The Commonwealth Government has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to prepare a report on how to uphold human rights in faith-based education in modern multi-cultural, multi-faith Australia. The consultation paper released by the ALRC proposes legislative changes that Lutheran Education Australia (LEA) believes would be unlikely to support the current freedom for schools to build communities of faith.
Last week Assoc Prof Lisa Schmidt, LEA Executive Director, wrote to Lutheran school leaders encouraging them to share their positive experiences of Lutheran education in a confidential survey being run by the ALRC. We encourage you to complete the survey too. Background material is available in the communique below. Lutheran Education Australia is preparing a formal submission to the consultation paper, due by 24 February. You are welcome to send comments to email@example.com
Share your views and experiences of Lutheran schools in Australia
The Attorney-General of Australia has requested a report from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to ensure that an educational institution conducted in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed:
- must not discriminate against a student on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy;
- must not discriminate against a member of staff on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy;
- can continue to build a community of faith by giving preference, in good faith, to persons of the same religion as the educational institution in the selection of staff.
(Full terms of reference available here.)
The consultation paper released by the ALRC proposes legislative changes that would be unlikely to continue the freedom to build a community of faith that schools currently have.
Since 1839, the Lutheran church through its schools in Australia has provided a quality education in which the gospel of Jesus Christ informs all learning and teaching, all human relationships, and all activities in the school.
Currently there are 78 schools operating in all Australian states and territories (except the ACT) serving the Australian community and modern working families. More than 42,000 students attend Lutheran schools – 12% come from Lutheran families, 48% from other Christian denominations. The remaining 40% of families have chosen a Lutheran school for the educational quality, values, community and pastoral care it provides for each child. Those values are drawn from a world view which has core Lutheran beliefs at its foundation.
Lutherans believe that God has given parents and caregivers the prime responsibility for the education of their children and so a Lutheran school works as a team with parents. Australia, through being a signatory to international human rights covenants, recognises the rights of parents to choose a religious education for their children.
Lutheran education has arguably suffered the greatest act of discrimination in Australia against faith-based schools with the State closing Lutheran schools during the 20th-century world wars. We know from experience the critical importance of freedom of religion for modern pluralistic Australia.
The ALRC is particularly interested to hear from those connected with religious educational institutions. We encourage you to complete the online survey by 24 February 2023.
In the survey, we encourage you to share your story about your views and experiences of Lutheran education as a community which strives to be a secure place which offers warm, caring relationships and a safe environment.
Some of the following messages may be helpful in sharing your views.
How building a community of faith requires more staff than the principal, chaplain and teachers of Christian Studies
- How a teacher’s role is much broader than imparting knowledge of subject-specific content. The importance of holistic education of the individual child supported by all staff, and the role of the entire school community in establishing and upholding the Lutheran ethos.
- How a community of faith in Lutheran schools supports excellence in teaching and learning focused on improving student outcomes which includes spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional, cultural and social dimensions
- The importance of faith-based education to children and parents
- That all Australian children and parents have equal protection of their religious freedom regardless of where they live in Australia, hence consistency of legislation in every state and territory
You are welcome to contact LEA at firstname.lastname@example.org