been the sub­ject of several recent arson attacks.

The Imam Ali Islamic Centre in Fawkner was gutted by the massive blaze on Sunday [11 December] morning, which is being investigated by Victoria Po­lice’s arson and explosives squad and the Melbourne Fire Brigade.

Photographs reveal the words “Is­lamic State” in English and Arabic on the building, but it remains unclear what motivated the arson attack, which is believed to be the third incident in the past six months.

A member of the local Shiite com­munity who attends the Lawson Street prayer centre said the fire would have a devastating impact.

He refused to speculate on who might have been responsible.

“Everything is on the table and I don’t think anyone really knows.”

Mosques and Islamic community centres have been targets of re­peated attacks by far-right groups across Australia, while detectives are also expected to examine sectari­an tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in Melbourne.

In January, members of the Imam Ali Islamic Centre were denied ac­cess to the prayer hall following a dispute with [the] local council. It is un­derstood the dispute stemmed from a notice issued by Moreland Council about fire safety concerns.

Another community member said the graffiti was a ruse to distract investigators.

“I can tell you it has absolutely nothing to do with Islamic State, and I hope the media and everyone else don’t allow themselves to be manipu­lated. We have a very good idea who’s behind this,” the man said.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/islamic-centre-firebombed-and-tagged-w...

Catholic school probed on alleged $5 million “rort”

A Catholic school in Melbourne's south-east is being investigated by the schools' watchdog over explosive claims of a $5 million state government funding rort.

The alleged scam was carried out at St John's Regional College in Dandenong. It is understood it involved exploiting government training subsidies by dishing out cooking qualifications to students who never received any training.

Many of the students caught up in the alleged scam did not attend the school, and some were adult migrants who had studied overseas and wanted to quickly gain an Australian qualification.

The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority confirmed it was investigating the training delivered by the school – which is also a registered training organisation – as part of a joint probe with the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria and the Victorian Department of Education.

Forensic auditors have seized school files and notebooks to try and work out what happened to the missing millions.

While training rorts have plagued the private college sector, this is believed to be the first scandal of this scale involving a Victorian school. It is particularly sensitive for Catholic Education Melbourne, which prides itself on ensuring government funds are not misappropriated.

The school's canonical administration – which is made up of local priests – sacked the former principal Andrew Walsh and former business manager Mark Siwek in September after the revelations came to light.

The Age is not suggesting that Mr Walsh or Mr Siwek were involved in the alleged scam.

The school's newsletter said that Mr Walsh left "suddenly for a range of reasons including family health reasons".

It is understood that he was upset and shocked when he was asked to leave the school he had run for almost eight years.

The school is located in a disadvantaged area, and almost half of its students have a language background other than English.

None of the money reaped through the alleged rort is believed to have been spent on students, and it is not known where it went.

Many regular students enrolled at the school have received proper training and there are fears their qualifications will be tainted by the alleged fraud.

The federal government's My School website shows that the school's income from other sources soared from $642,746 in 2012 to a staggering $5.9 million in 2013. In 2014, the school reaped $5.1 million from other sources.

On Monday, the blinds were drawn at the school's graduate restaurant, which is where the alleged fraud was believed to have taken place. Coffee cups were neatly stacked next to the espresso machine, and white serviettes were neatly folded in preparation for the next diners.

VRQA director Lynn Glover said that the investigation was initiated following complaints.

"The investigation is ongoing and it is therefore inappropriate for us to make further comment at this stage," she said.

A 2014 VRQA audit identified "non-compliance" but Ms Glover decided to renew the college's registration as a training organisation until April 2019.

The watchdog refused to release the audits, citing privacy concerns.

An Education Department spokesman said the school had held contracts to deliver state government funded training from 2011 to 2015. But it was unsuccessful in its bid for a 2016 contract.

The spokeswoman would not say how much funding the Catholic school had received under the Victorian Training Guarantee, or for how many students, citing commercial in confidence.

A Catholic education spokesman said it was inappropriate to comment while an investigation was under way.

An auditor-general's report released earlier this year found little evidence that state government grants for non-government schools, estimated to be $676 million this year, were being used appropriately.

St John's Regional College, Mr Walsh and Mr Siwek were contacted for comment.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/catholic-school-investigated-over-alle...

What next for dying with dignity?

He’s the progressive premier whose reforms include same-sex adoption, decriminalising medicinal cannabis and putting safe access zones around abortion clinics. But this week, Daniel Andrews and his government will address what could arguably be their toughest social policy challenge yet: dying with dignity.

• What’s happening?

Put simply, the government has until Thursday [8 December] to respond to a parliamentary report that recommends Victoria legalise assisted suicide for terminally ill people.

That report, by the bipartisan Social and Legal Issues Committee, was based on a 10-month inquiry, an overseas tour of assisted dying ré­gimes, and more than 1300 submissions, most of which favoured reform.

The government now has a number of options: reject the committee’s recommendation; accept it and introduce legislation; accept it in principle but refer it to an agency (such as the Law Reform Commission) to work out the details; or deal with it through a private member’s bill (the Greens are already preparing one in case the government doesn’t act).

• So does this mean Victoria could become the first Australian state to legalise euthanasia?

Not quite. It’s important to note that the committee’s recommendation doesn’t actually call for voluntary euthanasia, which involves ending another person’s life to relieve their suffering. Instead, it specifically suggests a new “assisted dying” framework, whereby a doctor could prescribe a lethal drug that would be taken by the patient.

The key difference is self-administration. The only exception to the rule would be in cases when people were physically unable to take a lethal drug, in which case, a doctor could assist.

• But are there enough safeguards?

The model proposed by the committee has many; whether it’s enough is a matter of opinion.

Firstly, a patient must be a permanent adult resident of Victoria, have a “serious and incurable condition”, and be in the final weeks or months of their life.

They must also have decision-making capacity (which rules out people with dementia and Alzheimer’s), and the request must be approved by a primary doctor and an independent secondary doctor. For further oversight, a new End of Life Commission has also been proposed, along with an End of Life Review Board, which would examine each case and ensure doctors have complied with their requirements.

• So what are the chances the Andrews government will change the law?

Not bad. Given the public momentum and Labor’s record of progressive reform in Victoria, some believe the time is now.

It’s no coincidence, either, that soon after the report was tabled, more than half of cabinet’s 22 ministers lined up to openly declare their in-principle support for a shift, including Health Minister Jill Hennessy, Treasurer Tim Pallas and Attorney-General Martin Pakula.

All seven Green MPs and the Sex Party’s Fiona Patten also want reform, along with a number of Liberals.

This is worth noting, given that any future bill would ultimately be decided on a conscience vote in the 88-member lower house and the 40-member upper house.

• But hasn’t the Victorian Parliament tried - and failed – to deal with this already?

Correct. Eight years ago, Greens MP Colleen Hartland introduced a private member’s bill to legalise physician-assisted death, but it was immediately voted down in the upper house: 25 votes to 13.

But a lot has changed since then, including community momentum, with some polls now suggesting that up to 70 per cent of Australians want voluntary euthanasia legalised.

That’s not to say the issue won’t be fiercely contested again: it will be, particularly among religious groups, some sections of the medical community and conservative members of parliament.

Labor also has some members who would likely vote against a bill, particularly those aligned with the Catholic-based “shoppies” union (parliamentary secretary Daniel Mulino, for instance, sat on the committee but wrote his own “minority report” raising concerns about appropriate safeguards).

• What about Andrews? What does he think?

Therein lies the million-dollar question.

At a Melbourne Press Club lunch in June last year, I asked the Premier whether he supported voluntary euthanasia, and his position was clear.

“I don’t support, at this stage . . . making the sort of change that some people would like to make, but I do readily acknowledge that there is certainly more momentum, and there is perhaps more public support for this change than there has ever been,” Andrews said at the time.

But since then, his position has noticeably softened in the wake of his father’s death from cancer.

“If you search your conscience, and you search your own personal experience, I think more and more Victorians are coming to the conclusion that we are not giving a dignified end, we are not giving the support, the love and care that every Victorian should be entitled to in their final moments,” he said in September.

Thursday is deadline day. Watch this space.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/explainer-the-push-towards-a-dyingwith...

Family First, conservative Christians join the Victorian Liberals

Conservative Turnbull government MPs are recruiting members of hardline micro parties such as Family First and the Australian Christians, in a move described as a "horrifying" lurch to the right that could thwart the Liberals chances at the next Victorian election.

Former defence minister Kevin Andrews is believed to be attending micro party meetings and holding church-based community forums in a broad bid to attract more members from the religious right, sparking deep divisions in the state branch.

In a statement to Fairfax Media, a spokesman for Mr Andrews did not confirm or deny the claims, other than to say the MP "encourages people who share the values of the Liberal Party to join".

Deakin MP Michael Sukkar argued that getting more members into branches was critical to fighting Labor's well orchestrated grassroots campaigning, adding that those opposing new memberships were using fears of Christian conservatives as "a red herring".

And some in the minor parties are also pushing for a shift, saying that the federal Senate reforms had stymied their electoral prospects and prompted them to rethink their political strategy.

"Conservatives are concerned that we're losing our voice, so it's fair to say that a number of people are going over," said Peter Bain, who ran for Family First in the July poll and is now one of several ex-candidates applying for Liberal membership.

The targeting of micro parties follows revelations there had been a concerted recruitment drive – led by Brighton branch president Marcus Bastiaan – targeting Mormon and evangelical churches as well as probus and community groups.

Mr Bastiaan has also been at the centre of branch-stacking allegations plaguing the Liberal Party more broadly this week, with claims of enrolment "irregularities" designed to sway the outcome in Saturday's preselection battle for the prized state seat seat of Brighton.

However, Mr Bastiaan - an ally of party president Michael Kroger - has denied any wrongdoing, telling Fairfax Media: "Branch-stacking allegations are false and politically motivated. Statewide membership drives are an ongoing strategy to turn around our party's collapsing membership.

"With the average age of members over 70 and less than 15 per cent who are under the age 40, the party has an immense amount of work to do to rebuild a dynamic base to win and hold government."

The push to get more people from the religious right to join the Liberals is likely to pose a challenge for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who many believe is already beholden to the hardline conservatives within his ranks.

And with opposition leader Matthew Guy keen to capture the political middle ground against Daniel Andrews, state MPs are also concerned it could hinder their chances in the 2018 Victorian poll, or result in an "uprising" of candidates in future elections with single-issue agendas, such as winding back abortion laws.

"It's horrifying. If we become a more right-wing party there is no way we will win the election," said one senior Liberal source.

Another MP told Fairfax Media: "We've had a strong two years, but if this shit gets any worse, I think it could really undo us."

The changing ideological fault lines have also caused tensions among the micro parties, with DLP state MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins saying: "I am a true representative of the conservative voice here in Victoria. I am aware of, and distressed by, the move to leave minor parties like Family First and Australian Christians, to join the Liberal party."

But others say it's a necessary shift, given Liberal membership in Victoria has dropped by 1800 compared to 2014. In the past 12 months membership has increased just 220.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/family-first-conservative-christians-j...

Yeshivah leaders “enabled” child abuse

Leaders at Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi have been accused of failing to report child abuse to police and allowing paedophiles unfettered access to children, in strongly-worded findings of the royal commission.

Investigations into child sexual abuse at the religious Jewish institutions uncovered a "pattern" of inaction in responding to reports of abuse, according to findings released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday.

Share on Facebook SHARE
Share on Twitter TWEET
Pin to Pinterest PIN

Yeshivah College in Melbourne.
Yeshivah College in Melbourne. Photo: John Woudstra

In the face of repeated reports of child abuse, leaders at the Orthodox centres - which operate as synagogues, schools and community hubs - assured victims they would act in defence of the victim, but no action was ultimately taken, the commission said.

"We were told that the responses of leadership groups to the adverse experiences of survivors and their families ranged from inaction to enabling those adverse experiences. The responses were perhaps in part to protect the reputations of individuals or the institutions concerned."

Four survivors of abuse and several rabbis and community leaders, gave evidence about the the scale of child abuse at Yeshivah Centre and the Yeshivah? College in Melbourne and Yeshiva? Centre and the Yeshiva College Bondi, in public hearings last year.

Convicted paedophiles accused of sexual abuse allegations at the hearings included Shmuel David Cyprys, Rabbi David Kramer and Daniel Hayman.

Despite victims' allegations of abuse, paedophiles had a "continued association with, presence at or employment at the institutions", the commission found.

Abuse was often not reported to police due to a Jewish law, known as Mesirah, which some interpret as forbidding a Jew from handing over another Jew to a secular authority.

As a result, victims who reported their abuse to police were treated as "outcasts", the commission heard.

Evidence from victims at Yeshivah Melbourne, including outspoken advocate Manny Waks and his father Zephania Waks, showed leaders and community members ostracised and reprimanded victims for speaking out.?

"Criticism of those who spoke out was forceful," said the commission, noting there were "many occasions" where leaders at Yeshivah Melbourne failed to advocate for victims and educate the community about religious obligations to report child abuse.

From 1984 to 2007, the Yeshivah College Melbourne "did not have adequate policies, processes and practices for responding to complaints of child sexual abuse", the commission said.

The commission said the former board member of Yeshiva in Sydney, Rabbi Yosef Feldman, said he 'didn't know much about sex abuse at all' and that 'it didn't enter into [his] mind the whole idea of what's considered a legal crime or not; what should be reported to the police or not'.

"He said that he had only recently learnt of the serious criminal nature of child sexual abuse," the commission said.

In 2011, Rabbi Feldman wrote an email to other rabbis questioning the need to immediately report child molestation to police.

The commission said Rabbi Feldman supplied the Australian Jewish News with a false statement of his views to defend his reputation, and accused him of prioritising the "perspective of the perpetrator rather than that of the victim".

It was unclear, the commission said, whether Yeshiva Bondi had implemented child protection measures.

Yeshivah Melbourne however, had taken "significant steps in implementing structured child protection measures, including drafting formal policies and giving training to children, parents and staff," the commission said.

A statement from the directors of Yeshivah Centre, Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Schools and Chabad Institutions Victoria, said the centre "deeply regrets its failure to protect those who were victims of child sexual abuse perpetrated by people in a position of trust in the Yeshivah Centre and its schools".

Gavriella Aber, Head of Teaching and Learning at Yeshiva College in Bondi, said the school was under "new management" and was committed to child protection.

Yeshiva Centre in Bondi did not respond to Fairfax Media.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/child-abuse-unreported-and-enabled-at-...

Make churches pay up

WENDY SQUIRES

Churches should be forced to contribute to the compensation scheme or lose tax exemption.

As someone who has followed the child sex abuse royal commission with horror and fury, my de­sire (make that demand) has been consistent: make them pay!

My greatest fear was that those innocents, whose dignity, self-esteem and human rights were ripped away by those they trusted, would be abused all over again in their quest for justice. The retelling of their stories would be mere fodder for a news cycle, and then, once the hearings concluded, we would all tut-tut and go our merry way, grateful that “times have changed” and the culpable institu­tions had “learnt a lesson”.

But justice has arrived, for living victims at least. Last Friday [4 November], the Social Services Minister, Christian Porter, announced a national com­pensation scheme with payments to victims of up to $150,000. One entity would process claims, with federal backing, thus cutting red tape.

I was jubilant. But I kept reading and my anger returned. Not only is the maximum amount $50,000 lower than the commission’s sug­gested cap, but a clause allows the (mostly religious) institutions and the states to opt out of contributing.

Talk about a kiss followed by a kick; this is immoral. Allowing the wealthy religious institutions that committed heinous crimes against children to have an option to pay or not is obscene.

Care Leavers Australia Net­work’s chief executive, Leonie Sheedy, says compensation from the states and institutions respons­ible should be mandatory, given that many of the religious institu­tions have a poor track record of supporting people who were abused. She also raises a very inter­esting argument: any charity or re­ligious organisation that refuses to contribute to the scheme should lose their [sic: its] tax exempt status.

Hallelujah! The issue of tax ex­emption has for too long been un­questioned, and the government won’t be keen to revisit the issue, given the party is run by a handful of right-wing Christian fanatics. But it’s time this ridiculous indem­nity was debated.

Under Australian law, religious organisations are deemed “charit­able” and thus exempt from tax, which adds up to an estimated $30,000 million (the Catholic Church ac­counts for about half) annually.

To be recognised as charitable, the institution should provide: the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion, and “other purposes bene­ficial to the community”.

However, in 2014, a Charities Act was introduced expanding the stat­utory definitions of “charity” and “charitable purpose” to recognise other attributes including: advan­cing health, education, social or public welfare, religion, culture, re­conciliation, mutual respect and tolerance; promoting or protecting human rights, advancing the secur­ity or safety of Australia or the pub­lic, preventing or relieving the suffering of animals, and advancing the natural environment.

All of these are supposed to be “for the public benefit” and, as such, are accepted as charitable and ex­empt from certain taxes. And fair enough. In most cases, their public benefit is duly noted.

Yet religious institutions such as the Catholic Church are also cam­paigning against same-sex mar­riage, excluding women in their hierarchies, teaching that homo­sexuality is immoral, backing cam­paigns against legal abortion rights, perpetuating the nonsense that is creationisrn, scaring children with threats of hell and damnation, preaching virgin births, sea part­ings and resurrection. Can this work be deemed “charitable” and of “public benefit”?

Where the money goes to hospitals, refuges and the like, no tax should be re­quired. But the income from mas­sive property portfolios and related investments, really?

And consider Scientology, cre­ated by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, which decrees that, 75 million years ago, a dictator called Xenu brought billions of his people to Earth in spacecraft, drop­ped them in volcanoes and then blew them up with hydrogen-like bombs. The spirits of these aliens, called thetans, inhabit humans and can only be eradicated by spending thousands of dollars to become “clear”. This institution, too, is tax exempt. A recent documentary, Going Clear, reported that it is worth $US1750 million ($A2200 million) glob­ally, and takes in about $US200 mil­lion a year.

Meanwhile, Hillsong Church pul­led in an estimated $100 million last year, all tax exempt because it is a religious institution. Similarly, the huge Sanitarium Health and Well-being Company, wholly owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, doesn’t pay tax on the $205 million earned last year alone.

Are these institutions really “for the public benefit”, and thus de­serving of tax indemnity?

The royal commission has provided an excel­lent opportunity to look closely at just what the “charitable” and “public interest” output of religious institutions really covers. Too many of them have considered them­selves untouchable in the past. It is time to make them pay.

Wendy Squires is a Fairfax Media columnist.

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/too-many-religious-institutions-consider-t...

“God gave me a licence” to grow pot, court told

A man accused of growing cannabis in his vegetable patch told police that God had given him a licence to do so, a court has heard.

Police searched Matthew and Elizabeth Pallett's Carrum Downs home last May, and found about 15 and a half kilograms of cannabis in various forms, ledgers referring to the people they provided it to and drug paraphernalia, the County Court heard on Thursday.

Mr and Mrs Pallett have each been charged with one count of cultivating cannabis. Both maintain their innocence.

Prosecutor Andy Moore told a jury on the first day of their trial: "They both freely admitted to growing cannabis plants. They said they did it for medicinal purposes but each acknowledged they didn't have a licence [to do this]."

He quoted Mr Pallett as saying in his police interview: "God gave me a licence. He's the only one who can issue a licence."

Mr Moore said the couple had told police they did not operate a commercial business but made "medicinal cannabis" to help alleviate the pain of sick people, including cancer patients.

Mr Pallett had described the couple's home as a "civilian medical clinic" while Mrs Pallett had told police they "used cannabis to cure cancer cells" and other conditions, he said.

The prosecutor also said the couple had argued that the law which prohibited growing cannabis was wrong, with Mr Pallett saying cannabis itself was harmless, and that "helping people avoid pain and death is not a crime".

Mr and Mrs Pallett, who are representing themselves in court, did not give an opening address. A number of their supporters attended court.

Mr Moore told the jury the prosecution would argue that the pair had broken the law by growing cannabis, regardless of "however pure and humanitarian the motive of the accused may well be".

He said jurors' role was to objectively analyse the evidence presented.

"This is not a test case about medicinal marijuana or cannabis, or whether the accused are good or well-motivated people at heart, or whether the law as it exists should be changed."

The trial, before Judge Bill Stuart, continues.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/god-gave-me-licence-to-grow-pot-accuse...

Clash looms over sex ed videos

Farrah Tomazin

The Andrews [Victorian] government is on a collision course with the powerful Christian lobby over new classroom videos that use animated penises and other sexual imagery to teach students about porn, relationships and raunch culture.

In the latest controversy over the government’s Respectful Relation­ships curriculum, the Australian Christian Lobby has written to Edu­cation Minister James Merlino, ur­ging him remove web links and re­sources they believe cross the line.

The web links take teachers to a number of video lessons with titles such as “Porn — what you should know”, “The truth about desire”, and “When’s the Right Time” (which asks students to consider when they are ready for sex).

But while teachers have discre­tion over whether to use the re­source, ACL state president Dan Fynn said the content was troubling because “it assumes a level of sexual interest and activity which is incon­sistent with the age of their intended audience”.

One of the Lobby’s main concerns centres on a video lesson for stu­dents in years 7 and 8 which features illustrated images of male and fe­male anatomy, topless cowboys, scantily-clad women and a barrage of messages about sex.

“If you’re mixing penises with bums, vaginas or mouths, you should really use a ‘party hat’,” says the narrator of one segment, in refer­ence to the use of condoms.

Elsewhere on the video, a giant penis stands on a theatre stage, while the narrator declares that porn “usually makes the penis look like the boss of the whole show.”

“I’m a great big dick!” says the penis, before scurrying backstage.

Mr Merlino said he watched the videos this week and did not think there was anything wrong with them, particularly as children are al­ready exposed to similar imagery on music clips, magazines or billboards.

The government would not remove any content, he said, because the Respectful Relation­ships curriculum was designed to smash gender stereotypes and teach young people to respect one another, in line with the recommendations of the royal commission into family violence.

“I’m a father of three kids — two in primary school, one in prep — and I want my children to learn about re­spect. I want my kids in high school to watch those videos. I don’t want my girls being victims of family viol­ence, and I don’t want my son to develop disrespectful attitudes to­wards girls and women,” he said.

“I’m not going to be writing re­sources or imposing change on ma­terials that are written by experts and absolutely age-appropriate.”

Mr Merlino’s refusal to back down has set the government on a collision course with the ACL, which is al­ready angered by other parts of Labor’s agenda, such as the Safe Schools initiative, inherent requirement tests for faith-based agencies, and plans to give transgender people the right to change their birth certi­ficates without needing to have sex-change surgery.

Mr Flynn said the group would seek a meeting with Premier Daniel Andrews as soon as possible to raise concerns that the government had an “ideological agenda” that was out of step with many parents and chil­dren.

The Coalition also attacked the Respectful Relationships program on similar grounds this month, even though the resource was first piloted under the Napthine government in a bid to end gender-based violence.

“We know that adolescence is a crucial period when young people develop attitudes towards relation­ships, and that’s why this resource specifically targets students in the important middle years of secondary school,” said then education minis­ter Martin Dixon as he launched the resource in 2014.

Mr Merlino said while the program had been expanded, much of its middle-years content was the same as it was when the Coalition was in power.

Sunday Age (Melbourne), 23 October 2016.

Syndicate content