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Thursday, 17 October 1985
Page: 1406

Senator BLACK —I refer the Minister for Education to an article in the Townsville Bulletin today entitled `Peace Studies-A Brainwash'. In that article the Queensland State President of the National Civic Council, Mr Brian Mullins, said that a social justice paper being examined in Townsville schools called on students to actively commit themselves to the peace movement. Has the Minister noted that Mr Mullins has called on parents of children attending these schools to protest against attempts to turn their children into `pro-Soviet peace activists'? Can the Minister inform the Senate of any recent developments in the peace education area?

Senator RYAN —My attention has been drawn to the article in the Townsville Bulletin entitled `Peace Studies-A Brainwash' and I am aware that in that article the Queensland State President of the National Civic Council, Mr Brian Mullins, criticised the social justice paper on peace education which is being examined in Townsville schools. The first comment I make on Mr Mullins's involvement in this issue is that he does not seem to object to information that he regards as propaganda going into schools because in the same article he offers the distribution to all schools of an NCC statement entitled `Christians and peace'. So obviously some kinds of what he would regard as propaganda are acceptable and some kinds are not. When people holding and advocating extreme right wing views get involved in the debate about what ought or ought not be allowed to be considered in schools they always seem to show this double standard whereby extreme views of their own persuasion are acceptable but views which are not acceptable to them are said to be somehow dangerous to children. It is important always to expose these double standards when we see them.

It might also be of interest to the Senate to note that among the contributors to the NCC paper which Mr Mullins is offering to distribute to schools is a Dr Gerard Henderson, who I understand is a senior adviser to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Howard. Having commented on Mr Mullins's reported views in the Townsville Bulletin, I would say that the issue of peace education and how to incorporate it properly within the school curriculum is a very complex one. It is an area about which people feel very passionately. The advocates of peace education are passionately committed to it and those who fear it, such as Mr Mullins, seem equally passionate in their resistance to it. So it is not an area of curriculum development which can be embarked upon rapidly or without proper consideration of all of the issues involved. Our Government, in general, believes that there is a place for the study of peace within the curriculum, as we believe there is an important place in our foreign affairs policy for the pursuit of peace initiatives. We would not wish to facilitate the development of peace education which was merely propaganda, even if it were propaganda with which some of us personally agreed, but we would like to see the opportunities for the study of peace and peace issues being properly developed within the educational context. In order to assist in that regard, since 1983 the Curriculum Development Centre, which is the Commonwealth's arm in curriculum development, has been monitoring and assessing the teaching of peace studies in schools throughout Australia. As well as that the CDC is funding a pilot program in peace education which will be implemented within the New South Wales State school system and within the Catholic school system in Victoria. An assessment of that pilot program will precede any further developments of this kind. The CDC is involved in a valuable process and I think that those organisations genuinely committed to peace are right to consider an educational expression of that development.

In conclusion, in relation to what does or does not go into schools, as far as State schools are concerned curriculum is a matter for control by State education authorities but what appears in the curriculums of non-government schools is a matter for those schools. This Catholic school in Townsville is perfectly entitled to embark upon a study of this social justice document. The Commonwealth has no control over curriculum in government or non-government schools and does not seek it. What we do seek to do is to facilitate and assist in curriculum development initiatives of national significance, such as peace studies, so that those systems or schools which decide that they want to have such curriculum materials available to them will have materials of a sound educational nature worked out for them.