For the first time in Queensland’s history, faith groups have come together in a unified peak body to represent religious instruction in Queensland’s state schools.
A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed that brings together 15 Christian groups as well as Queensland representatives from the Islamic, Jewish, Baha’i and Buddhist faiths under the name Multi-Faiths RI Peak Body.
The aim of the Peak Body is to ensure that every child and young person in Years 1-12 in Queensland state schools is given the opportunity to question and explore faith, values, and their cultural expression, in a safe and supportive environment.
Currently, religious instruction is available at 746 schools with principals required to assess and approve each and every religious instruction curricula before approving it in the school in 2019.
Moderator of the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod and Peak Body spokesperson Rev David Baker said the body has already started an independent expert review of religious instruction curricula to be used in state schools in 2019
“The review is designed to ensure that in 2019, Queensland schools have best-practice curriculum for every parent who chooses to have their child attend religious instruction,” Rev Baker said.
The review will be carried out by local curricula experts and overseen by international experts including chairperson Professor Zehavit Gross, UNESCO Chair for Human Values Education Tolerance and Peace, School of Education of Bar-Ilan University, Israel and panel members Emeritus Professor Suzanne D Rutland, OAM and Dr Kate Bertam of Bertram Research and Development.
The review will assess curricula to ensure compliance with education legislation and policy.
Spokesperson for the Islamic Council of Queensland, Ali Kadri said the Peak Body was acutely aware of the need to reduce workload and operational pressures faced by principals.
“The multi-faiths group has made representations to the Minister and the Department to advise them about the new Peak Body and the curricula best practice review,” said Mr Kadri.
Rev Baker said the Peak Body, as a bi-partisan initiative had briefed both the State Government and the Opposition.
“We thank the government for their ongoing support of ongoing efforts to reduce the workload on principals and the education department so that there are no delays to religious instruction in Queensland schools next year,” Rev Baker said.
Mr Paul Myers, President of the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies described the Peak Body initiative as a fantastic development.
“It’s wonderful that different religions and Faith groups in Queensland can work together for the good of everyone,” said Mr Myers.
Education Minister Grace Grace welcomed formation of the new body.
“I look forward to my department and the new peak body working together in the future,” she said.
Leader of the Opposition Deb Frecklington MP also welcomed the external curriculum review and the other initiatives of the peak body.
“The MOU is important to ensure that religious education is of as high as standard as possible in a multi-faith and multi-cultural society,” Ms Frecklington said.