Weekly Wrap: September 5, 2019

05 September 2019

The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the education sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace.



What are the new religious discrimination laws about?

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Commonwealth’s draft religious freedom bill, released by Attorney-General Christian Porter, makes it unlawful to discriminate against Australians on the basis of their religion. The bill will go alongside existing anti-discrimination acts for race, sex, disability and age. The bill does not create a "positive right" to freedom of religion, which some church leaders have been calling for. The draft bill says "religious bodies" are not discriminating against a person by engaging, in good faith, in conduct that would be regarded as in accordance with their doctrines or beliefs. There is the unresolved issue of whether a religious school should continue to have the right to expel students or fire staff members because of their sexuality. In April, just before the federal election, the Attorney-General asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to examine this issue. Last Thursday, the Attorney-General updated the ALRC's terms of reference, pushing out the timelines to avoid overlap between the religious discrimination bill and the gay students and teachers issue. The ALRC will now report back in December 2020.


Israel Folau says he has a “mission to spread the word of God” as he tries to get his job back

According to the ABC News, sacked rugby international Israel Folau believes he has a mission to "spread the word of God", according to his statement of claim calling for his reinstatement by Rugby Australia. The "born again" Christian is suing Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW in the Federal Circuit Court, arguing unlawful termination of his $5.7 million contract on the grounds of religious discrimination and restraint of trade. His lawyers claim that if his contract prohibited Folau from expressing his religious beliefs in his own time, it was against public policy and therefore "void at law". The claim attempts to turn the tables on Rugby Australia, by claiming it was the governing body that breached Folau's contract. It claims Rugby Australia acted in contravention of the Laws of World Rugby which says unions (including Rugby Australia) cannot discriminate, offend, insult or humiliate anyone on the grounds of their religion. The claim also states that Folau's termination was a restraint of trade because it prevented him from playing rugby union at an international level. The case is due for a mediation hearing in December. If that is unsuccessful — as expected — a trial will be held next year.


Government urged to help victims of child abuse resolve trauma

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a victim support group has urged governments to invest heavily in specialist services for child abuse survivors including better training for GPs, counsellors and therapists, estimating changes could save taxpayers billions of dollars. In a submission to the federal government's Productivity Commission inquiry into the $9 billion spent annually on mental health, the Blue Knot Foundation said a history of childhood trauma was "the single most significant predictor" of contact with the system. Pegasus Economics calculated the higher incidence of obesity, alcoholism, depression, anxiety and attempted or completed suicide among the estimated 3.7 million Australian adults abused as children was costing taxpayers $6.8 billion in state and federal government spending and forgone tax revenue due to decreased earnings. Health Minister Greg Hunt acknowledged the issue in a speech at the National Press Club earlier this month when he said the "No.1 factor" in mental health problems among children was trauma, including from physical abuse.


Just 1 in 100 teachers are Indigenous. That's a problem — and it affects kids, too

According to the ABC News, teacher Rachel Bos, a Kauma woman, recently interviewed 30 Indigenous teachers in Queensland and says around three-quarters told her they hide their cultural background at school. Many reported feeling "quite culturally unsafe around staffrooms". It can be tough for the teachers, but Ms Bos says students also lose out. "I've always said to people that there is one thing worse than racism for our kids, and that's invisibility," she says. Gamilaroi woman Kelly Humphrey has experience working as an assistant principal and Catholic Schools Office education officer, and has researched diversity in education. She says, as at 2015, in primary and secondary Australian schools 5.3 per cent of students are Indigenous, yet in the teaching workforce only 1 per cent identify as Indigenous. And of that 1 per cent, "only 3 per cent become principals", she says. Ms Humphrey says to increase the number of Indigenous teachers in schools we need to acknowledge what she calls "conscious and unconscious biases" in the "recruitment and retention and promotion" of Indigenous teachers.


Racism study finds one in three school students are victims of discrimination

According to The Guardian, a first-of-its-kind study of racism in Australian schools has found one in three students report being the victim of racial discrimination by their peers. Researchers from the Australian National University and Western Sydney University surveyed 4,600 primary and secondary students at government schools in New South Wales and Victoria on their experiences of racial discrimination in schools. The study found that 40 per cent of students in years five to nine from non-Anglo or European backgrounds reported experiencing racial discrimination by their peers. Close to 20 per cent of students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background reported experiences of racial discrimination from their teachers. One in three students from non-Anglo or European backgrounds reported experiences of racial discrimination in wider society. The report was compiled as part of the Speak Out Against Racism program, which is developing a program to encourage students and staff to address racism in schools.


Why liking your teachers can boost your results

According to the Brisbane Times, the benefits of having more positive relationships with teachers are far more significant than the impacts of negative relationships for students and can shape their overall educational aspirations. High school students with more positive than negative relationships with their teachers are far more likely to enjoy school, participate in class and say they aspire to continue with specific subjects and their education more broadly, new research has found. These indicators of school engagement improved with an increase in the number of positive relationships with teachers, according to the study of more than 2000 NSW and Victorian students that has been published in the Journal of Educational Psychology. "We found that as you kept adding more positive relationships into the mix, engagement kept tracking up and up," the study's lead author and a professor of educational psychology at UNSW, Andrew Martin, said.


Aboriginal scientific knowledge to strengthen science teaching

According to The Educator, the scientific practices of South Australian Aboriginal Nations will be brought into the classroom for the first time in the state. As part of the department’s Aboriginal Education Strategy, the initiative aims to increase Aboriginal students’ interest and participation in science subjects and ensure all students develop a deeper understanding and awareness of the contributions Aboriginal people have made and continue to make to science. Starting with the Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri and Narungga Nations, local science teachers will work with Aboriginal Communities, the department, the SA Museum and the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to develop teaching resources and improve teacher cultural awareness. Curriculum Specialist, ACARA, Joe Sambono, said Aboriginal people for thousands of years have been working with the chemical components of nature to produce useful substances like adhesives, medicine, pigments, lime and acid.


NSW Uniting Church backs school climate strike, Sydney Anglicans and Catholics decline

The Guardian reports that Sydney Catholic and Anglican churches say they will not follow the example of the Uniting Church, which has granted support to the school climate strike movement and given students support to attend the marches. Students across the country are planning to walk out of school on Friday 20 September, to protest government inaction on the climate crisis. Thousands of Australian students participated in two previous strikes, which have since grown into a global movement of millions. Last week, the Uniting Church’s NSW and ACT synod – which oversees the administration of nine Sydney schools – announced it would “use their voice and their networks” to support the latest protest. “We need to listen and learn from young people,” the church said in a statement. “It’s their future that is at stake and their protests are genuine and informed and should not be ignored.” Sydney Catholic Schools, which oversees 152 systemic schools, said it had to abide by the NSW Education Department’s guidance on the strikes. The Uniting Church’s NSW and ACT moderator, Reverend Simon Hansford, said the decision was not binding and it would be up to individual schools to decide if they let their students attend.


States shirking their NAPLAN duties, says Dan Tehan

According to The Australian, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has accused the states and territories of shirking responsibility for disappointing NAPLAN results and instead blaming the test for a lack of student improvement. As the states scramble to explain the latest results — with NSW questioning the validity of the data and Victoria pointing the finger at disengaged Year 9 students — Mr Tehan dismissed calls for a national review of NAPLAN. “My state and territory counterparts, as soon as NAPLAN ¬results come out, they do have a tendency to blame (it) rather than say ‘What do we need to do to improve performance?’ ” Mr Tehan told the National Press Club in Canberra last week. Preliminary results from the 2019 tests revealed that average national student scores across most domains have barely budged since testing began more than a decade ago. Of particular concern is that pockets of improvement observed in primary school are not sustained in secondary school.


Schools failing to promote vocational pathways

According to the Financial Review, a systemic failure to promote the value of vocational training pathways is driving an overemphasis on university for school leavers, with just one in four students giving consideration to the vocational system before graduation. Following Prime Minister Scott Morrison's comments promoting the VET sector and promising reform to address a skills shortage, entrepreneur Saxon Phipps said more needed to be done to address the perception that vocational training was a second-class pathway. "The problem is that students are not provided with information on the options outside of university during high school," he told The Australian Financial Review Higher Education Summit in Brisbane last week. Mr Phipps is co-founder of Year 13, an organisation that helps education institutions guide students with the transition from high school to work or further study. His company started out working on issues such as mental health but expanded to include career transitions, as this is where greatest stress is experienced by most school leavers.



Parents of unvaccinated British Columbia children must speak to health staff under new reporting program: ministry (Canada)

The CBC reports that parents who choose not to vaccinate their school-age children in BC (British Columbia) will be required to speak with public health staff as part of a new, mandatory immunisation reporting program beginning soon, according to the education ministry. The new reporting regime was created in wake of a global measles outbreak, including the worst the United States has seen in decades. Last week, Education Minister Rob Fleming said more than 30,000 school-age children have been vaccinated for the highly infectious disease as part of a catch-up program that ran between April and June. The same reporting program also requires students to stay home for 21 days if there is a measles outbreak — the length of time it may take after exposure for symptoms such as fever and rash to appear.


Call for compulsory anti-bullying programmes in all schools (New Zealand)

According to Radio New Zealand, the Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft wants anti-bullying programmes in schools to be compulsory. His recommendation follows a report by the Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, which condemned an Auckland school's poor response to a series of serious bullying complaints. Judge Boshier said Sacred Heart College staff failed to adequately deal with the bullying, which took a toll on students' health. One complaint involved the daily verbal and physical bullying of an 11-year-old autistic boy. Judge Boshier's report said the actions taken by school staff were ineffective in dealing with the ongoing behaviour. Judge Becroft said it is New Zealand's shame that we have the highest school bullying rate in the Western world, and yet some schools have not taken action. Judge Becroft said measurements and checks are also needed to show bullying is reducing and that schools' programmes are effective.


New Zealand history should “absolutely” be compulsory - Meng Foon (New Zealand)

TVNZ reports that learning New Zealand's history should "absolutely" be compulsory, says the new Race Relations Commissioner. "One of the things I'm really keen on is to acknowledge the story of the New Zealand Wars. That was the biggest travesty of racism, of confiscation, taking economic, suppressing culture in New Zealand," Meng Foon said on TVNZ1's Q+A. The former Gisborne mayor stepped into the role last week to lead the Human Rights Commission in promoting positive race relations. He said the importance of learning New Zealand's history was "coming to be acknowledged" by schools, "but the important thing is actually for the Ministries to provide the information, to get the stories from the places they come from, not by somebody else telling the stories". The previous week, the Māori Affairs Select Committee heard Labour Youth MPs Christian Dennison and Cha'nel Kaa-Luke, who called for the compulsory teaching of "accurate" domestic New Zealand history for Years 9 and 10.


CompliSpace Media

CompliSpace is an Australian company that helps over 600 non-government schools across Australia with their governance, risk, compliance and policy management. What makes us different is that we monitor over 200 sources of legal and regulatory change to ensure our clients have the updated policies and tools they need to meet new requirements. We share that knowledge with the broader Education community via School Governance.