Yesterday nearly two hundred volunteer SRE teachers and religious leaders crammed into the NSW Department of Education and Training’s reception hall for a celebration of Special Religious Education.  Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus joined together to celebrate SRE and to thank the many volunteers who teach scripture classes.

The inter-faith event, organised by ICCOREIS and ACL was hosted by the DET and the Education Minister, Verity Firth.

SRE has been getting a lot of bad press as a result of the debate surrounding ethics classes.  In light of recent attacks on SRE by some proponents of the ethics classes including Greens MLC John Kaye, it was fitting to celebrate the wonderful work of volunteer SRE teachers.

These are wonderful people who are committed to their faith and committed to providing a well rounded education to children in our community.  It was really important for the Minister to meet just some of the thousands and thousands people who are involved in providing SRE across NSW.

We have a wonderful spirit of volunteerism in this country but it is hard to think of any other volunteer movement that could compete with SRE in terms of its scope and longevity.  SRE truly is one of the glories of the NSW education system.

Addressing the gathering, Minister Firth said children have an important “right” to receive religious education at school.

She said that while the government was exploring the option of an ethics class as an alternative for children who opt out of SRE, the NSW Government remained committed to SRE and had no plans to remove SRE from schools.  This is the same commitment the Opposition gave to ACL in June.

Speakers at the event included:

  • Richard Quadrio – NSW Council of Churches

  • Ann Maree Whenman – ICCOREIS

  • Khaled Sukkarieh – Islamic Council of NSW

  • Yair Miller – Jewish Board of Deputies

  • Cardinal George Pell

  • Verity Firth – Education Minister

  • David Hutt – ACL NSW Director

  • Bishop Ray Smith – representing Youthworks

Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen, who was in Melbourne for the Anglican Synod, sent a video message thanking SRE volunteers for their commitment and dedication.