Council for Christian Education in Schools
|Registration No.||ABN 59 004 240 779|
|Key people||CEO - Canon Dr Evonne Paddison|
The Council for Christian Education in Schools is an Australian religious organisation which also operates under the name of Access Ministries, as an inter-denominational body providing Christian Education and Chaplaincy services in State Schools in Victoria.
Its stated mission is the, "transforming [of] lives of young people and their communities"
History of the Organisation
Religious instruction was an important component of the curriculum of the first school in Melbourne, established in July 1840. Over the next 80 years, forms of religious education for Victorian children were debated. The Joint Council for Religious Instruction in State Schools (the fore-runner of The Council for Christian Education in Schools) was established in 1920.
Access Ministries is supported by 12 Christian denominations: Anglican Church of Australia; Australian Christian Churches (Assemblies of God in Australia); Baptist Union of Victoria; Christian Brethren Fellowships in Victoria; Christian Reformed Churches of Australia; CRC Churches International; Churches of Christ in Australia; Lutheran Church of Australia; Presbyterian Church of Australia; Salvation Army; Uniting Church in Australia; and the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia.
Access Ministries received almost $20 million is government funding between 2009 and 2012. They recorded a combined loss of $984,498 for those four years, according to documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Access Ministries has said that it expects to make a small surplus in 2013.
The organisation established the Access Ministries Training Institute[when?] for religious vocational training and higher education. Victorian education minister Martin Dixon attended the launch of the Training Institute.
Special Religious Instruction
Access Ministries is the largest provider of Special Religious Instruction (SRI) in Victoria and is authorised to provide it under the regulations of the Victorian Education Act. In 2011 SRI was provided to 130,100 Victorian school children in 940 schools, with the number dropping to 92,808 children in 666 schools by 2013. Access Ministries however state that the figure of 666 is due to incorrect census reporting, and that in 2013 they actually provided SRI to 780 schools. The fall in attendance is largely attributed to department of education rules in August 2011, changing SRI classes from opt-out to opt-in, following complaints from parents and activist groups.
Access Minstries provides Chaplaincy Services. All chaplains are required to have a Bachelor degree in Theology / Ministry, Education or Counselling / Pastoral Care, coupled with tertiary qualifications or experience in the other applicable areas.
In August 2010, the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the school chaplaincy program is a "great program". In September 2011, Peter Garrett, the then Minister for Education said, 'I usually hear from students, parents and teachers what a great job that chaplain is doing, and what a positive influence they've had in the school community". He said that the Gillard government is maintaining its strong support for the chaplaincy program.
Complaints have been made that Access Ministries provides inadequate training to its volunteers. Volunteers pay Access Ministries $15 for six hours of training in order to qualify to teach SRI to children, compared to the three to four year degree required for teachers. Dr Marion Maddox, a member of the Uniting Church, professor at Macquarie University and expert on religious issues has criticised Access Ministries volunteers for being under qualified.
Allegations of proselytising and bias
Access Ministries have been accused of proselytising in public schools on several occasions, and for presenting Christian beliefs as facts, both of which are forbidden under government regulations. In May 2011 complaints were made after the CEO of Access Ministries stated "our federal and state governments allow us to take the Christian faith into our schools and share it. We need to go and make disciples". Access Ministries subsequently was questioned by Peter Garrett, then Minister for Education. Access Ministries responded stating that after inviting all principals to notify Access' of any concerns, and that no school principal indicated any concern with their Access Ministries Chaplain acting inappropriately. Mr Garrett wrote to Access Ministries saying he was satisfied with their response and that he had asked his department to take no further action on this matter. Gary Bouma, an Anglican Priest and Professor in Sociology at Monash University has criticised Access Ministries SRI curriculum for being biased, describing it as "just appalling". Dr Marion Maddox and former Justice of the High Court of Australia Michael Kirby have also accused Access Ministries of presenting their beliefs in a biased manner.
In September 2011 Peter Garrett said, "The chaplains scheme isn't about promoting religion in schools or fostering a particular belief system – it never has been." After an Anglican chaplain accused Access Ministries of bias, the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, came to their defence, stating he believes that in the vast majority of cases Christian religious education teachers give their time to teach, not to proselytise.
Educational content and activities
There has been opposition to the content and activities provided by Access Ministries. It has been criticised for teaching children unscientific creationist songs. Access Ministries responded. Access Ministries has been criticised for providing children with material claiming girls who wear revealing clothes are inviting sexual assault, and that homosexuality, masturbation and sex before marriage are sinful. Access Ministries responded. Also they have been criticised for a comic book that was said to imply that teachers were either too lazy or callous to help children unless God intervenes. Access removed the comic from their website after it was criticised by teachers, the Australian Childhood Foundation and Victorian education minister Martin Dixon.
- "Current details for ABN: 59 004 240 779". business.gov.au. 9 March 2010. "Entity name: THE COUNCIL FOR CHRISTIAN EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS"
- "Introduction". ACCESS Ministries.
- "Mission and Vision Statement". ACCESS Ministries.
- "Church Support". ACCESS Ministries.
- Marshall, Konrad; Butler, Ben (March 6, 2014). "Pressure builds on state's religious instruction educator". The Age. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
- Marshall, Konrad (22 February 2014). "Access Ministries asserts its right to teach religion in schools". The Age. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
- Marshall, Konrad (February 17, 2014). "Primary school principals shut down religious education classes". The Age. Retrieved February 23, 2014.
- Zwartz, Barney (September 17, 2011). "Church to probe Access". The Age. Retrieved 21 September 2011.
- O'Brien, Susie (May 24, 2011). "Religious education instructors in schools after just hours of training". Herald Sun. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
- McCauley, Dana (October 1, 2013). "St Kilda mum shines a light on informed consent in religion debate". Herald Sun. Retrieved October 1, 2013.
- Topsfield, Jewel (May 13, 2011). "School religion classes probed". The Age. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
- "ACCESS Ministries Report". Australian Government, Department of Education. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- Maddox, Marion. "The Church, The State and the Classroom". UNSW Law Journal (University of New South Wales). 34(1): 315. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- Bachelard, Michael (April 3, 2011). "Priest slams religion curriculum as 'appalling'". The Age. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
- O'Brien, Susie (December 14, 2012). "Christmas season 'hijacked' by creationists". Herald Sun. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
- Jill Stark (February 22, 2014). "Uproar at 'Biblezine' sex tips for kids". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- Topsfield, Jewel (May 6, 2011). "Teacher fury over God comic". The Age. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
- "Search "Council for Christian Education in Schools" as Author/Creator". State Library of Victoria. "130 Results from All collections"