Terrorism Brandis warns of new threat Australians joining extremists in Iraq

David Wroe - Defence Correspondent

Australians are fighting in Iraq with the ultra-violent al-Qaeda splinter group whose lightning offensive over the past week threatens to tear the fragile country apart, Fairfax Media has learnt.

Security sources say individuals who left Australia to fight in Syria against the régime of Bashar al-Assad are definitely among extremist fighters sweeping into neighbouring Iraq.

Authorities are concerned that such fighters may pose a significant terrorism threat when they return to Australia. The revelations raise the prospect that Australians might have been involved in mass executions of surrendered Iraqi soldiers, pictures of which were posted online by the jihadists as propaganda tools.

Fairfax Media understands several Australians at least have crossed into Iraq and been involved in the fighting around the north of the country.

The group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, has sent shock-waves around Western capitals in the past week by chasing away much larger forces of Iraqi soldiers and seizing swaths of territory including Mosul, the country’s second-largest city.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has previously said it is investigating between 120 and 150 people who have either travelled to Syria to fight or support the extremist rebels from Australia, including some who have been to Syria and returned.

About half of those are believed to be in Syria or the surrounding region and a considerable proportion of those are believed to be with the more extreme rebel groups including ISIL and al-Qaeda affiliate, the al-Nusra Front. At least some of’ those involved with ISIL hold more senior positions, possibly as commanders, security sources say.

Both ASIO and Attorney-General George Brandis have expressed worry that they will pose a terrorism threat when they return home more radicalised. At
least 10 Australians are believed to have been killed fighting in Syria with rebel groups.

Security officials are also understood to be concerned that ISIL’s recent successes against Iraqi forces could drive further recruitment, including in Australia.

Senator Brandis told Fairfax Media: “Australians travelling to Iraq or Syria to engage in, or support, terrorist activities are not only committing criminal offences, but may face personal risks such as being kidnapped, seriously injured or killed.”

He said it was illegal for any Australian, including dual citizens, to “fight, provide funding, provide training, or supply weapons to the conflict in Syria or Iraq”. Most of the fighters are believed to be Lebanese or Turkish dual nationals.

Australia is considering what military assistance it might provide to the Iraqi government as part of a broader, US-led effort to help beat back the insurgency.

Andrew Zammit, a researcher at Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre, said he had expected Australians would end up in Iraq, given their considerable numbers in Syria. He pointed to the recent murders at a Jewish Museum in Brussels, allegedly by a man who had fought with ISIL, as an example “that Australian authorities would be concerned could happen here”.

From: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australians-fighti...

Department won’t support religious instruction

Benjamin Preiss

The [Victorian] Education Department does not endorse the content of the controversial religious instruction program in state Schools, the latest parental consent form says.

The new form, issued to schools on Tuesday [17 June], will now list the name of the volunteer instructor and their religious affiliation.

The form stresses that special religious instruction (SRI) does not provide an overview of all faiths. It said the instruction may include scriptural studies and how to live and behave “according to the tenets of the particular faith”.

“Given the religious nature of the program, the De0partment of Education and Early Childhood Development does not endorse program content used to deliver SRI by accredited volunteer instructors,” the form said.

“Schools are obliged to provide parents with this form if approached by an accredited and approved SRI volunteer.”

Principals can decide whether they are able to offer religious instruction at their school once parents have returned the forms.

The form said the religions available to schools would vary.

State school principals must offer religious instruction when accredited instructors indicate they are available.

An Education Department spokesman said the form made clear that special religious instruction should not be confused with general religious education.

Fairness in Religions in Schools campaign co-ordinator Lara Wood said the new form was a “huge improvement”.

The main provider of Christian instruction in Victoria, Access Ministries, did not respond to Fairfax Media’s questions by deadline.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/department-distances-itself-from-relig...

Holy day not good for football, say church leaders

Nick Toscano

Religious leaders have condemned the AFL’s decision to go ahead with Good Friday football as a greedy cash grab taking precedence over important cultural traditions.

Bishop Philip Muggins, of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, said Monday’s announcement that Good Friday games will begin as early as next year had caught him by surprise. The AFL Commission has given approval for the games; it is now up to executives to decide whether to schedule them or not.

Bishop Huggins said a run of meetings between the church and the AFL had left it believing it would stay committed to keeping the religious holiday footy-free.

“It is particularly disappointing in light of discussions I had with the AFL’s chief executive [Gillon] McLachlan, in which I thought he understood these sensitivities,” he said.

He said the decision was regrettable and would trash a significant day that was the “turning point of all human history”.*

“The AFL has chosen to preference another money-making opportunity over respect for cultural traditions and sensitivities, continuing the grinding banality of product marketing,” Bishop Huggins said.

“No doubt if the marketers believed they could sell it, there would be AFL at 3 a.m. on Christmas Day in Madagascar.”

Mr McLachlan said the AFL’s general manager of scheduling, Simon Lethlean, had consulted religious leaders and other stakeholders about turning Good Friday into a game day.

“He’s met with a lot of stakeholders, and I think that’s important to recognise, including Good Friday Appeal people, broadcasters and representatives of church groups,” Mr McLachlan said.

The Victorian Council of Churches also objected, and asked that a percentage of any gate takings be given to charity organisations.

AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said there had been a “growing appetite” to hold a game on Good Friday, and “on balance, we believe the time is right”.

Atheist Foundation of Australia’s Tracy Burgess said it was surprising it had taken the AFL so long. “I thought the AFL was the religion in Victoria,” she said.

“We have a multicultural society, so to shut things down just for one small group is somewhat antagonistic to everybody else.”

* [It seems that Anglicans still imagine they are the centre of the universe. ? N.S.]

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/holy-day-matches-not-good-for-football...

Unholy row over apartment block bid

Clay Lucas - City Editor

A Baptist church whose Sunday service has shrunk to less than 15 people has come under fire from North Melbourne residents for attempting to develop apartments on land it was gifted by the Victorian colony in 1866.

The Eighth Day Baptist Community owns a former petrol station site on King Street, West Melbourne.

A 148-year-old Victorian colony document shows the Baptists were given the right to occupy the land as “a site for a church or place of worship . . . for the public praise and worship of God”. In 1961, the Baptist Union of Victoria got the outright title to the land.

Now the Baptist community wants to build 82 apartments and a community hall for its dwindling membership, which numbered 14 on a Sunday earlier
this year, a report for the project shows.

Melbourne City Council is considering the proposal and last week held a meeting at North Melbourne Town Hall, attended by around 70 protesters who
want to see a park created on the land instead of four apartment blocks rising up to six levels.

This would require the council to purchase the land, which residents say is worth around $5 to 6 million. They argue around $5 million raised by the council in open space payments from developers over the past decade should pay for it.

Eighth Day Baptist Community pastor Gary Heard said the site, which was a petrol station for many years, had lain dormant since it was demolished within the past decade. He said that, while the apartments would be offered on the private market, the Baptist community was trying to build something special that gave residences for church members and a community space for residents outside the building.

And he warned that, if the Baptists decided it was not viable to develop the site, they could sell it. A more aggressive developer, he said, would mean “the sort of things we are proposing would become untenable”. But the residents group formed to push for a park on the site said the Baptists were taking a very un-Christian approach.

“They got it for free,” said Emmy Chung, a spokeswoman for the group who lives across the road from the site. “If you honour the intent of that, to give something to the community, you don’t build 82 apartments, most of which will be sold on the open market.”

The group argues there are many sites in north and west Melbourne suitable for residential development. “But this the only site suitable for a park”, Ms Chung said.

A 2012 council analysis found the area was in need of a small local open space. The council had also previously consulted the Baptist Church on the idea.

Melbourne City Council is expected to decide on the project by September.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/residents-fight-baptist-church-apartme...

Salvos hand back state care housing

Henrietta Cook - State Political Reporter

Organisations caring for Victoria’s most vulnerable children are handing back residential care units to the state government, over concerns they are funded at “dangerous, neglectful” levels.

The Salvation Army said it can no longer afford to subsidise two residential units for six children in state care in Melbourne’s east, and will return the units to the state government at the end of August.

The news comes after another welfare agency, Menzies, handed several of its residential units back to the government earlier this year, citing similar funding concerns.

Jason Davies-Kildea, head of the Salvation Army’s state social program and policy unit, said the organisation injected $500,000 of its own money into the two units every year to ensure they were staffed appropriately and children received proper care.

“It is an incredibly difficult decision to hand these units back, because young people’s lives are at the end of this,” he said. “This is why we have been making substantial contributions for a very long time. We have been subsidising the state government.”

Current government funding arrangements are at a lower level, only allowing one staff member to work with up to four traumatised children.

Captain Davies-Kildea said the Salvation Army funded an extra staff member for the units, to ensure the children were safe.

“These children are complex and at risk of sexual exploitation and criminal activity,” he said. “With one staff member in a unit, you basically can’t keep them safe. You can’t get them to school, if they are injured and end up at the emergency department, you can’t pick them up because someone has to be at the unit at all times.”

In May it was revealed that 30 to 40 children in state care had been sexually abused by gangs who had lured them into prostitution.

The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare has repeatedly warned the state government that children in care are at risk due to inadequate funding.

The centre’s chief executive Deb Tsorbaris said children in out-of-home care had increasingly complex needs and proper funding was needed to ensure they were “kept safe and flourished”.

Anglicare chief executive Paul McDonald said 50 per cent of residential care beds were funded by the government at an unsafe price.

“I won’t run my residential units without dual staff because of the level of care and supervision that these young people need,” he said. “It is simply unsafe and neglectful to do anything otherwise.”

The Salvation Army is also set to make 15 staff redundant as a result of handing the units back.

Labor’s community services spokeswoman Jenny Mikakos said the Napthine government was failing to support child protection agencies and keep vulnerable children safe.

Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said the government was committed, as part of its five-year plan for out-of-home care, to removing all places with a lower level of funding in Victoria.

“The Department of Human Services has been working with the Salvation Army EastCare and has recently significantly increased the Salvos’ funding for providing these residential care services,” she said.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/salvos-hand-back-state-care-residentia...

Chaplain plan: gay pupils at risk

Jill Stark

A national program to protect gay high school students from bullying and discrimination is being undermined by the Abbott government’s chaplaincy scheme, according to campaigners who fear religious-based counselling puts gay pupils at risk.

Some chaplain providers have been linked to homophobic views, and critics claim the government’s decision to scrap funding for secular student welfare workers is directly at odds with its funding of the Safe Schools Coalition, to be rolled out nationally on Friday [13 June].

The program helps schools stamp out homophobia and celebrate diversity through moves such as same-sex formals, gay-straight student alliances and expanding reading lists to include books with gay and lesbian narratives, including Brokeback Mountain and Stone Butch Blues.

Scott Hedges, co-founder of Fairness in Religions in School, said the push to protect gay pupils, who are up to six times more likely to contemplate suicide than their straight peers, was irreconcilable with the chaplaincy scheme.

While parliamentary secretary for education Scott Ryan has insisted chaplains are banned from proselytising, Mr Hedges pointed to recent revelations in The Sunday Age that found that a volunteer for Access Ministries, which supplies chaplains and religious instruction to more than 300 Victorian schools, had distributed “Biblezines” to year 6 students at a Torquay school, claiming homosexuality is a sin and urging those who think they are gay never to act on it.

“On one hand, you have the government backing the Safe Schools program that is affirming the normality and acceptability of homosexuality, and on the other hand they are funding a group like Access Ministries, purporting to represent 12 churches, some of which may be progressive but some of which are openly hostile to homosexuals and have a theological position against homosexuality,” he said.

More than 140 schools have signed up to the voluntary Safe Schools scheme, which began in Victoria and will be expanded to New South Wales and South Australia, with a target of 100 new schools within six months. Funded by the federal Education Department and run by the Foundation for Young Australians, the initiative was spearheaded by former Labor finance minister Penny Wong, and inherited by the Coalition.

It comes as a study by the Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre revealed two-thirds of non-heterosexual young Australians have been bullied about their sexual orientation, and school was the most threatening place.

Safe Schools program director Sally Richardson would not comment on the chaplaincy scheme, but expected any chaplain or staff member to encourage
young people to be themselves.

There is growing concern about the chaplaincy program, which was allocated $245 million in the federal budget, with an online petition launched by gay and lesbian movement All Out, attracting 180,000 signatures.

Associate Professor Anne Mitchell, chairwoman of the Safe Schools steering committee and a La Trobe University expert on same-sex attracted youth, said many felt rejected by religion and this would make them less likely to seek guidance from chaplains. “One of the antidotes to suicidal thoughts for these kids is talking to someone and being accepted. Feeling that there’s somebody at school you can go to is so important,” she said.

Mr Ryan said in a statement that a code of conduct required chaplains to “respect, accept and be sensitive to other people’s views, values and beliefs that may be different from their own”.

jstark@fairfaxmedia.com.au

From: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2336732/safe-schools-program-chaplainc...

Abortion debate not on, Napthine pledges

Farrah Tomazin

[Victorian] Premier Denis Napthine has categorically ruled out allowing embattled MP Geoff Shaw to wind back Victoria’s abortion laws.

After months of uncertainty over the issue, Dr Napthine has unambiguously shut down any plans for Mr Shaw to introduce a private member’s bill to alter what the MP claims are “some of the worst” abortion laws in the world.

Mr Shaw, who faces being kicked out Parliament this week over the misuse of his taxpayer-funded car, has repeatedly warned he wants to repeal section 8 of the Abortion Law Reform Act, which requires doctors who have a conscientious objection to abortion to refer their patient to a doctor who does not. In recent months, the rogue MP has also said he wants doctors to provide pain relief for foetuses during procedures and for doctors to resuscitate babies who survive abortion attempts.

But Dr Napthine has now ruled out even allowing Mr Shaw to give notice for such a bill, eliminating any chance of the issue being debated between now and the 29 November election.

“Let me say very clearly to Geoff Shaw that while I am Premier Of this state, I will not allow Mr Shaw to introduce any legislation seeking to change the abortion laws in Victoria,” he said.

Spring Street insiders see the statement as significant, as it clears up previous ambiguity on the issue. Until now, the government had sent out mixed messages as it sought to tread carefully around the balance-of-power MP.

In November, for instance, Dr Napthine told The Sunday Age that he would assess any push for a bill on its merit, and “if any such legislation came forward, members would have a free vote on that”.

Later, as a backlash intensified, the Premier took to YouTube to qualify his comments, insisting he would not support any change that would “reduce a woman’s right to choose” but would not make clear whether a bill could be introduced at all.

Mr Shaw, who recently returned from the United States where he met Right to Life groups, said both major parties were moral cowards for not wanting a debate. “I firmly believe that any child with a heartbeat shouldn’t be killed,” he said.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/abortion-debate-not-on-denis-napthine-...

PATHWAYS: a new faith and freethought project

“I took the road less travelled and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost)

At the Humanist Society of Victoria’s Sunday meeting on 11 May, . . . two members of the PATHWAYS Coalition for Diversity Education demonstrated the PATHWAYS presentation designed for Year 10 students.

The presentation opened with personal stories, from a Christian viewpoint by Paul Tonson, coordinator of the PATHWAYS Coalition, and from a Humanist perspective by Sam Mason-Smith, a member of the HSV committee. In response, the HSV audience was invited to simulate a Year 10 class by asking questions to the presenters.

The PATHWAYS Coalition is launching a program of such presentations, especially aimed at government schools. Arrangements for presentations will be made by personal approaches to school principals and senior teachers, in order to ensure understanding of the program and to adapt it to each local school.

The emergence of the PATHWAYS Coalition corresponds to a watershed in the realm of dialogue between different world views. Such dialogue has emerged through the ecumenical movement of the early twentieth century, through cooperation between Jews and Christians after World War II, and through conversations with Islam after the disaster of “Nine Eleven” [11 September 2001]. Now throughout Greater Melbourne there are 24 municipalities with Interfaith groups covering all faiths, and there are 7 in regional Victoria.

Key leaders in interfaith cooperation in Australia are advocating the inclusion of Humanist and Rationalist voices alongside faith in contributing to public policy. Cooperation between faith and freethought groups emerged in October 2010 with a submission to the Victorian Multicultural Commission regarding Citizenship in a Multicultural Victoria. The submission was signed by adherents of both faith and freethought world views and by several leading academics.

There are ten faith and freethought groups that have given formal support to PATHWAYS, including the HSV. Stephen Stuart is a key member of the PATHWAYS management team. Each supporting group is committed to a protocol whereby presenters show mutual respect and present information about their own world view without argumentation.

The PATHWAYS Coalition represents a common concern in the realm of public education. On the one hand, we seek an alternative to a system that tends to privilege one faith, Christianity. On the other hand, we consider that all students should have education about beliefs, religions and ethics (BREE) that covers major religions and enlightenment worldviews.

The PATHWAYS Coalition offers the voices of Abrahamic and Asian faiths alongside Humanist, Rationalist and Atheist voices. It deliberately includes
the voices of Indigenous spirituality and of sustainability activism, both of which are significant for young people in contemporary Australia. Schools may nominate their preferred combination of three voices.

The PATHWAYS program is one way schools can demonstrate and encourage the general capabilities identified in the new Australian curriculum: Intercultural Understanding, Ethical Understanding, Critical and Creative Thinking, and Personal and Social Capabilities.

PATHWAYS Coalition for Diversity Education

* presenters share faith and freethought world views,

* showing mutual respect, to Year 10 students.

To support PATHWAYS or become a presenter,

e-mail Paul: breepathways@gmail.com

From the Victorian Humanist (Melbourne), 53 (5), June 2014: 6 & 7.

Police probe euthanasia deaths

Nick Toscano

Police are investigating the deaths of two Melbourne women who used suicide equipment provided by euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke.

Viewbank housemates Val Seeger, 75, and Claire Parsons, 66, died in March in a suicide pact.

Ms Parsons, who was healthy, had agreed to help carry out her friend’swish to die after she began showing early signs of dementia, Dr Nitschke said; Laws prohibiting assisting a suicide, and the thought of living on with-out her best friend, had spurred Ms Parson’s decision to also die, he said.

“Claire said she couldn’t live with the risk of criminal charges for assisting suicide. . . and she said Val is my closest friend and I don’t really want to go on without her,” Dr Nitschke said.

The pair, who had been friends for more than two decades, had sent a letter to Dr Nitschke saying they had decided to take their own lives, and asked that it be circulated.

Heidelberg police this week ques-tioned Dr Nitschke over the deaths.

Dr Nitschke said he has admitted providing the equipment, which is legal, but can be used for suicide.

Fairfax Media has obtained a copy of a letter written by Ms Parsons before her death. In the letter, Ms Parsons says her friend was suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and due to her background as a health profession-al sought to avoid an “undignified end”.

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651251
or Life-line on 131114, or visit beyondblue.org.au

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/police-probe-dr-philip-nitschke-over-s...

PATHWAYS: a new faith and freethought project

By Paul Tonson

"I took the road less travelled and that has made all the difference" (Robert Frost)

At the Humanist Society of Victoria's Sunday meeting on 11 May, . . . two members of the PATHWAYS Coalition for Diversity Education demonstrated the
PATHWAYS presentation designed for Year 10 students.

The presentation opened with personal stories, from a Christian viewpoint by Paul Tonson, coordinator of the PATHWAYS Coalition, and from a Humanist perspective by Sam Mason-Smith, a member of the HSV committee. In response, the HSV audience was invited to simulate a Year 10 class by asking
questions to the presenters.

The PATHWAYS Coalition is launching a program of such presentations, especially aimed at government schools. Arrangements for presentations will be made by personal approaches to school principals and senior teachers, in order to ensure understanding of the program and to adapt it to each local school.

The emergence of the PATHWAYS Coalition corresponds to a watershed in the realm of dialogue between different world views. Such dialogue has emerged through the ecumenical movement of the early twentieth century, through cooperation between Jews and Christians after World War II, and through conversations with Islam after the disaster of "Nine Eleven" [11 September 2001]. Now throughout Greater Melbourne there are 24 municipalities with Interfaith groups covering all faiths, and there are 7 in regional Victoria.

Key leaders in interfaith cooperation in Australia are advocating the
inclusion of Humanist and Rationalist voices alongside faith in contributing
to public policy. Cooperation between faith and freethought groups emerged
in October 2010 with a submission to the Victorian Multicultural Commission
regarding Citizenship in a Multicultural Victoria. The submission was signed
by adherents of both faith and freethought world views and by several
leading academics.

There are ten faith and freethought groups that have given formal
support to PATHWAYS, including the HSV. Stephen Stuart is a key member of
the PATHWAYS management team. Each supporting group is committed to a
protocol whereby presenters show mutual respect and present information
about their own world view without argumentation.

The PATHWAYS Coalition represents a common concern in the realm of public education. On the one hand, we seek an alternative to a system that tends to privilege one faith, Christianity. On the other hand, we consider that all students should have education about beliefs, religions and ethics (BREE) that covers major religions and enlightenment worldviews.

The PATHWAYS Coalition offers the voices of Abrahamic and Asian faiths alongside Humanist, Rationalist and Atheist voices. It deliberately includes the voices of Indigenous spirituality and of sustainability activism, both of which are significant for young people in contemporary Australia. Schools may nominate their preferred combination of three voices.

The PATHWAYS program is one way schools can demonstrate and encourage the general capabilities identified in the new Australian curriculum: Intercultural Understanding, Ethical Understanding, Critical and Creative Thinking, and Personal and Social Capabilities.

PATHWAYS Coalition for Diversity Education presenters share faith and freethought world views, showing mutual respect, to Year 10 students.

To support PATHWAYS or become a presenter,

e-mail Paul: breepathways@gmail.com

From the Victorian Humanist (Melbourne), 53 (5), June 2014: 6 & 7.
Newsletter of the Humanist Society of Victoria www.victorianhumanist.com

Editor: Rosslyn Ives, rosslyn@netspace.net.au

Assistant Editor: Inga Anthonipillai

From: http://vichumanist.org.au/pathways-new-faith-freethought-project/

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