• baby chicks

    CHILDREN AND THE NATURAL WORLD

    25th September 2018.  Mark Pearson’s speech on children and their natural empathy for animals.

    As adults we cannot fail to observe a child’s innocent delight in interactions with animals. On a more prosaic note, science tells us that a child’s amygdala, the most ancient part of the human brain, is hardwired to respond to other animals.  When measuring brain activity, scientists found that neurons in the amygdala became extremely active when the subject was shown pictures of animals. The right hemisphere of the amygdala is the storage space where young brains respond to emotional stimuli, creating categories of animals such as prey, play or predator.

    E.O. Wilson, a biologist, coined the term “biophilia” to describe the biologically determined affinity of humans with the natural world, including the inherent empathy humans have for other living beings. It explains the emotional desire to protect creatures that are small and vulnerable.

    Very young children are drawn to animals, especially baby animals. Babies are more likely to smile at, talk to and touch live animals rather than mechanical animal toys. Studies of the dreams of pre-school children reveal that as many as 90% of their dreams are about animals. There is also considerable evidence that children derive emotional sustenance from their companion animals, often talking to their pets when lonely, afraid or sad.

    Early childhood educators have recognised that children thrive when they spend time in natural settings that include opportunities for interactions with animals. .   Unlike adults who have been socialised into a transnational view of animals; what they can provide in the way of food, clothing or entertainment, children recognise the intrinsic value of animals; that simply because they are living creatures, they are important. Children innately understand that they are part of and not separate to, nature.

    As social media videos show, children have the openness and capacity to bond with any kind of animal. A chance encounter with an orphaned magpie can trigger a lifelong passion for native birds. When children are introduced to wild animals, a whole new world opens before them.  Even endemic wild creatures such as ducks, possums and lizards can absorb a child’s full attention

    The fictional wall that human society has built to delineate between human and animal is invisible to children. Children are curious to know about all the different ways of being an animal. As any story teller knows, a child is endlessly fascinated about animals live. They love to hear the sounds animal make, the homes they build, what and how they eat.  Children are amazed by the ability of animals to fly, swim through the water and climb high in the trees, or seem to disappear through camouflage.

    Introducing children to the natural environment and wild animals can help children develop empathy for animals.  Research also reveals that when children are encouraged to care for companion animals, they tend to be more sensitive and caring toward other people as well. A growing body of evidence shows that children who are supported in their care for animals tend to generalise that love to other living things.  Developing caring relationships with animal can lead to deeper feelings of empathy in young children, more positive peer relationships, and social-emotional development.

    As children have experiences with animals, they learn about differences and similarities, needs (such as for food, shelter, water and space), and compassion and empathy can grow and deepen.

    Conversely, if children are not exposed to the natural world in a positive way, their developing amygdala may only learn the fear response to animals and the natural world.  Their innate sense of connection to nature can be overridden by adult role modelling.  At worst, children may develop biophobia, an aversion to nature. Children may learn to become fearful of insects and animals not found in highly urbanised environments. These children are at risk of growing up to undervalue the environment and to have little regard for animals as sentient beings.

     

  • Mark’s powerful speech in support of the Modern Slavery Bill 2018

    The Animal Justice Party expresses its overwhelming support for the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 and commends all of the work done by the Hon. Paul Green and everybody who has worked with him. The extraordinary thing about slavery is that it has been an insidious, ugly instrument in our societies for thousands of years. Unfortunately, people who travel the world to look at the tourist attractions are often enjoying the fruits of slavery. I am talking about buildings such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt and some of the most glorious buildings that have been commissioned by churches and governments across Europe. When we go to these countries and walk among the attractions we are filled with awe, but the one menacing, disturbing truth is that, in the main, they were created by slaves. Many of those slaves suffered long, lingering deaths; they were crushed by the work they did on the very beautiful buildings that we can admire today.

    But slavery affects our everyday lives in Australia. Most of the t-shirts that are worn during summer are produced as a result of acts of slavery in sweatshops. We are learning, more and more, that it is very difficult for companies to find sources of garments—even shoes—where slavery has not been involved in some part of the production. Some of us feel uncomfortable when we walk across the beautiful rugs we have procured over time and put on the floors of our houses, only to learn that it is quite possible that children who were chained to carpet‑making operations in India and Pakistan were forced to make those carpets. Children work long hours making carpets and, in some cases, are never allowed to leave the factory in which they work.

    In Australia, it has become apparent that slavery has been used in fruit-picking, in other agricultural industries, and in construction industries. There have been instances where people who have come to Australia on particular visas to do part-time work have found themselves enslaved. In the worst cases, people have been involved in the sexual exploitation of children; they pay a very small amount of money and cause a child or a person to be kidnapped, taken to a place, raped, tortured and, in some cases—for example, in the production of snuff movies—murdered. It was a big step forward when legislation was passed so that when Australians committed sexual offences against children in other countries they could be extradited back to Australia and, even better, face charges in Australia for that sexual abuse. These have been welcome advances in legislation.

    I have some concerns about the Modern Slavery Bill. It could have more teeth—more strength—and be more compelling. I think the commissioner should have far more powers. The commissioner should have the power to investigate and to compel the relevant authorities to investigate and issue warrants. The bill should have the strength and power to support the principle and spirit of the bill. I understand the Government will move amendments to the bill, but this is a bill which is about stopping slavery—about preventing harm of the vulnerable—and no amendment should detract from the spirit of the bill. Any amendment, from any member of any party, should go only to galvanizing the spirit of this bill, which is about protecting the most vulnerable—being a shield and a sword for them. The vulnerable include children and women. It has been said that domestic violence is a form of slavery. If people, including children, have to flee to refuges it means that they have been enslaved. We must be very aware that slavery manifests in very subtle, sinister ways. An act of slavery might be for only half a day, but it is still slavery.

    I implore the Government that any amendment—whether it is introduced here or in the other place—strengthens the bill. This bill should also cover all Government departments. There should be no exemptions—even for small businesses should not be exempt, in any way, from the requirements and the powers of this bill. I note the amendment to be moved by Mr. David Shoebridge, which would include tissue trafficking. We should be introducing amendments such as that, which will strengthen the provisions and provide more detail so that this bill captures all the exploiters and all of the evil actions that can cause such harm and such brutal exploitation of any living being in Australia or around the world. I commend the bill to the House.

  • Notice of Motion – Threatened Species Children’s Art Competition

    THREATENED SPECIES CHILDREN’S ART COMPETITION 2017

    On Threatened Species Day 2017, I was privileged to host the Threatened Species Day Children’s Art Competition. This is an amazing event which has grown by 250% since last year. It is exciting to see the connection children have with individual animals and their right to a free life in this world. Interestingly, ever piece of art I saw showed animals in the natural habitat, free from the bars of zoos and cages of captivity. To commend the event and congratulate the winners and organisers I gave a Notice of Motion to the House which was unanimously agreed to.

    Children have an inspiring connection with animals and this is a trait that must be nurtured into adulthood so that we can have a better life for ALL.

    1. That this House commends Forestmedia Network Incorporated for facilitating the 2017 Threatened Species Children’s Art Competition, which helps children unleash their artistic creativity while learning about the extinction crisis facing our native plants and animals; and which aims to encourage the next generation of environmental leaders.
    2. That this House acknowledges that with more than 1,000 species now threatened in New South Wales alone, environmental leaders have never been more needed.
    3. That this House congratulates the organisers of the event held on Threatened Species Day at Parliament House: Lorraine Bower, Susie Russell, Lindie Ward, Penny Walton, Stephanie Knox, Jenny Ellyard, Jenny Symons and Bri gid Dowsett.
    4. That this House thanks the Hon. Gabrielle Upton, MP, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage , and Minister for Local Government, and Dr Mehreen Faruqi, MLC, for their attendance and contributions to the discussion.
    5. That this House notes:
      1. entries to the 2017 competition have grown by 250 per cent, with more than 1,600 children entering, involving 68 schools and 14 other programs;
      2. the quality of the artistic work was inspiring and it is a testament to the future environmental leaders concerns for the future of our unique threatened species of flora and fauna—a future where they may never be able to see their chosen species in the wild, or see it at all;
      3. two exhibitions are being held—one at Surry Hills from 9 to 23 September 2017 and one in the open space at the Botanic Garden from 15 to 29 September 2017; and
      4. that the following schools and children’s programs participated in the competition: Alma Public, Beecroft Public, Ben Venue Public, Blue Mountains Steiner, Booligal Public, Broadwater Public, Brighton Le Sands Public, Burraneer Bay Public, Canley Vale Public, Capa Marks Point Public, Castle Cove Public, Cessnock West Public, Corndale Public, Jerrabomberra Public, John Colet School Belrose, Lawson Public, Lane Cove West Public, Largs Public, Larnook Public, Maribyrnong Primary, Middle Dural Public, Molong Central, Mother Teresa School, Mount Keira Demonstration School, Mullion Creek Public, Murray Farm Public, Murwillumbah public, Neville Bonner Primary; North Wagga Public, Ocean Shores Public, Oxley Park Public, Parramatta North Public, Paxton Public, Peterborough School [SSP], Plunkett Street School, Point Clare Public; Quakers Hill Public, RED inc—In school support, Roseville College, Sherwood Grange Public, St Clair Public, St Mark’s Catholic Primary, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary, St Patrick’s Primary, Sydney Children’s Hospital School, Sylvania Heights Public, Tamworth Public, Telopea Park Public, Tambelin Independent School, The Channon Public, Thomas Acres Public, Waitara Public, Weethalle Public, Westdale Public, West Ryde Public, Young Public, Ultimo children’s program, King George V children’s program The Rocks, Pyrmont children’s program, Crown Street children’s program, Redfern children’s program, Woolloomooloo children’s program, Girls and Boys Brigade holiday program Surry Hills, Girls and Boys Brigade after school program Surry Hills, Naidoc Festival, Art Box Workshops, Class Artz at Woollahra, Clovelly, Paddington, Kensington, Waverley and Randwick school s, Young Artists, and Art Zone- Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery.
    6. That the House thanks the following supporting organisations and individuals for their considerable contribution to the event and subsequent exhibitions: the Animal Justice Party; the City of Sydney Matching Grants program; Sophie Daniel, Team Leader, Community and Education Programs—Botanic Garden, and Mary Bell, Education Coordinator, School Programs—Botanic Garden ; Bren Weatherstone and the ACT Chapter of the Australian Association of Environmental Educators; Victoria Johnstone, Creative Director, Surry Hills Festival; Cassie Tilbrook, Gillian Elliott and the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre; Trish, Robyn, Georgia and the Byles Creek Valley Association; Donna Upton and the Capertee Valley Association; Jill; Helen and STEP Inc; Taronga Zoo; Featherdale Wildlife Park; Hoyts; the National Parks Association NSW; the Wilderness Society Sydney; Nature Conservation Trust; WIRES; Humane Society International; Nature Conservation Council NSW; Australian Forests and Climate Alliance; Animals Australia; North Coast Environment Council; South East Coast Regional Council; Nambucca Valley Conservation Association; and Caldera Environment Centre.
    7. That this House congratulates all the entrants in the competition and makes special note of the 2017 award winners:
      1. Kevin Yeh, (6)—first place in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      2. Emily Nees, (6)— second place in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      3. Amelia Gutwenger, (6)— highly commended in the category of five – to seven -year- olds;
      4. Jasper Hartmann, (8)—first place in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      5. Anneliese Gutwenger, (10)—second place in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      6. Jaccob Trevisan, (10)— highly commended in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      7. Natalie Barclay, (9)— highly commended in the category of eight – to 10-year- olds;
      8. Claire Camilleri, (11)—first place in the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      9. Sarah Chen, (11)—second place i n the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      10. Sonia Pillai, (11)— highly commended in the category of 11 – to 12-year- olds;
      11. Michelle Ciu, (9)—first place in the category of Most Unusual Entry;
      12. Mahli Barnes, (9)—second place in the category of Most Unusual Entry;
      13. Buraneer Bay [Skeleton]—First place in the category of Group Work;
      14. Art Box Workshops [Lepidopteras] —second place in the category of Group Work [equal];
      15. Oxley Art Group [Fragile Beauty]—second place in the category of Group Work [equal];
      16. Art Box Workshops [Rosenberg’s Goanna]— highly commended in the category of Group Work;
      17. Forrest Public School [Golden Sun Moths]— highly commended in the category of Group Work;
      18. Jake Fergusen, (11)—first place in the category of Best Written Explanation;
      19. Alyssa Sim, (8)—second place in the category of Best Written Explanation; and
      20. Kieren Kelly, (9)— highly commended in the category of Written Expression.
  • Debate speech regarding the Catholic Church and its history of child abuse

    ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

    Earlier this year I gave notice of a Motion condemning the Roman Catholic Church for its failure to protect children from abuse. The motion was rejected by the Government and will now be debated by the House. Below is my opening speech, in which I lay out the reasons of why I have chosen to target the Catholic Church. The debate has be adjourned so as to allow other Members to prepare.

    Some my ask why have I chose to raise this issue as it doesn’t have anything to do with animals? Firstly, it is an issue deeply personal to my heart as you will hear in my speech. Secondly, it reflects one of the core principles of the Animal Justice Party, that is, protection of our most vulnerable and giving a voice to those that either don’t have one or it is a voice that is not being heard.

    This post will be updated as the debate progresses.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: I move:

    (1) That this House condemns the Roman Catholic Church in Australia for its abject failure to protect children from sexual abuse by members of its clergy and leadership, who either:

    (a) sexually assaulted children whilst they were in their pastoral care; or

    ( b) by omission, caused ongoing and aggravated suffering to child victims by failing to intervene and report these crimes to police in New South Wales and Australia over the past five decades, as evidenced before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

    (2) That this House conveys its utter disgust and profound disappointment in Cardinal George Pell for his ongoing failure to protect the innocent child victims of routine egregious sexual abuse who sought his help and assistance over many years.

    Members might wonder why a fellow member of the Legislative Council would call upon this House to support a motion such as this when a royal commission is on foot. I think it is time—and it is expected by the traumatised victims and outraged community—for the Parliament to speak out on behalf of those who have elected us and for those who are not yet old enough to vote. It is time for New South Wales parliamentarians to speak to the actions of the church. We have parliamentary privilege and can therefore elucidate on the evidence and concerns that the judiciary cannot because of limitations on admissibility of evidence.

    Childhood sexual abuse has blighted the lives of too many young people and for too long society has refused to see, hear or speak about their pain. It has caused premature deaths through drug and alcohol abuse, risk‑taking behaviours, self-harm and suicide. It occurs within families and within educational, sporting, health, cultural and religious organisations—in fact, anywhere where adults are in authority over children. Children have been sexually abused by their music tutors, Scout leaders, swimming coaches, foster carers, doctors and dance teachers. Most damningly of all, they have been abused by those who give instruction about the moral standards required to guide them through life: their religious leaders.

    These pastors, priests and teachers are accorded great reverence and authority by not just their own religious hierarchies and communities but also mainstream society. Imagine that authority, by means of a person vested with its power sermonising from the pulpit or lecturing in the classroom, groping your genitals or sexually penetrating your body. Imagine the secrecy, the shame, the pain, the confusion and the fear and terror of not being believed, of being damned to hell if you tell. Imagine the waking nightmare of having participated, however unwillingly, in breaking the very moral laws you have been told to live by. What moral compass then becomes the guiding principle of those people’s lives? No wonder so many seek solace in obliteration.

    Why has my motion singled out the Roman Catholic Church? In various commissions and inquiries we have learned that paedophiles have been active in other religions and denominations such as the Anglican Church, the Salvation Army, Judaism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and obscure religious cults to name a few. There are four reasons why my motion has singled out the Catholic Church. I formed my position even before an article substantiating it entitled “Child sex abuse: Restoration of trust key to survival of Catholic Church” by Chris McGillion and Damian Grace was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 September. The first reason for this motion is that it is important that the culprits are singled out and not allowed to cowardly seek refuge in the shadow of the more broad term “institutional responses to child sexual abuse”.

    The second reason for this motion is the sheer volume of offending in the Catholic Church. In evidence given at the 2012 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations police figures showed that since 1950 there have been 10 times as many abuse cases in the Catholic Church as in the Anglican Church, which was the next largest group for rates of offending. Given that Anglicanism and Catholicism have historically been the two largest religious denominations in Australia, at 17 per cent and 25 per cent of the population respectively, the massive difference in prevalence is compelling evidence of a serious problem within the Catholic Church and is indicative of its failure to protect children.

    The third reason is the culture of clericalism in which the church leadership believes it is only answerable to itself. Obedience to canon law is of more importance than submitting priests to the secular criminal law system. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has stated, “The bishop has a duty to treat all priests as father and brother.” Patrick Parkinson, Professor of Law at the University of Sydney and a specialist in family law and child protection, argues that this has been interpreted by some as an obligation to protect priests and religious brothers from the criminal law.

    Examples of the impacts of clericalism include: transferring alleged offenders to other parishes or schools between parishes, interstate or overseas; permitting international trips for priest to undergo spiritual formation amidst child sexual abuse allegations; persuading complainants, victims and families to remain silent; ignoring schoolteachers’ repeated requests for action against alleged child sexual abuse offenders; and not intervening after inadvertently discovering offenders in the act of child sexual abuse.

    The final reason for this motion is the position of power and privilege that the Catholic Church has within society. The Catholic Church started out on the margins of Australian society. It was the spiritual home for Irish outcasts, political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. With the declaration of World War I, the church battled against the State in fighting against conscription. As the decades passed, however, the leadership of the Catholic Church aligned itself with the conservative establishment—fighting communism, socialism and upholding rigid standards of sexual morality as secular society became more permissive.

    The conservative establishment has been happy to provide support and protection from oversight. In August 2002 then Archbishop George Pell was stood down during an investigation into sex abuse claims against him. During the course of the investigation Prime Minister John Howard contacted the archbishop to offer his support, and later publicly stated that he believed Dr Pell was innocent. In 1996, as public outrage grew over the failure of the Catholic Church to adequately respond to child sexual abuse, then Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett said:

    I was reassured that George said ‘yes’, he’d get stuck into it … I was told that he had put together a response … it’s not for me to sit in judgment … of whether the response was adequate or not.

    Cardinal Pell is on record as saying that he set up the Melbourne Response in 1996 after Mr Kennett told him, “Now you clean this thing up and there won’t be a royal commission.” In his essay “The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell” David Marr said:

    For twenty years, in the face of growing public anger about paedophile priests, political leaders had backed the Catholic Church. Despite protests from victims, their parents, Anglican bishops, lawyers, academics, child protection advocates, a number of Catholic priests, newspapers and police, the business of cleaning up the mess of child abuse had been left to the churches themselves. When Pell provoked an outcry by walking the paedophile Gerald Ridsdale into court in 1993, Jeff Kennett hosed down calls for a royal commission. When Pell was accused himself of abusing boys, John Howard blocked calls for a royal commission.

    The evidence uncovered by the media, whistle-blowers, as well as commissions and inquiries, has shown that the church cultivates an aura of untouchability. Through strategic relationships, it has been able to keep a lid on the scandal of its systemic failure to hold perpetrators accountable for abuse. One example of a disturbing collaboration between the police and the church is the activities of the Professional Standards Resource Group [PSRG]. The Police Integrity Commission investigation, known as Operation Protea, was established after the ABC’s Lateline program reported in 2013 that the church had an agreement with police to allow it to withhold information about paedophile priests. The investigation found that the police failed to act on multiple allegations of child sexual abuse raised in the PSRG meetings, a clear breach of their duty. This was done through a process of “blind reporting” where the names of alleged victims of child abuse and other details were deleted from reports to the police.

    Only recently, it was reported that the Catholic Church has finally agreed to cease blind reporting to police. Hundreds of child sex abuse cases going back decades may be reopened as police finally have access to the names of suspected paedophiles. So let us examine in more detail the failure of the Catholic Church to protect children from sexual abuse: In the words of Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart in his evidence to the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse:

    The Catholic church failed to act on the “horror story” of paedophiles in its midst. There was knowledge and a failure to act.

    Royal commission data shows that since 1980 the church had received child sexual abuse complaints from 335 people against 84 priests, covering the period 1950 to 1989. Campaigners say the true number of abuse victims could be as many as 10,000 children. Counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness, SC, stated that under “Towards Healing” the largest number of complaints were made against the Christian Brothers, Marist Brothers and the De La Salle Brothers—all Catholic. In all, 2,215 victims had come forward and 1,700 people commenced the process, although not all claims were pursued or substantiated. The most complaints, 43 per cent, were made against religious brothers, 21 per cent against diocesan priests and 14 per cent against religious priests. Most of the abuse happened between 1950 and 1980 in orphanages and schools.

    As evidenced by both the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations and the royal commission, time and again, over many decades, church authorities concealed the crime from the police, civil authorities, parishioners and Catholic school staff, pupils and their parents within the diocese. Archbishop Hart spoke about a “failure to act”, but that is not quite accurate. Church officials often did act, but in the worst possible way. Sexually abusing priests were frequently transferred to a new parish or a new school, where they continued to offend.

    The damage to the victims was immense. The breach of trust, secrecy and silence frequently caused deep psychological pain and disrupted a victim’s schooling or personal development. Victims felt hurt by knowing that their offender was being protected by the church. Many victims went on to live broken lives, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, unable to form adult relationships or pursue stable employment. Sadly, many died young as a result of damaged mental and physical health. Police reports have detailed the suicides of at least 40 people sexually abused by Catholic clergy in Victoria.

    When I was only 16 years of age and in year 10 at Marist Brother High School, Hamilton, Newcastle, New South Wales, I witnessed Brother Patrick and Brother Romual walking up and down the aisles of the classroom and stopping near “desired” boys, placing one hand under their robes on their penis and masturbating it while running their other hand down the pants of boys and rubbing their bottom and genitalia. I observed these boys freeze in fear and confusion. At the beginning of each term we could select a new seat and desk in the classroom. The perimeter desks were up against the left and right walls. Boys would arrive as early as possible so they could clamour to a seat adjacent to a wall because they knew that this would position them too far from the Brother for him to be able to molest them. I reported those Brothers to another Brother who I respected. He tried to help, but nothing happened and he soon left the Brotherhood.

    The evidence is overwhelming that the leadership within the church looked the other way. This encouraged the church’s offenders to continue committing similar crimes. The offenders knew that their church status would protect them from being arrested and convicted. It was only through the incredibly brave and tenacious campaigning by the families and victims themselves and groups such as Broken Rites that the true scourge of clerical abuse became a matter of public knowledge and outrage. Over the past 30 years we have seen the scandal within the Catholic Church unfold. Some perpetrators were finally brought to justice. A number of priests were convicted and jailed. It took decades for their child victims to be believed and to experience vindication. In many other instances, charges could not proceed due to lack of evidence or due to the death or incapacity of the accused.

    And what was the response of the Catholic Church when these priests came before the courts? Who can forget the image of Cardinal, then Archbishop, Pell walking side-by-side with the notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale as they entered the court precinct for his trial. The message that Archbishop Pell and the Catholic Church signalled to the Australian community was, “We place the might and majesty of the church against these child victims.” Cardinal Pell has been subject to rigorous cross-examination before the royal commission about what he knew and when. At all times he seems to have not seen, not heard and not spoken out. In his own words: “It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me”.

    As a Prince of the Church, it is clear that the investigation of sexual abuse of children by its servants is a low priority. Let us look at Gerald Ridsdale—just one example of what the church knew and what it did. At Ridsdale’s 1994 trial it was claimed that as early as 1971 he had been sent to a psychologist for treatment for his paedophilia. At Inglewood in 1973 a parent complained that Ridsdale had molested their son. A police officer spoke to Bishop Mulkearns, who promised to deal with Ridsdale, but he moved him on instead. Ridsdale was sent to and moved from five more parishes until he was sent overseas to New Mexico. He returned and was appointed chaplain at St John of God Hospital in Richmond, New South Wales, where he was finally arrested. He was charged with 30 counts of indecent assault against nine boys aged between 12 and 16 between 1974 and 1980. He was then convicted and sentenced in 1994 after pleading guilty to 46 charges of abusing 20 boys and one girl between 1961 and 1982.

    Given that the Catholic Church has portrayed itself as a moral pillar and has been accorded significant social status for its stance on sexual behaviour and moral authority, it beggars belief that its leaders would place themselves at arm’s length from the actions of those who carried the authority of the church into day-to day-life.

    The Catholic Church has failed abysmally to protect young people in its care. The leadership of the Catholic Church has consistently and deliberately, over many decades, prioritised the reputation of the Church and the protection of paedophile priests over the safety of children. Cardinal Pell may compare the Church to a transport company with the odd dodgy truck driver but in doing so he exposes the hypocrisy of an organisation that has fought to maintain the illusion of moral authority.

  • 15/03/2016: Question without notice, multi-faith education

    It is at our principle that no person, especially children should be subject to discrimination within our faith based education systems. In addition to that it is paramount that society and in particular educators encourage critical thinking around the core beliefs of kindness, compassion and acceptance. I asked the education Minister to advise if this is reflected in the current system and will provide an update as soon as an answer is provided.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON: My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water, representing the Minister for Education. Will the Minister advise whether the New South Wales education curriculum has provision for teaching school students about the fundamental core beliefs and principles of all the major religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Daoism and Buddhism, irrespective of whether a school is aligned with a particular religion, and if not, why not?

    ANSWER

    All students in NSW are required to learn about religion. In particular, the Human Society and its Environment learning area K 12 includes syllabus outcomes and content relating to intercultural understanding, ethical understanding, personal and soc ial capability, and civics and citizenship. This approach to learning about religion is consistent with that taken by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) in the development of the Australian Curriculum.

    Students are able t o further their study of religion through the Stage 6 Studies of Religion course, which attracts a large candidature. This course provides an opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of major religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam , Hinduism and Buddhism), their commonalities and differences, at an age appropriate level.

     

Page 1 of 212