Frank Brennan reflects on Religious Freedom Legislation for schools

Posted on 22 January 2019
Frank Brennan reflects on Religious Freedom Legislation for schools

Those fortunate enough to hear Fr Frank Brennan [pictured above chatting to the protestors at the CaSPA conference] speak at our recent Conference in Cairns, will understand the importance of clear and values based approaches to the many issues confonting the contemporary church. Here Fr Frank reflects on the results of the Ruddock Review of Religious Freedoms:

When Parliament resumes next month, one outstanding item of business will be Senator Penny Wong's private member's bill dealing with religious schools and their capacity to 'discriminate' against students on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Next Monday is the last day for the receipt of submissions to the parliamentary committee considering the bill.

I agree with her that religious schools should not be able to discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But I think religious schools should remain free to teach their doctrine respectfully and reasonably. And the law should make that perfectly clear. We all need to concede that some religious teachings can be confronting and upsetting. But it is not for the state to rewrite the Bible or Koran.

Let's consider an example that has nothing to do with sexuality. Jesus was fearless in his condemnation of wealth: 'Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.' Church schools have to remain free to teach this doctrine even to the wealthiest children privileged to attend private schools with high fees. This doctrine can be taught respectfully and reasonably even though it is in stark contrast to the lifestyle of many of these students and their families.

So too, the teaching of Jesus about marriage and divorce. Yes, there is a large number of students from blended families who have experienced divorce, and there will be an increasing number of students from families with same sex married parents. Jesus' teaching on divorce has been countercultural for a long time; so now, his teaching on marriage.

A Christian school must be guaranteed the freedom to teach what Jesus taught, respectfully, reasonably and counterculturally respectfully because the dignity of all persons must be affirmed, reasonably because a school has a fundamental educational purpose, and counterculturally because many of the things Jesus taught will never appear in the political manifestos of the Liberal Party or the Labor Party.

First, I will set out some background. I was a member of the expert panel chaired by Philip Ruddock. Our report was presented to the Turnbull government in May 2018. It was released finally by the Morrison government just before Christmas.

As an expert panel, we realised that we held a variety of religious, political and social views. One day at hearings, Ruddock jested with a group appearing before us, saying, 'You have to learn to compromise in life. For a long time, Fr Brennan refused even to speak to me.' I do admit that he and I had significant differences of opinion when he was John Howard's Minister for Immigration. I am a supporter of a human rights act. Fellow panel member Professor Nicholas Aroney is an opponent of a human rights act. Despite those sorts of differences, we all worked hard and well to reach unanimity on the legal and policy issues before us.

"These are Labor's very words. So why not put them in Penny Wong's bill?"

As an expert panel, we noted that four of the nine Australian jurisdictions (including the Commonwealth) allowed religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation; four did not; and then Tasmania allowed discrimination against new applicants but not against existing students at a school. Not being elected politicians, we did not see it as our role to propose major policy changes, but rather to recommend legislative changes which could be expected to win broad rational support across the political spectrum, honouring the principles of federal-state relations. We noted in our report:

'To the extent that some jurisdictions do not currently allow religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender characteristics, the panel sees no need to introduce such provisions. Very few religious schools or organisations submitted that this was necessary. To the extent, however, that certain jurisdictions, including the Commonwealth, do allow this type of discrimination, the panel believes the exceptions should be limited by the requirement that the discrimination be in accordance with a published policy which is grounded in the religious doctrines of the school.'

We then went on to set out a list of restrictions which culminated in a recommendation that discrimination be possible only if it were consistent with the school's religious tenets, set out in a published policy, in the best interests of the child, and applicable only to prospective students. We thought it would be all but impossible for any school to jump all those hoops. But if they could, so be it.

In part, we took this cautious approach because it was Labor as recently as 2013 that introduced the amendment to section 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act omitting 'marital status', and substituting 'sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status' in relation to the provision of education services. When introducing the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013, the Labor Attorney General Mark Dreyfus told Parliament:

'The introduction of the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status into the Sex Discrimination Act, in conjunction with the existing complaints provisions of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, will provide a complaints mechanism for people who consider they have been discriminated against on these bases. The Australian Human Rights Commission will be able to investigate and attempt to conciliate such complaints. The bill also amends existing exemptions as appropriate to reflect the new grounds. This includes exemptions for religious bodies in relation to employment and the provision of education that have been in place for many years. These exemptions will continue under this bill and encompass the new grounds.'

When speaking on this bill in the Senate, Senator Louise Pratt, a long time campaigner for gay rights, said: 'I also think that we need to engage with the philosophical and legal framework behind the way we integrate existing acts together. I hope that the consolidation is something that will happen in the future, and I am assured that it is something that the government remains committed to. As part of this, I do believe we should be considering whether people who hold religious beliefs also need protection from discrimination. I also believe we need to tighten up on religious exemptions.' The Ruddock Committee did both. We recommended a Religious Discrimination Act and we recommended a tightening of the religious exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act.

Senator Penny Wright for the Greens unsuccessfully moved that 'this Bill's preservation of sections 37 and 38 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and indeed its extension of these exemptions for religious bodies to discriminate on the grounds of newly protected attributes, represents another missed opportunity'. What the Greens were proposing in 2013 as a voice in the wilderness has now become the received wisdom in our Parliament less than six years later.

During the Wentworth by-election, both sides of politics committed to getting rid of any special exemption for religious schools being able to discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Penny Wong's bill now attempts to do that.

Second, I will propose a way forward. The Ruddock committee did not want religious schools discriminating adversely against kids. But at the same time, we wanted religious schools to be able to teach their doctrine reasonably and respectfully. And we wanted religious schools within reason to be able to constitute their own faith environment just as a political party creates its own political environment by employing staff and attracting volunteers who get the message and want to proclaim it and enact it. Just as the Greens ought not be required to employ a coal merchant, a Christian school ought not be required to employ an anti-Christian activist. We did not think you should be able to sack a teacher just because they entered into a same sex marriage.

As I read Wong, she wants much the same thing. In her second reading speech, Wong said: 'Labor wants to be clear nothing in this bill would compromise the ability of churches to continue to uphold their religious teachings, whether in the classroom or through the enforcement of school rules. The Sex Discrimination Act protects that right. And I emphasise that this bill would not affect the operation of the indirect discrimination provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act, which would continue to protect the ability of faith-based educational institutions to impose reasonable conditions, requirements or practices on students in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religious or creed.'

Labor's Jacinta Collins backed up Wong with the affirmation, 'We believe that our amendments, and our statements in the explanatory memorandum, respond to much of what the religious community has raised in relation to moving forward, with regards to students. We are open to addressing any outstanding matters as we move forward with other matters around discrimination, but, most importantly, the Labor Party is keen to progress the issues around a positive affirmation of religious freedom.'

I think this objective can be readily achieved by adding a new clause to section 21 of the Sex Discrimination Act:

It is no detriment to a student for an educational authority to engage in teaching activity if that activity:

(a) is in good faith in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed; and

(b) is done by, or with the authority of, an educational authority that is conducted in accordance with those doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings.

In this section:

teaching activity means any kind of instruction of a student by a person employed or otherwise engaged by an educational authority.

These are Labor's very words. So why not put them in Penny Wong's bill? When Parliament returns, let's get it done promptly, reasonably and respectfully.

From Eureka Street

By Frank Brennan

Fr Frank Brennan SJ was a member of the Religious Freedom Review chaired by Philip Ruddock.


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CaSPA Principals assist in study of Father Daughter Relations

Posted on 21 January 2019
CaSPA Principals assist in study of Father Daughter Relations
On a weekday father-daughter night at a central Victorian school, a teen girl arrives with a live yabby.

It's in a little takeaway food tub, filled with water. Fathers and daughters have been asked to bring along a "treasure" something that reflects their relationship with each other. The organisers ask her about the significance of the yabby.

"This is what I do with my dad," she says. "This is what I love."

Many schools run programs like this one, encouraging a bond between father and daughter during the tricky adolescent years. Fathers will often arrive with photos of their child as a newborn, or a kindergarten drawing.

The girls nearly always opt for something signalling an activity they shared with their father like the yabby.

"One of the things that dads are good at with their daughters is being the person who does the doing things together," says Bill Jennings, who runs one such program.\

Going to the football, watching the swimming on television, mucking around in the pool, hiking, camping, learning to drive, planning a school project, bike riding activities. Ask a girl about a searing memory showing a bond with their father and chances are it will involve an activity.

Seeking the views of about 1,300 girls and 400 fathers for my book Fathers and Daughters taught me so much. But one thing that stood out were those connectors that seemed to grow the bond between fathers and daughters.

Three things were raised repeatedly: the bond that working the land created, the significance of shared beliefs, and the connection between sport and a good father-daughter relationship.

Country girls close with dads

Girls who were raised in rural areas and wanted to return to the land boasted a treasured bond with their fathers.

Many of these girls were at boarding school, and while they would talk to their mothers often, they really missed their fathers.

Adelaide principal Kevin Tutt says he sees it often.

"Dads will really make the effort to be here for their girls, and not just in sport but across the board, as much as they can," he says.

Dr Linda Evans, from Toowoomba's Fairholme College, agrees.

"Most of our boarders will go home and work over the holidays, and invariably that's more likely to be with Dad than it is with Mum," she says.

When Dad's a 'bigot'

The second theme that surfaced during interviews with the girls which is backed by experts related to their father's opinions or beliefs.

Girls who shared the same views as their fathers developed a solid alliance. These girls believed their fathers valued their opinions and listened to them even if they put up an opposing argument.

Meanwhile, those who disagreed strongly with their father's opinions or who believed he dismissed their views without considering them invariably described him as "old fashioned", "racist", a "misogynist" and even a "bigot".

This was particularly the case when the girls offered their views on three issues same-sex marriage, Australia becoming a republic, and our treatment of refugees.

"Dad just says I'm wrong when I try to say what I think so I don't bother anymore," one says.

Or, "I just go quiet. I try and say something like on refugees and he just slaps my argument down."

This doesn't surprise those who teach girls. One school leader says fathers need to leave "being QC in the courtroom and be Dad in the lounge room".

Perth CaSPA principal Jennifer Oaten says while some dads struggle with that, it could "be the make or the break in their future relationship".

As Gold Coast principal Dr Julie Wilson Reynolds says, "It's about their self-esteem and their ability to hold their own."

Bonding on the sports field

The third connector that jumped out in the girls' responses was that those who played a sport their father loved or was actively involved in (coaching, ferrying them to and from training, or watching) enjoyed a lovely bond with their fathers.

It wasn't only organised sport. Girls who ran or went bike riding or camping with their fathers enjoyed a similarly good relationship.

This response was so strong that I jotted down a long list of activities my girls could do with their father. The connection engendered through sport was reinforced by educators, teen counsellors and researchers.

Indeed, research by Baylor University has shown that a "turning point" in a father-daughter relationship can be the activity they share beating other significant events like a daughter marrying, leaving home or having her own children.

Book in brunch

Strong father-daughter relationships don't require these three themes to succeed, but my research has shown how they can act as connectors.

Music, for example, is another connector particularly with the revival of bands such as AC/DC, Frankie Valli and Meatloaf.

Dr Briony Scott from Wenona is one of a dozen experts who recommend a regular father-daughter "date", like breakfast or coffee.

"You build the relationship as part of the ritual, and when life gets tough, as it invariably will, and they start to withdraw, you say, 'Well, every second Friday, we are having breakfast'," she says.

If there's not a dad around, an uncle, grandfather or another male role model is fine. It's the connection that's important. "And that independent relationship is pure gold," says Dr Scott.

From ABC NEWS 19 Jan 2019

Madonna King is author of Fathers and Daughters (Hachette).

Posted in: Catholic Secondary Principals Australia   0 Comments

Exodus of Principals from Victorian Government Schools

Posted on 19 January 2019
Exodus of Principals from Victorian Government Schools
Victorian schools are facing a critical shortage of principals, with one third of state school heads set to reach retirement age in the next five years.

Some schools are already struggling to attract candidates for the top job and there are concerns the situation will be exacerbated by the Andrews government's promise to open 100 new state schools over the next eight years.

Each of these new schools will need a new principal.

Last year, 115 of Victoria's 1531 state school principals left their job, a similar trend to the previous two years.

Principal groups say workplace stress, the increasing demands of the job, violence at school and helicopter parents are pushing principals out of the profession and deterring others from applying for their jobs.

Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said some schools advertising for new principals received no applicants. Others have had to advertise up to three times in order to attract suitable candidates.

"There are many assistant principals who are quite happy to stay in that role and not take that extra step to become a principal," she said.

"The salaries do not reflect the workload, which is 60 plus hours per week, or the responsibilities."

The lowest paid state school principal receives $135,000 per year, including superannuation, while the lowest paid assistant principal earns around $123,000, including superannuation.

While Ms Podbury said the department was working hard to avert the crisis, a lot more work was needed.

"I'm concerned that the workload and challenges that are inherent to the role will not be overcome."

One principal, who did not want to be named, said he was retiring three years earlier than expected because parents were constantly undermining him and displaying an aggressiveness and entitlement he had never seen before.

"Some believe that they know what is best not only for their child but for the entire school," he said.

"One of my biggest issues is the way parents have almost unfettered ability to make life difficult for staff and principals."

He said one parent complained to the department after he told a child they couldn't play in the playground because they had hit another child.

"They know I then have to jump through hoops to respond," he explained.

He averages 67 hours of work per week significantly more than the already taxing 52 hours and 45 minutes of weekly work undertaken by the average Australian principal.

"I have 50 staff and not one of them want to be a principal," he said.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said he was aware of the challenges in recruiting more principals.

But he said the government was prepared to take on this challenge, and had invested in a new program to prepare principals for the job and a $51 million scheme to improve the health and wellbeing of principals. This includes health checks, a mentor program and initiatives to slash red tape in schools.

"It is a massive generational change for the leaders of our schools but I know we also have a number of great people ready to fill those positions," Mr Merlino said.

Victorian Principals Association president Anne-Maree Kliman said she was concerned the new program for aspiring principals, which includes a test that will become compulsory within three years, could deter more people from applying for the top job.

"It marginalises certain groups - regional and remote people who will have to come into the city for the assessments."

Australian Catholic University associate professor Philip Riley said it wasn't just Victoria that was experiencing a shortage of principals.

"We are in trouble for sure and this is a national problem," he said.

Dr Riley, who runs an annual survey on the health and wellbeing of Australian principals, said violence was a major problem.

His most recent survey found that more than 40 per cent of principals in public schools had experienced physical violence at school.


Henrietta Cook
Education Editor at The Age

17 January 2019

Posted in: vacancies Government   0 Comments

Building the Resilience to make you a better Leader

Posted on 14 January 2019
Building the Resilience to make you a better Leader

You must acknowledge insecurities about capabilities and contextual challenges and deal with them in an action-oriented and skillful way.

Imagine that you're about to present to the College Board on the progress of a large-scale transformation. Although you've worked for many long nights to develop a compelling presentation, your stomach starts churning as soon as you enter the boardroom. Once in front of the board, you accidentally tip over a glass of water. Then, a few minutes in, the Business Manager asks you how much money this transformation will save the company. You have already had a few difficult conversations with this Business Manager, so his question causes you to freeze momentarily.

This is definitely not how you envisioned things unfolding. But when stress and anxiety mount, they can combine to undercut performance.

As organizations seek to build a resilient workforce, one goal is to ensure that employees can handle stress, insecurity and uncertainty without becoming overwhelmed. While we often turn to quick external solutionsadding capacity or introducing a new project management toolbuilding long-term resilience to stress starts from within.

Resilience requires authentic confidence through emotional flexibility. You must acknowledge insecurities about capabilities and contextual challenges and deal with them in an action-oriented and skillful way. Six interconnected elements can help individuals build and maintain authentic confidence:

  1. Purpose and values. A strong sense of purposehaving a reason to get out of bed, setting a clear direction and knowing what is important to youcan act as an anchor when you experience challenging times. Behind this purpose are values or guiding principles. These can serve as a foundation of authentic confidence.
  2. Mindfulness. This means being fully present and aware of our emotions and surroundings or immersing ourselves completely during daily activities. Just a few minutes a day of exercise, meditation or listening to music builds the mental muscle needed for focus and peak performance.
  3. Acceptance. We often avoid challenges because we fear making mistakes or failing. To become authentically confident, we must face our fears and emotions, consciously step out of our comfort zone, move toward what is important to us, and learn from experiences. When you encounter challenges, accepting and acknowledging fear and observing it in a nonjudgmental way reduces its negative impact dramatically.
  4. Defusion. This relates to an awareness of factors and thoughts that trigger anxietysuch as an angry board member, a dissatisfied client or a nasty email from a colleague. Defusion is observing our thoughts for what they are and learning how to keep the potential impact of those thoughts at a distance.
  5. Self-in-context. The ability to look at challenges and yourself from a distance and in context, instead of ignoring them, is an essential skill in developing authentic confidence. Zooming out helps us understand the causes of our feelings and see ourselves in the broader context of who we are. Renowned educator Ronald Heifetz refers to this perspective as being on the dance floor and the balcony at the same time.
  6. Committed action. Developing authentic confidence requires us to think through the changes we want to make in our daily lives. This process is not about defining intentions but about creating and integrating a very clear plan with an operating model that supports the behavior change we want to achieve. This is where you bring all the other elements together and embrace challenges.

Mastering authentic confidence through emotional flexibility can serve as a critical part of pursuing our professional goals, purpose and values while dealing with fears and anxieties along the journey. By developing this attribute, employees can manage stress in a sustainable way while being freed to achieve better performance and well-being.

Since organizations stand to benefit from a workforce that is better able to handle stress, investing in a culture that emphasizes authentic confidence and promotes emotional flexibility is critical. Modeling supportive behavior in interactions with employees can also help to set the right tone.

From: McKinsey&Company

Leadership & Organization Blog

Posted in: Leadership   0 Comments

Former principal settles defamation case out of court

Posted on 12 January 2019
Former principal settles defamation case out of court

Above: Former Kambala Girls principal Debra Kelliher thanked her supporters

CaSPA is aware that some of our colleagues have been subject to "campaigns" from some in the their school communities. The following story provides some comfort that the rule of law can provide clarity and justice in cases such as this.

One of the nation's most prestigious girls' schools has "unreservedly" apologised to its former principal after settling a high-profile case defamation case out of court.

Kambala girls' school former principal Debra Kelliher was suing her former employer in the NSW Supreme Court and two of its teachers over emails sent in April 2017 she claimed had defamed her.

The emails were circulated in the days after Ms Kelliher resigned from the exclusive day and boarding school in Sydney's leafy Rose Bay after staff took a vote of no-confidence against her.

The emails, penned by head music teacher Mark Grandison and head social science teacher June Peake, were sent to various parents, staff and former staff in the days following her resignation.

The matter was listed for a jury trial, however the two parties were keen to settle the dispute out of court to avoid media coverage and have since been negotiating out of court.

The settlement amount was not disclosed.

However, when the defamation case was first launched, Ms Kelliher, who lost her $650,000 annual salary at the school, claimed losses of up to $2 million.

In an apology released this morning which was part of the settlement the school and the teachers involved said they "deeply regret, and unequivocally withdraw" the comments.

"Kambala, the school council, Mr Grandison and Ms Peake, all apologise unreservedly to Ms Kelliher for the publication of those emails and for the harm and hurt they have caused to her," the statement said.

Ms Kelliher said she was pleased this matter has been resolved and that the school had apologised for "the damaging comments made against me".

"I'm proud of my record as an educator," she said. "The work I undertook at Kambala [was] to build an inclusive school, which focused on the needs of the students.

"I'd like to thank the staff, parents, students and wider school community who have supported me during this time."

Posted in: Governance   0 Comments
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