Council for Christian Education in Schools

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Access Ministries
Registration no. ABN 59 004 240 779[1]
Area served
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,[1] as an inter-denominational body providing Christian education and chaplaincy services in state schools in Victoria.[2]

Its stated mission is the, "transforming [of] lives of young people and their communities".[3]


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.[4] The Joint Council for Religious Instruction in State Schools (the fore-runner of the Council for Christian Education in Schools) was established in 1920.[5]


Access Ministries is supported by 12 Christian denominations: the Anglican Church of Australia; Australian Christian Churches (Assemblies of God in Australia); the Baptist Union of Victoria; Christian Brethren Fellowships in Victoria; Christian Reformed Churches of Australia; CRC Churches International; Churches of Christ in Australia; the Lutheran Church of Australia; the Presbyterian Church of Australia; the Salvation Army; the Uniting Church in Australia; and the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia.[6]

The work of Access Ministries is over-sighted by eight board members.[7] The CEO of the organisation is Canon Dr Evonne Paddison, who was appointed in 2006.[8]


Access Ministries received almost $20 million in 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.[9]


Training institute[edit]

The organisation established the Access Ministries Training Institute[10][when?] for religious vocational training and higher education. Victorian education minister, Martin Dixon, attended the launch of the training institute.[9]

Special religious instruction[edit]

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, claim that the figure of 666 is due to incorrect census reporting, and that in 2013, they actually provided SRI to 780 schools.[11] 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.[12][13]

Following the complaints in September 2011, the Uniting Church declined to vote on a proposal to continue supporting Access Ministries.[14]


Access Ministries provides chaplains for the National School Chaplaincy Program.[15][16] All chaplains are required to have a bachelor's degree in theology or ministry, education, counselling or pastoral care, coupled with tertiary qualifications or experience in the other applicable areas.[17]


David Hastie, director of Cambridge International Courses at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Sydney, has said that while there has been a campaign against the services provided by Access Ministries, claims there has been a rise in enrolments in religious schools, along with strong support for SRI and school chaplaincy programs.[18]

However, in recent years there has been less support for SRI. In 2011 nine hundred and forty government schools offered SRI and by 2013 this had dropped to six hundred and sixty six schools. Which is a change of approximately thirty seven thousand students.[19] In term three of 2014 after a new Ministerial Directive clarified SRI for parents a further fifty schools dropped SRI.[20]

Tim Costello, who taught religious education in a Victorian state school and supports faith-based religious education in public schools, has said in relation to Access Ministries, "if the vehicle is wrong, we can amend that rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water".[21]


Volunteer training[edit]

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.[22] 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.[12]

Allegations of proselytising and bias[edit]

Access Ministries have been accused of proselytising in public schools on several occasions, and for presenting Christian's beliefs as facts,[12][23] both of which are forbidden under government regulations. In May 2011, complaints were made after the CEO of Access Ministries stated that, "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".[24] Access Ministries subsequently was questioned by Peter Garrett, then Minister for Education. Access Ministries responded by stating that after inviting all principals to notify Access of any concerns, that no school principal indicated any concern with their Access Ministries chaplain acting inappropriately.[25] 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.[26] Gary Bouma, an Anglican priest and professor of 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.[27][28]

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.[29]

Educational content and activities[edit]

There has been opposition to the content and activities provided by Access Ministries. They have been criticised for teaching children unscientific creationist songs,[30][31] providing children with material claiming girls who wear revealing clothes are inviting sexual assault, that homosexuality, masturbation and sex before marriage are sinful,[32] and that anyone having homosexual feelings should seek counselling.[33] Access Ministries were also criticized for a comic book which 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.[34]


  1. ^ a b "Current details for ABN: 59 004 240 779". 9 March 2010. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Introduction". Access Ministries. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Mission and Vision Statement". Access Ministries. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  4. ^ Wilberforce, Stephen. "A history of state education in Victoria". Internet Archive. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Council for Christian Education in Schools (Vic.)". NLA Trove. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Church Support". Access Ministries. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Access Ministries Prayer Diary" (PDF). Access Ministries. February 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  8. ^ "CEO - Evonne Paddison". Access Ministries. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Marshall, Konrad; Butler, Ben (March 6, 2014). "Pressure builds on state's religious instruction educator". The Age. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  10. ^ "About AMTI". Access Ministries. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  11. ^ Marshall, Konrad (22 February 2014). "Access Ministries asserts its right to teach religion in schools". The Age. Retrieved 27 February 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Marshall, Konrad (February 17, 2014). "Primary school principals shut down religious education classes". The Age. Retrieved February 23, 2014. 
  13. ^ Konrad Marshall (December 21, 2014). "Religious instruction faces massive enrolments drop, funding uncertainty". The Age. 
  14. ^ Zwartz, Barney (September 17, 2011). "Church to probe Access". The Age. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  15. ^ "Why Chaplaincy?". Access Ministries. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  16. ^ "About National Schools Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program (NSCSWP)". Access Ministries. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Become an ACCESS Chaplain or Student Wellbeing Worker". Access Ministries. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  18. ^ Hastie, David (31 March 2014). "Big Secularism or the Australian Sprawl? Why Marion Maddox is Wrong about Christian Education". ABC. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  19. ^ Marshall, Konrad (17 February 2014). "Primary school principals shut down religious education classes". The Age. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  20. ^ Cohen, Hagar (31 August 2014). "Parents flee Access Ministries religion classes". ABC. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "IQ2 Debate: Faith-based Religious Education Has No Place in Public Schools". ABC, Big Ideas. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  22. ^ O'Brien, Susie (May 24, 2011). "Religious education instructors in schools after just hours of training". Herald Sun. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  23. ^ McCauley, Dana (October 1, 2013). "St Kilda mum shines a light on informed consent in religion debate". Herald Sun. Retrieved October 1, 2013. 
  24. ^ Topsfield, Jewel (May 13, 2011). "School religion classes probed". The Age. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  25. ^ "ACCESS Ministries Report". Australian Government, Department of Education. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  26. ^ Peter, Garrett (July 20, 2011). "Dear Canon Paddison" (PDF). Access Ministries. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  27. ^ Maddox, Marion. "The Church, The State and the Classroom" (PDF). UNSW Law Journal. University of New South Wales. 34 (1): 315. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  28. ^ Bachelard, Michael (April 3, 2011). "Priest slams religion curriculum as 'appalling'". The Age. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  29. ^ Topsfield, Jewel (May 20, 2011). "Chaplain joins religion row". The Age. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  30. ^ Jody O'Callaghan (26 Feb 2015). "School kids taught 'God created everything'". 
  31. ^ O'Brien, Susie (December 14, 2012). "Christmas season 'hijacked' by creationists". Herald Sun. Retrieved December 14, 2012. 
  32. ^ Jill Stark (February 22, 2014). "Uproar at 'Biblezine' sex tips for kids". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved February 22, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Access Ministries under scrutiny after 'inappropriate and offensive' material given out at Victorian primary school". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  34. ^ Topsfield, Jewel (May 6, 2011). "Teacher fury over God comic". The Age. Retrieved 3 September 2011.