School chaplains' forum highlights tension

THE head of Access Ministries, Stephen Hale, has sought to assuage community concerns about religious instructions in schools through a forum in outer-eastern Melbourne.

The forum, held in Nunawading yesterday, highlighted the tension between some parents who say they are concerned about their children being indoctrinated by Access Ministries instructors during weekly religious classes and the organisation, which has repeatedly denied claims it is proselytising.

Parents are also concerned about the way children who opt out of religion classes spend that time.

Bishop Hale, Access Ministries' chairman, told the meeting of about 50 parents, religion teachers and community members that many of the issues parents raised were issues for the Education Department.

He said parents should not be concerned that their children would be indoctrinated through Access Ministries' programs - which account for 96 per cent of special religious instruction at schools in Victoria.

''At the end of the day the people who are the most significant people in faith formation are their parents,'' Bishop Hale said. ''If the parents bring them up not to believe in God, then that's more than likely how they're going to end up.

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