Remove religious education in Australian public schools during school hours

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Special Religious Education (SRE) should be removed from formal classroom time in Australian public schools

The Question

·       In public schools, why are we segregating our children by religion when they should be learning about society, cultures, and the world together?

·       2016 Australian Census data showed 50% of young adults (aged 18-34) identify with beliefs other than Christianity. Why do we exclude 50% of the population when we teach SRE in public schools?

 Definition of Terms

·       Special Religious 'Education' (SRE) is conducted in most public schools, but students are almost always only instructed in just one specific religion; often only Christianity. A family can opt out, but alternative activities, or capacities to conduct them, are often limited.

·       Special Ethics Education (SEE) occurs as an alternative to SRE in ~25-30% of primary schools (but is still only available to ~7% of primary students) 

·       General Religious Education (GRE) involves teaching about multiple faiths and is currently part of the NSW curriculum 

The Solution

·       Remove SRE (Special Religious Education) from public schools' formal classroom time and replace with normal curricular activities

·       If you think this is not possible in Australia, you may be interested to know that in 2015, the Victorian government removed SRE from formal classroom time in Victorian public schools amid a number of concerns and after participation rates had fallen to around 20-25%. 

·       Potential replacement options include: normal curricular education; general religious education (GRE) i.e. multi-faith teaching with inclusion of all students; SRE program outside of formal classroom time eg. after hours

What Can You Do?

·       Vote “Yes” to this online petition

·       Forward this petition to your family, friends and colleagues



Background Information & Commentary 

·      Some statistics from the 2016 Census data, and the 2016 and 2017 enrolment religious persuasion data 


  • 50% of young adults (aged 18-34) identify with beliefs other than Christianity

Further Information

  • 52% of the population identify with Christian beliefs (decreased from 88% since 1966)
  • 8% of the population identify with other religions (increased from 0.7% since 1966)
  • 30% of the population identify with no religion (increased from 0.8% since 1966)
  • 39% of young adults report not having a religion
  • 12% of young adults identify with a religion other than Christianity


·       Reference to Childrens' and Human Rights Instruments: eg. Section 6 of the UNHRC (United Nations Humans Right Council) General Comment 22 on ICCPR Article 18 (see References below)

  •  6. The Committee is of the view that article 18.4 permits public school instruction in subjects such as the general history of religions and ethics if it is given in a neutral and objective way. The liberty of parents or legal guardians to ensure that their children receive a religious and moral education in conformity with their own convictions, set forth in article 18.4, is related to the guarantees of the freedom to teach a religion or belief stated in article 18.1. The Committee notes that public education that includes instruction in a particular religion or belief is inconsistent with article 18.4* unless provision is made for non-discriminatory exemptions or alternatives that would accommodate the wishes of parents and guardians.


1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 Census Data: Religion in Australia 2016 Census Data Summary

2. * Article 18 ICCPR 

  1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
  2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
  3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
  4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.