Liberty Victoria has welcomed the Victorian government’s decision to remove Special Religious Instruction (‘SRI’) from scheduled class time at government schools. The government has announced instead that SRI will only be available before or after school or at lunchtime.
The government’s move comes just weeks after Liberty Victoria released a detailed report on the SRI programme, available at http://libertyvictoria.org/SRI-in-victorian%20-government-schools-report-2015031, on 30 July 2015.
Liberty’s report highlights problematic aspects of the SRI programme, concluding that the programme potentially violated international human rights law in the way it has been delivered in state schools to date, particularly freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination.
“We are pleased to see the end of religious instruction during school time,” said President of Liberty Victoria, George Georgiou SC. “The practice of dividing up school students according to their religious beliefs was very concerning to Liberty Victoria. Freedom of religious belief and freedom from discrimination means that students should not be subjected to such different treatment in their schooling.”
“Liberty Victoria has no objection to students learning about the beliefs of various different religions as part of their education, delivered by trained teachers,” said Mr Georgiou. “But SRI has been about the indoctrination of students in one particular set of beliefs. It is completely inconsistent with the concept of an inclusive, non-discriminatory, secular education.”
Liberty Victoria urges the government to amend the laws governing SRI, along the lines set out in Liberty Victoria’s report, to ensure that SRI does not return to government school classrooms in 2016 or beyond.