Submission 2 - Suitably trained community educator
It is proposed to expand of the role of suitably trained and skilled commonwealth civil celebrants to incorporate a HR community educator in a schools based “Being a Civilised Australian” program with a focus on "comparative religion" studies as related to Human Rights issues and articulated with any existing Ethics and Citizenship education programs
As an optional role, civil celebrants could participate in this schools based education program.
The expansion of the role of suitably trained and skilled‘civil’ marriage celebrants to incorporate other duties of a a HR community educator/ civics ambassador type nature in a schools based “Being a Civilised Australian” program with a focus on "comparative religion" studies as related to Human Rights issues and articulated with any existing Ethics and Citizenship education programs
Separation of the powers of church and state have had a long, and at times bloody history to grant us, as Australian citizens, with democracy many of us enjoy today.
There are still situations in Australia where religious beliefs continue to used to continue to practise discrimination on the basis of age (children), gender (women), sexual attracted-ness (gay and lesbian people), ability (people with physical or mental disabilities) etc.
On an international level, it can be seen that when the “state” replaces its law based upon citizens rights, with law determined by religious texts or ideology eg Sharia law, then the rights of women, child, people with disabilities etc suffer.
In recent times, in Asutralia there has been a blurring of the lines between civil and religious celebrants (a person can be appointed by the AGs both as a civil and a religious celebrant) and in the accommodation of religious material in wedding ceremonies.
This “blurring” was intended to be at the request of the couple, primarily to accommodate those couples, who for various reasons were unable to access a marriage ceremony in their own religion (nb there was at time when civil celebrants were not allowed to do anything that could be seen to be religious).
However. Many new commonwealth appointed marriage celebrants no longer understand this distinction.
This is not to say some religious material can not able to be included. Rather that it be only done if initiated by the couple/ family and conducted in a manner that upholds the independent position of the civil celebrant and recognizes that appropriation of religious matter may be a breech of copyright and intellectual property rights.
So separation of church and state functions are important for the continuance of rule of law based on human rights.
Human rights not only means respect for people of different religious faiths, it also means respect for people with no religious faith.
There are opportunities for religious celebrants to be involved in primary and secondary school life, in religious education and in Schools Chaplaincy Program
This National Schools Chaplaincy Program, which provides each school with $25,000 pa to provide a School Chaplain, could be incorporated into a schools based Ethics and Citizenship Education program.
Being a government funded program, it can be argued that such positions should be open to “civil chaplains” who have studied "comparative religion” and who are able to promote tolerance of differing religious viewpoints and tolerance of no religious beliefs, provided such a person acts with integrity, courtesy and respect in rlation to other citizens and upholds the human rights of others.
Policy decisions could be made to utilise the Schools Chaplaincy programs funds, and time allocated for religious education to provide the opportunity for suitably skilled HR Community Educators/ Civics Ambassador/ Civil celebrants to provide a schools based “Being a Civilised Australian” program.
However, there is no equal right for civil celebrants to participate in those areas currently accessed by religious celebrants.
It is also understood that Department of Education Guidelines in NSW do not permit secular teachers to provide Comparative Religious studies for those students who are not attending a specific religious education class. This may also be the case with other State’s state based religious programs.
Likewise this is discriminatory and not conducive to promoting understanding and tolerance of specific religions or those whose lives are ethical, but non-religion based.
Therefore as a minimum, to eliminate this discrimination,
* State based schools programs need to be reviewed to allow a full participation of all students
* Schools Chaplaincy work should also be open to suitably trained Civil Celebrants and Civil Chaplains.
Furthermore a schools based “Being a Civilised Australian” program could be developed and implemented suitably trained and skilled civil marriage celebrants
Many people, who apply to become civil celebrants are mature age people, who already have teaching/ education skills as well as counseling skills and an many cases, are parents or grandparents with life experiences, such that they desire to serve their communities via a civil celebrancy role.
Thus these civil celebrants could be selected and trained with the view to being a key component of schools based “Being an Australian Citizen” program. Units on citizenship and comparative religion tailored for this role in schools could also be incorporated into the Certificate IV in Celebrancy.
Given the increasing secular nature of our Australia community, the aims and protocols for religion education in state schools and state funded schools need to be reviewed and revised to meet the needs of a multi-cultural multi-religious and non-religious society.
A comparison of different religious belief systems would show that most religions have a common core of attitudes and values that respect human rights. Thus such a program would have a focus on "comparative religion" studies as related to Human Rights issues and articulated with any existing Ethics and Citizenship education programs.
Therefore the time currently allocated for religious education in state schools could be revamped to provide two strands:
a. Ethics and Comparative Religions Studies where the basic tenets of each major religion is outlined, and
b. Australian Citizenship Studies, promoting human rights as the responsibility of all Australians, and especially those people who are more capable and/or having with more resources as more responsible to protect those less fortunate members of our society. For it has been said that the measure of how “civilised society” is, is how well it treats its most vulnerable people”