The Victorian government has announced plans to scrap special religious instruction classes and replace them with domestic violence and healthy relationships education.
From next year, the special religious instruction classes will be moved from class time to before or after school or during lunchtime. The Victorian government says this will "free up 30 minutes of "valuable class time."
The religious lessons will be replaced by classes which "focus on challenging negative attitudes such as prejudice, discrimination and harassment, that can lead to violence, often against women," the government said.
Also on offer will be classes on world histories, cultures, and ethics.
The Victorian minister for the prevention of family violence, Fiona Richardson, said the new curriculum is designed to address Australia's domestic violence crisis.
"Gender inequality is one of the underlying causes of family violence. We need to address discrimination and teach equality as part of preventing family violence."
"Teaching healthy, respectful relationships is key to preventing violence. We're including it in the curriculum so that every Victorian school teaches students these important skills and lessons."
But not everyone's happy. Religious education providers say they were blindsided by the government's decision.
"We only found out about this last night," Access Ministries spokesman Rob Ward said. "We're disappointed that the government didn't consult with the various SRI providers. They also didn't consult with parents. We think this decision should be reviewed."
Ward acknowledged that the new curriculum will provide valuable lessons for students but said the lessons could be taught alongside religious education.
"We would applaud any effort to educate children around the issues of family violence and healthy relationships, but we don't see why that should come at the expense of spiritual education."
Religious education in schools has been a long-running battle in many states, with critics claiming it is used to recruit students to the church and to push religious ideals on to children.
Micah Scott, CEO of Minus18, Australia's largest youth LGBTI group, has praised the decision.
"The unfortunate reality is that in many cases, religious education is used as method to push heteronormative ideals of family and relationships onto students at a young age which can be damaging for LGBTI students or students who come from same sex parent families," he said.
"We are relieved that the government is replacing SRI with proper ethics and education on developing respectful relationships towards all people, not just those who share your religious views."
Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Rob Stott at email@example.com.
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