For over a decade via various informal advocacy groups, and now Secular Public Education, we have endeavoured to protect the human rights and legal rights of Queensland state school students who are ineligible by statute for placement into religious instruction—as at December 2016, approximately 70% of the Queensland state school student population.
This has involved advocating for the rights of many hundreds of parents and children, considerable ongoing communication with Education Queensland at all levels via correspondence and telephone conversations, and a number of in-house advisory conferences with the department during 2013/14.
The primary sources of parental concern, and often distress, continue to be children being placed in volunteer provided religious instruction in defiance of clearly stated enrolment advice—and objections to the federally funded National School Chaplaincy Program operating as a fully functional evangelical Christian ministry within Queensland schools.
Since 2012, there has been one process, and one process only by which children are either placed in volunteer provided religious instruction during school hours, or provided with what the Queensland Education Act describes as “other instruction in a separate location”.
The sole legislated religious instruction opt-in / opt-out process is via the ‘Religion’ question within the Education Queensland Application for Student Enrolment form. This process accurately reflects religious instruction provisions in place within the Queensland Education Act since 1910.
In April 2017, the Application for Student Enrolment form ‘Religion’ question was amended to further clarify the religious instruction opt-in / opt-out process:
We believe that the current enrolment form ‘religion’ question, and accompanying statement, provides parents with a clear and informed choice as to whether their child will participate, or will not participate, in religious instruction.
Unfortunately, and all too regularly at school level, this legislated, practical, and informative religious instruction opt in / opt out process, continues to be ignored. It remains the case that a substantial proportion the 70% of RI ineligible students are being placed in religious instruction by default.
As described within the video above, not only are parents provided with little, or no vital information regarding their rights relating to the religious instruction placement process—they are often confronted with staggeringly incorrect information accompanied by unofficial, unauthorised forms and arrangements. Dissemination of false and misleading information is widespread, unacceptable, and we believe, in breach of the Queensland Education Act.
During our most recent communication with Education Queensland, we were informed that all parental complaints relating to religious instruction and chaplaincy must now be placed and resolved at school / district office level. This is a most unsatisfactory arrangement, and we urge parents to refer all relevant concerns directly to us.
The time is past due for the Director-General of the Department of Education and Training to strictly oversee enforcement of religious instruction provisions within the Queensland Education (General Provisions) Act 2006, and the Queensland Education (General Provisions) Regulation 2016.
The widespread placement of vast numbers of children into religious instruction contrary to contractual enrolment form advice represents serious abuse of the same children’s human rights and legal rights. That the Director-General of the Department of Education and Training continues to burden state school principals with the momentous responsibility of upholding critical sections of the Queensland Education Act is irresponsible, inappropriate, and unfair.