A pilot program about antisemitism for Catholic school students could begin as early as April.

The Australian Jewish News
March 18, 2021

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) have been working with the Catholic archdiocese and educators to devise the syllabus, with a view to the high-level program being rolled out across the state and eventually nationwide. The ECAJ has piloted the program and is partnering with JBOD in NSW.

JBOD CEO Vic Alhadeff told Tuesday night’s plenum the pilot was “on the cusp of being rolled out at 10 Catholic schools right across metropolitan Sydney”.

“It’s at a very exciting, advanced stage. We’re days and weeks away from the program becoming reality,” he said.

ECAJ and JBOD have also been working with the NSW Department of Education on developing a broader anti-racism and anti-discrimination syllabus for public schools.

Along with other faith community representatives, ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim attended a meeting with Education Minister Sarah Mitchell last week, where discussions focused on the need for anti-prejudice education in general religious education and other subjects.

“Although it is important to teach children positive values of mutual respect and acceptance, our education system also needs specifically to equip students to recognise and counteract traditional negative stereotypes,” said Wertheim, who represented both ECAJ and JBOD at the meeting.

“All too often the good work being done in schools is being undermined by the negative influences of social media and other factors outside the school experience.”

In addition to curriculum reform, Wertheim emphasised the need for special measures, policies and procedures to handle bullying incidents at school which are motivated by racial or religious prejudice.

“This kind of bullying requires extra steps to be taken beyond those that apply to general forms of bullying. I was heartened to note that the minister acknowledged this,” he said.

Wertheim referred the minister to the report handed down five days earlier of the parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections in Victoria, and its specific recommendations concerning curriculum reform, and prejudice-motivated bullying at public schools.

Another key issue discussed was the safeguarding of the opt-in arrangements for special religious education (SRE) in the new public schools’ enrolment form. The minister said the form will continue to ask parents whether they want their children to attend either SRE or special ethics education classes.

“I also asked for faith communities to have access to de-identified data held by the department showing the number of students of their faith group who are enrolled in each school, so that SRE teachers of that faith can be sent to the right schools,” Wertheim said.