The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
On 29 October 2009 Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile asked me, representing the Minister for Education and Training, a question about religious education. The Minister for Education and Training has provided the following response:
Under the Education Act 1990 Section 32, there is a legislative requirement that "in every Government school, time is to be allowed for the religious education of children of any religious persuasion."
The school principal, in consultation with representatives of local clergy, determines the most suitable organisation for Special Religious Education classes. Weekly class groups are the most common method of organisation of these classes, especially in primary schools, but may involve rotating classes, block teaching or seminars, where this is more suitable for school and providers.
While Special Religious Education must be made available, parents and caregivers have the right to choose that their children not attend.
When a student first enrols in a school, parents or caregivers are asked to identify on the enrolment form, either a specific religion or "no religion". Schools use this information to identify the appropriate class for a student during Special Religious Education. A parent or caregiver may request at any time that their child attend a different Special Religious Education class or be withdrawn from Special Religious Education.
The policy and procedures for Special Religious Education are based on an "opt out" policy, not an "opt in" policy. This means that all children will participate in Special Religious Education classes unless their parent has chosen to withdraw them from religious instruction.