SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Education. The action I seek is for the minister to seek support for special religious instruction programs by assisting the United Jewish Education Board, which provides Jewish education to students in government schools, with funding to aid its development of curriculum and resources and to clarify the ministerial directive to ensure that all principals give students the opportunity to participate.
Before the last Victorian election in 2014, the Victorian coalition had committed funding of $300 000 over five years to aid the development of the board’s curriculum and resources. The Victorian coalition remains committed to supporting the special religious instruction program and understands how important it is to these classes and to many of the families who support it. The Victorian coalition understands the importance of freedom of religion and of giving kids the best education possible. Our approach to education has always been about choice for every Victorian student. The work of the United Jewish Education Board team, including executive director Marlo Newton and president Yossi Goldfarb, is crucial to delivering choice through special religious instruction. The board continues to provide families the opportunity for their children to have a quality instruction in Jewish religious and culture.
I understand that the minister has met with the board, has seen the great work it does and values that work. However, an article in the latest Jewish News headed ‘Class dismissed’, states that yet another non-Jewish school has cancelled Jewish education, meaning that a total of about 700 Jewish students — close to 50 per cent — attending Victorian government schools are not able to receive this education. The United Jewish Education Board has been around since 1895. It is one of the oldest Jewish institutions, providing valuable work for these children. It is important that its work continue. Recently Caulfield Junior College and the Elsternwick, Murrumbeena, Carnegie and Valkstone primary schools have cancelled their special religious instruction programs, resulting in these 700 Jewish students not being able to receive this education.
Last year I met with the schools and with the former minister to clarify the ministerial direction and to ensure that the programs could continue. I would value any work the minister can do to help these children receive this education. It is a very important initiative. The board does a fantastic amount of work. The materials it needs to develop to ensure that it can at least provide cultural programs in some of the schools is expensive. The $300 000 we committed might be a good start to help the board continue with the great work it does. I ask the minister for his assistance.