What does the future hold for SRE in NSW?

My days are often chaotic. Picture me hurrying to my next classroom, a box of Bibles under one arm, rehearsing my lesson intro in my head, and trying to anticipate all the questions and little disruptions that you can’t really prepare for.

So once a year I enjoy a huge change of pace – the chance to put on a suit and head to State Parliament House to attend the annual Celebration of SRE.

But every year I cross the entrance hall with a sense of trepidation. The right to SRE is part of the NSW Education Act, so if SRE were to be moved outside of school hours (as happened in Victoria in 2015), it would be due to a State Government decision. So what will our elected representatives say about SRE this year?

It turns out, for this year at least, my worries were (hopefully) unfounded.

Sarah Mitchell – Minister for Education and Early Learning, Deputy Leader of the Government

“I want to thank all of you for what you do… the time and effort that you all put into Special Religious Education. As a government the Liberals and Nationals remain very committed to supporting the important role of Special Religious Education in our NSW public schools.”

Prue Car – Shadow Minister for Education and Early Learning, Deputy Leader of the Opposition

“I am so very, very pleased to be here to celebrate the role that SRE plays in New South Wales. The teaching of faith and scripture should be available for the children of parents who want it. Thank you to the thousands of volunteer SRE teachers who give so much of your time for the love of your community, for something bigger than yourself, to teach young people each and every week out of the goodness of your own hearts. Please know that your passion and your dedication is seen, and we appreciate everything that you do for our kids.”

Mark Coure – Minister for Multiculturalism

“We thank you for your service to our young children and our communities. Through your efforts we can provide a well-rounded education to our students. Special Religious Education creates a respectful learning environment that prepares students for an increasingly diverse and connected world. My eldest son is part of the SRE program, and for that I say thank you. As a father I will do everything I can to ensure that he continues to understand religion in a respectful and compassionate way.”

Steve Kamper – Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism

“As I look across the room I see hundreds of people – hundreds of people – who have committed large parts of their lives to coming together to build SRE in our state, and to offer the next generation the messages of hope, peace, and spirituality that will make a better future for all of us. Without your efforts our society would be much poorer in the things that truly matter.”

Pray for the future of SRE

Michael Stead, Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, gave this reflection on the bipartisan support for SRE:

“It’s great to see that there is full support on both sides of the aisle for SRE. And I take it that’s because you do recognise the good things, the benefits that SRE brings to schools. It’s a safe place for children to discover values and faith that their parents want them to learn about, but it’s so much more than that, it contributes to the very fabric of the school, and the communities that our schools interface with.”

As I left Parliament House I reflected on my 14 years of teaching and co-ordinating SRE. I've often wondered if we will still have SRE classes in ten years time. Yet God has given us political representatives who see the many benefits of SRE – and he has continued to keep the door open. Give thanks that God is sovereign, and pray that SRE classes would continue for many years to come!

Conor Clarke, 12 January 2023