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AUSTRALIAN NEWS 10th October 2012

Sent: Wednesday 10/Oct/2012 Topic: National


Source: Eternity Newspaper

Ethics classes as an alternative to SRE (Special Religious Education) in New South Wales are now rolling out to Years 3 and 4  and continuing in Years 5 and 6, according to the Inter-Church Commission on Religious Education in Schools (ICCOREIS). “We’ve been told the number of classes will depend on availability of teachers,” says ICCOREIS executive officer Sue Sneddon. Primary Ethics, the oversight organisation for ethics classes in NSW, says approximately 5,500 students from years 3 to 6 attend ethics classes each week, though the increase after the extension to years 3 and 4 is yet to be calculated.

The introduction of ethics classes in 2011 has spurred Scripture teachers across the state into action to improve the quality of special religious education in schools. Murray Norman, General Manager of Presbyterian Youth, a key provider of SRE teachers and training, says the introduction of ethics classes in 2011 was “a wake-up call for SRE providers.  It reminded us of both the importance of SRE in schools and also the great privilege it is for us to teach it,” says Norman. Special Religious Education in NSW schools has been bolstered by 12,000 volunteers across the state, providing the opportunity for students to learn about Jesus, according to Norman.

“Millions of dollars have gone into SRE across the state from all denominations, before ethics classes were introduced,” he says. “But the ethics classes have given us a greater urgency to work together, and to speed things up.” ICCOREIS, an organisation facilitating the development of quality religious education in government schools in NSW, says a little competition from ethics classes is a good thing. “There’s nothing like a challenge to galvanise your resolve to do a better job,” says Sneddon. “I think anything that runs in a parallel time slot is always going to keep us aware of the kind of quality that we produce in our teachers and the materials we use.”

Youthworks executive director, Marshall Ballantine-Jones, says there was a noticeable increase in participation in SRE teacher training conferences in the year after the trial of ethics courses in New South Wales. “There was a rallying of the troops,” he says. Statistics from Presbyterian Youth on the NSW North Coast also indicates the introduction of ethics classes has prompted a surge in Christians coming forward to be trained as Scripture teachers in the SRE program. According to SRE teacher, training and development worker for Presbyterian Youth, Lynda Mulder, three large schools on the North Coast have seen increases of up to 60 per cent of classes taught.

“In one school, SRE is now available to over 630 students. Previously, there were only enough SRE volunteer teachers to teach 240 students,” says Mulder. Scripture materials provider, GodSpace, says while Scripture resource sales have increased in the past two years, it’s not possible to say whether the increase correlates with the introduction of ethics classes. “Increased sales can be attributed to a variety of factors. But we have received calls from teachers saying their classes have increased so they need more material, so there’s certainly more demand,” says GodSpace production coordinator Cheryl Clendinning.

GenR8 Schools Ministries CEO, Peter Robinson, says another benefit of the introduction of ethics classes is a renewed focus on SRE implementation procedures by the Department of Education and individual schools. “I believe this will flow through to improved SRE administration in high schools. The education minister Adrian Piccoli has already directed that a high school SRE period should be no less than a normal school period,” says Robinson. Ultimately, Sneddon from ICCOREIS says parents and children will vote with their feet on the quality of religious or ethics classes.

“Sometimes children might go to an ethics class for a while, and decide it’s not as interesting or challenging, and then they’ll change back again. Much of it is novelty appeal.” ICCOREIS says an increase in training is now the focus for Scripture teachers. “We’re encouraging all the churches to increase the training that they offer to the volunteer teaches. And they’re taking us up on this. We’re really engaging with the church.”


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Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

Labor will always support and protect access to publicly funded abortions, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised. Ms Gillard told a dinner held by the Australian Medical Association recently that vigilance was required to "protect the progress we've made, particularly in women's health. Women must have the right to choose," Ms Gillard said in the speech. "Whether it's the independence of the Therapeutic Goods Administration's decisions in regulating fertility treatments, or allowing our foreign aid budget to include spending on family planning, or supporting a woman's right to choose through Medicare-funded services, that's my commitment to Australian women as Prime Minister."

The speech fitted in with Ms Gillard's recent pitch to women through social media and a morning tea she held with some of the most influential bloggers and commentators on women's issues. Advisers to the Prime Minister said the comments were part of a strategy to talk more about issues of importance to women, such as childcare, flexible working hours, the equal pay case and superannuation. Childcare and the abolition of gender discrimination in the workplace were no longer seen as matters of interest only to female voters, one senior source said. "Men in the outer suburbs would never say they're feminists but they would sign up for a feminist agenda," he said.

"There's a battler dad in the suburbs who thinks his daughter could be the CEO of a major company. Women's unequal access to various things is a matter of concern to all Australians. It's not a matter of whether you're for a feminist agenda but whether you're for a fair go for all." The Gillard government has consistently pushed the line that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has a problem with women. They point to comments he made when he was health minister that abortion was a "tragedy" and his stripping of the ministerial veto over the so-called morning-after pill, RU486. Last year, Mr Abbott said if the Coalition was returned to government, he also would not wind back abortion laws.

Abortion is a vexed issue for both major parties. Both have MPs who would like much tougher anti-abortion laws. There was significant upset on both sides when Labor unwound a Howard government directive that prevented foreign aid funding from being spent on family planning in developing countries. While abortion law is a state matter, the Commonwealth is involved through Medicare rebates.

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Source: Compiled by APN from information supplied by ACL

The upper house of the Tasmanian parliament has passed surrogacy laws allowing singles, heterosexual and same-sex couples to have access to altruistic surrogacy. In so doing the rights to children have once again been put in second place to the desires of adults. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Tasmanian Director Mark Brown said “ACL holds the view that the law should dissuade adults from entering into surrogacy arrangements because it is a practice fraught with legal and emotional complexities for all parties.  The Bill passed denies a child’s fundamental right to at least begin life with a mother and father by allowing singles and same-sex couples to access surrogacy.”

“Are we in 20 years going to see another apology made, as in the case of forced adoptions, to children who may be deprived of, or in some cases even knowing, a mother or father?  Having learned nothing from the past, we are setting up another stolen generation of kids denied their biological mother or father,” Mr Brown said. The UN Declaration on the Rights of a Child states that the child: …shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother.

“Wherever possible, our government should be affirming this, and in the best interests of children, give them the right to at least begin life with their natural mother and father.” “It is disappointing to see the Parliament ignore the vast body of evidence of harm caused to children brought about through donor conception who are denied their biological heritage.”


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