Helping Christians to make a difference
Dealing with current Issues
Helping Christian families to make a difference
Have a great week ...
News from the past couple of weeks... Father's Day, chaplaincy funding, Graham Preston charges dropped, three Royal Commissions, Safe Schools in Tasmania, marriage and more...
On September 3, 1901, the Australian flag design was adopted by the Commonwealth of Australia, and the flag was first raised on that day and flown over the dome of the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne. The flag has been a symbol of Australia for the past 113 years.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott writes, "Since it was adopted 113 years ago, the Australian flag has been an enduring symbol of our nation... Wherever it is flown it reminds us of our common pride in our nation."
We're encouraged to 'fly the flag' and learn about its history and meaning on September 3, 'Australian National Flag Day'! That's TODAY!
Have you wondered how the design was chosen, or what the elements of the flag mean?
The design competition
A competition was held for the design of the Australian flag - the Commonwealth government announced the competition on 29 April 1901 - and 32,823 entries were received.
On 3 September 1901, Lady Hopetoun, wife of the Governor-General, opened a display of the entries in the competition at the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne. The Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, "announced that five entrants, who had submitted similar designs, were to share the honour of being declared the designers of Australia’s own flag." Click here for details at ANFA including names of winners.)
The Australian National Flag Association (ANFA) website has a fascinating article from The Age on 4 September 1901 about the exhibition and announcement of the winners.
[That was when the media had NEWS reports, not opinion articles!]
The Australian flag is made up of a number of elements - the Union Jack, the Southern Cross and the Commonwealth Star. Crosses are a major feature of the flag...
The Southern Cross is representative of Australia - the constellation has become a symbol of Australia. "This constellation of five stars can be seen only from the southern hemisphere and is a reminder of Australia’s geography." (Source - It's an honour)
The Commonwealth Star - the star on the bottom left of the flag represents the federation or Commonwealth. Initially there were six points to represent the six states. In 1908, a seventh point was added to represent the Australian Territories.
More info at 'It's an honour'.
Union Jack - the Union Jack is the national flag of the United Kingdom. ANFA notes, "The ‘union’ concerns the combination of the standards of the three patron saints of the United Kingdom, that of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, St. Patrick, of Ireland, and St. George, of England. Together, they form the flag of Great Britain."
More details at ANFA
The Australian National Flag Association says, "One way to look at our national flag is to see the stars of the Southern Cross and the great seven pointed Federal Star as representing our progress while the Union Jack symbolises the principles on which that progress is based."
Australian National Flag Day
A 'day to celebrate the flag' is a more recent development...
Australian National Flag Day is an annual event - it began in 1996.
The 'It's an honour' government website states, "Australian National Flag Day, proclaimed in 1996 as a national day, celebrates the first time the flag was flown on 3 September 1901. On that day Prime Minister Edmund Barton announced the winners of a competition to design a flag for Australia. A large flag, 5.5 metres by 11 metres, was flown over the dome of the Exhibition Building in Melbourne." (Source - click here.)
How to celebrate Australian National Flag Day
- Official document form the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott - Official message for Australian National Flag Day
Official government website 'It's an honour'
It’s an honour - Australian flag
History of the flag at 'It's an Honour' - click here.
In the current climate of hostility against Christian involvement in state schools in Victoria, it is even more important that we pray for our schools, Principals, teachers, students and SRI volunteers.
In this UPDATE, we provide information about the annual Prayer Groups for Schools ‘Prayer Day’ which will be held THIS FRIDAY, 5 September, 2014.
Secondly, we provide an OVERVIEW of the changes to Special Religious Instruction (SRI) that were recently made by the Minister for Education, Hon Martin Dixon.
We welcome the changes made to MD 141 – and the revision of the Education Department’s School Policy Guide, which now states that OTHER religious activities are allowed at lunchtimes! We noted that these two NEW documents had been published in our News Update on 22 August, and promised an ‘overview of the changes’ (with reporting on the WCF last week, I didn’t get to do that then!)
1. Prayer Groups for Schools ‘Prayer Day’ – Friday 5 September
The Prayer Groups for Schools committee coordinates ‘prayer groups’ for Victorian schools. Each year they hold a ‘Prayer Day for Schools’ where representatives of the school prayer groups meet together.
It will be held this FRIDAY, 5 September at Presbyterian Ladies College in Burwood, Victoria.
The Guest Speaker is Elida Brereton, former Principal of Camberwell High School.
Elida is also on the Board of Access Ministries (SRI/Chaplaincy) and Mustard Ministries (support for Christian students in schools). Elida is a motivational speaker and featured as Principal in “Summer Heights High” (when the producer had trouble find a life-like Principal!).
10am-1pm (9.45am registration)
VENUE: Doris Daniel Theatre, Presbyterian Ladies’ College,141 Burwood Hwy, Burwood.
(Enter via Parer St, Gate 4 (Melway 60 J6)
Limited car parking in school grounds.
Parking available on Parer St and neighbouring streets.
Light Refreshments provided.
For further information contact Marilyn on (03) 9874 5764.
2. UPDATE on Special Religious Instruction in Schools (SRI)
On 22 August we reported that the Victorian Minister for Education, Hon Martin Dixon, had released a REVISED Ministerial Direction 141 (he actually released MD144 which revised MD141) and the Education Department had published a REVISED Policy Guide about SRI. We were very happy with the content of the revisions to both documents.
On Tuesday 26 August, we attended a BRIEFING for Christian leaders with the Minister for Education Martin Dixon, Attorney-General Robert Clark and MLC Andrew Ronalds. Mr Dixon explained the recent changes to SRI and his Ministerial Direction, noting that the Education Department had gone beyond their mandate in the Policy Guide – he said they are a ‘support organisation, not a policy organisation’!
Robert Clark highlighted some of the freedom of religion issues in the forthcoming election.
Education Department page ABOUT MD141 – click here.
Education Department REVISED POLICY GUIDE on SRI – click here.
There were TWO major areas of concern – the operation of SRI itself and the flawed statements about other religious activities in the Education Department’s Policy Guide. We are happy with the changes made – the actual FORM still needs to be altered to ensure that it states it is to be returned whether or not the child is to participate in SRI.
a) Other Religious Activity ALLOWED
The NEW Education Department Policy Guide has removed any 'ban' on OTHER religious activities occurring at schools at lunchtime etc. The Department had wrongly stated that other religious activities were banned ‘during school hours’ – they are only prohibited in ‘hours set aside for instruction’ (as identified in our original Briefing).
The new Policy Guide includes a section titled, "Other Religious Activity" that has been totally revised.
It states that schools “must not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect” but goes on to state, “This does not prohibit the voluntary activities of students outside the school program as they are not part of the curriculum provided by the State.”
- Students can meet in groups with ‘facilitators’
In addition, the Policy Guide states that students can 'meet in groups which promote a particular religion, such as prayer groups, youth groups, clubs, information sessions, or workshops', and they can advertise such groups. They can also have “outside speakers or facilitators” for these groups!
- Students can distribute Bibles, music, books…
The Ministerial Direction specifically states (9 -2) that students can bring "religious materials" to school and distribute them.
The Policy Guide clarifies that this can be Bibles, religious books, music, DVDs etc.
b) Changes to SRI
The Minister, Martin Dixon, has made significant changes to the original MD 141 about the actual operation of SRI. This has addressed some of the concerns of those working in SRI…
Many of the changes have greatly improved the operation of SRI in schools.
The one area still to be changed is the actual FORM – we believe that parents should have to return the form and note whether their child will or will not be doing SRI.
See section BELOW…
Some of the changes:
The form needs to be changed…
We believe that parents should have to return the form and note whether their child will or will not be doing SRI.
The revised MD141 states, that
“A principal who offers special religious instruction in a school must obtain written advice from all parents of students at the school regarding whether their child is to participate or not participate in special religious instruction.”
That seems to indicate that the form MUST be returned, regardless of whether the students are doing SRI or not.
The CURRENT FORM only has a box to tick ‘Yes’ to indicate that the child will be doing SRI. The form states, “If you do not return this form, your child will not participate in SRI”.
This is totally contradictory to the Ministerial Direction.
The Ministerial Direction does state that, if the form isn’t returned in a reasonable time frame, then the child won’t do SRI. This covers forms not returned after some time…
This is acceptable only if the schools and the Department have a form that MUST be returned in the first instance.
Having spoken to the Minister and his Chief of Staff, we understand that changes are being made to the CONSENT FORM, for which we are grateful.
A new FORM is expected to be prepared in the coming months....
We will continue to monitor this situation.
The police just about outnumbered the protesters at the World Congress of Families regional conference in Melbourne on Saturday. Even the mainstream media reported that only about 50 to 60 protesters were there (a few more came for the ‘Block the Hate party’ at lunchtime but they all went home at 2.30 pm). The protest organisers, who held their Media Conference on Thursday at Trades Hall, had said there would be ‘thousands’ attending, but that didn’t eventuate. Perhaps there were other things keeping them busy - like marches against the federal government’s Budget in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on Sunday.
After a venue change the conference went ahead, with more than 300 delegates. There were some excellent speeches. All MPs except Fred Nile pulled out from speaking and attending, which was disappointing. The police did a great job with security and protecting delegates. Congratulations to Babette Francis for her persistence and organisation of the event in spite of the opposition.
The media were there in force – ABC, SBS, Channel 9, Channel 10, Channel 7, The Age, Herald Sun, Guardian, and even the homosexual paper Star Observer! However, their reports tended to focus on the controversy and the protesters rather than the actual CONTENT of the speeches!
Links to media reports below.
Lifesite News reported on the event. DVDs of the speakers will be available in a few weeks.
Overall, it was a great day with some excellent speeches!
Venue change – Politicians and clergy CANCEL!
With a number of venues being deemed ‘unsuitable’ for size or security reasons and commercial venues backing out because of harassment and threats of continuing protests against FUTURE events such as weddings (as well as the protest on the day) (see our Briefing last Friday for full details), Danny Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries, offered his venue in Hallam. As it turned out, the property is fenced and provided appropriate security for the event. There are few venues that provide seating for 400 - and can be defended at a double gateway!
Unfortunately, some of the pro-life Liberal politicians – Kevin Andrews and Robert Clarke - pulled out at the last minute, on the grounds that it was being held at the Catch the Fire premises and they objected to some of Danny's views as reported in the media. Bernie Finn, the Victorian Liberal politician who opposes abortion, was supposed to speak about the ‘March for the Babies’ – and presumably the violence by protesters at last year’s March. He pulled out, citing his family’s concerns for his safety.
Babette Francis, the organiser of the event, said she was ‘just hiring a venue’ when no other hotels were prepared to rent their premises and was very disappointed that they didn't support the event. Some speakers were critical of the politicians for cancelling their attendance, when they had committed to speak to delegates. Two Catholic clergy who were listed as speakers didn’t show up either!
Protesters loud and abusive
The protesters were typically loud and abusive, screaming slogans of ‘hate’ and ‘bigot’ at delegates as they arrived. Some protesters had registered as ‘delegates’ and people were checked against the list as they entered (by me). A couple of people were a bit too ‘obvious’ – having been told to dress as ‘conservative Christians’ one wore a white suit, and another wore a teal taffeta suit! After questioning about what group they were with or how they came to be there, I let them in – after all, we are in favour of free speech, and were happy to have people attend if they wanted to listen and engage in genuine debate and discussion! However, the woman in the white suit obviously didn’t want to do that – she made a scene after Hon Rev Fred Nile arrived, charging onto the stage and pouring red paint over herself. She was duly escorted from the premises.
Bill Muehlenberg provided a graphic account of her screaming while being evicted, in his account of the event!
The protesters continued with their chanting and speeches for a while – but it all quietened down once the delegates were inside. One organiser asked for people to suggest chants for everyone to repeat – after two or three chants there was deathly silence as they had run out of ideas! Two protesters were arrested during the protest.
Speeches and media reports
Inside the conference, everything went smoothly and there were no further disruptions. Everyone heard a number of excellent speeches, providing information and evidence about a range of topics – from euthanasia to marriage, from abortion to sex education. Dr David van Gend and Dr Mark Durie stepped in at the last minute and gave excellent presentations. David spoke on euthanasia legislation and the impact on vulnerable people.
Mark spoke about the family and freedom of speech, and quoted an article published last week by Bettina Arndt, a former ‘sexologist’, who wrote about how the research shows that the best environment for raising children is a home with a married biological mother and father!
Article: Society wedded to fallacies on families, The Australian, 23/8/2014.
Bettina Arndt wrote, “The casualisation of families is one of the major factors entrenching disadvantage for children in this country. Yet no one wants to talk about it.”
Arndt noted that Kay Hymowitz, “A renowned family scholar with New York’s Manhattan Institute”, who spoke at a Centre for Independent Studies conference on the Gold Coast last weekend, “reports a sense of deja vu witnessing the struggle Australia is having in coming to terms with the essential truth about family life: namely that children do better with two parents, particularly married parents.”
But did the media report on Mark’s speech or those comments?
The same thing happened regarding Dr Angela Lanfranchi’s speech on the link between abortion and breast cancer. Angela made a detailed presentation, citing numerous scientific studies that had been published in peer-reviewed medical journals…
The ABC and SBS journalists stayed for her introduction and then LEFT.
You wouldn’t want to actually hear what was said, would you?
The Age journalist, who was there all day, tried to imply that it was only Dr Lanfranchi’s own ‘research’, stating “Controversial American breast cancer doctor Angela Lafranchi was one of the headline acts, pushing her research suggesting a link between abortion and breast cancer.” No mention of the worldwide studies… or anything else!
“From 1957 to 2013 there have been 72 epidemiological studies of the ‘abortion breast cancer link’ differentiating induced from spontaneous abortion –
- 56 studies show a positive correlation
- 33 studies are statistically significant to the 95th percentile."
The Guardian journalist must have missed that – she reported, “She cited only studies involving rats to support her claims.”
IF YOU WANT to know what Dr Angela Lanfranchi says to her critics, as well as the evidence to support her claims, read Family Voice's Media Release about her meeting in Adelaide yesterday. Link below.
Andrew Bolt was highly critical of the actions of the protests – but began his blog post with the comment, “More frightening than the views of the people inside the World Congress of Families is the intolerance of the protesters outside…”
The journalist from homosexual paper Star Observer was there, and I had a chat with him – he said everyone had been really nice to him. His report was quite reasonable – as expected, he wrote that speakers mostly referred to concern about 'non-traditional families’ which he took as a ‘code word’ for LGBTI – all except Fred Nile, of course, who mentioned homosexuality!
In fact, as one person commented, the journalists must have all been at a DIFFERENT CONFERENCE!
The protesters like to refer to the World Congress of Families, and in fact anyone who says that marriage and the natural family are best for society, as the ‘hard right’ and nasty and ‘bigoted’. But the reality is that they are the ‘hard left’. These protesters protest against anything and everything and are well-known to police.
Unfortunately the name-calling and antagonism is getting worse. The World Congress of Families posted an article online addressing claims of ‘hate’ made by the protesters, and the recent ‘Report’ by the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-homosexual activist group. They address the question, ‘Is the World Congress of Families hateful?’ and answer with a resounding ’No!’
On one point, opponents claim that the WCF ‘supports Russia’s anti-gay laws’.
But as Larry Jacobs, the Managing Director of the WCF, pointed out, they had nothing to do with the passing of the law, but the WCF has spoken about media misconceptions of the law, which is “aimed solely at protecting minors from dangerous influences including drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, prostitution, heterosexual pornography, and solicitations for “non-traditional sexual relations”. The last category was added in 2013 and the “law provides only a civil penalty for violations”. See WCF statement link below.
As Larry said, homosexuality is not illegal in Russia, and there are still ‘gay bars in Moscow’.
As for why opponents saying the WCF is hateful, they state, “It’s a political weapon – a way to stigmatize family advocates and silence dissent.”
Did the media report on that?
Freedom of speech is under increasing threat in our nation. Often it seems that the loudest voices get heard – or as they say, the squeaky wheel gets the oil!”
One disappointing response was from Tim Wilson, Australian Human Rights Commissioner, who was appointed to promote freedom of speech. Although he didn’t attend the event, he was highly critical of views expressed by the World Congress of Families. As an open homosexual who supports same-sex ‘marriage’, he criticised the fact that the WCF supports the “natural family”. His main point was that we should have freedom of speech and the protesters should allow free access to people to hear such views. He wrote, “The agenda of the Congress sits well outside the mainstream of Australian public debate.”
He went on to say, “Seeking to silence different views does nothing to stop them. Instead they should be given a platform and exposed to the full light of day. If they are absurd, it will not take long for them to attract the ridicule they deserve.”
He's just launched a national CONSULTATION on free speech - read more here.
If we don’t continue to stand up for what is good and noble and true, the forces against us will continue to get louder. We must remember that there were more of us than there were of them.
- Protester storms stage at World Congress of Families, The Age, 30/8/2014.
- Protesters block entry as World Congress of Families starts in chaos, Guardian, 30/8/2014.
- WORLD CONGRESS OF FAMILIES CONFERENCE GOES AHEAD AMIDST PROTESTS, MP CANCELLATIONS, Star Observer, 30/8/2014.
Andrew Bolt: The hecklers and screamers are even more intolerant, Andrew Bolt, 31/8/2014.
Collation of media reports of WCF Melbourne event (Google News) – click here.
IS THE WORLD CONGRESS OF FAMILIES HATEFUL?
Questions and Answers On World Congress of Families
Bill Muehlenberg’s report:
WCF, Freedom and Democracy Versus the Fascists, 30/8/2014.
Lifesite News –Politicians flee World Congress of Families event in Melbourne as media criticism continuesPoliticians flee World Congress of Families event in Melbourne as media criticism continues, 29/8/2014.
IF YOU WANT to know what Dr Angela Lanfranchi says to her critics, as well as the evidence to support her claims, read Family Voice's Media Release about her meeting in Adelaide yesterday.