SCEA Research Trip attends National Policy Forum in Canberra and visits Christian school systems in NSW

The Christian Schools Australia (CSA) National Policy Forum is a two-day event that provides member school representatives with the opportunity to hear from keynote speakers on issues affecting Christian schooling in Australia, meet with federal politicians who represent their electorates in Parliament House and network with other Christian school staff from across the country.  

The flight with the gathered group left Perth on Sunday, 21 May 2023 in order to be fully prepared for the 8 am start on Monday morning in Canberra.

Following statistically-driven presentations from Dr Ruth Powell (National Church Life Survey Research) and Mr Andrew Donaldson (Independent Schools Australia), the group learnt that (a) the proportion of Australians who call themselves ‘Christians’ seems to be at an all-time low, and (b) parents enrolling their children into independent schools are choosing ‘Christian’ schools at an all-time high!

These statistics, along with exhaustive subdividing of categories and dissection of this data, allowed the group of approximately 200 delegates to look at why these changes were taking place in our society and how our schools can be best equipped for the future of Christian schooling.

Other speeches came from Dr John Collier, who delivered the sobering realities relating to teenage depression and the anxiety that young people are experiencing in today’s society and Federal Labor’s Hon. Matt Thistlethwaite MP, who stood in for the absent Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC MP.

The Cocktail Reception at Parliament House was a chance to visit Australia’s Seat of Government and hear from the Shadow Education Minister, Hon. Sarah Henderson MP, who commended the excellent work being done by Christian schools across Australia.

A virtual presentation from Mr Gabe Lyons was one of the highlights of the Forum, with many members enjoying his speech entitled ‘Faithful Presence In The Public Square.’

The afternoon session allowed Mr Mark Spencer (Director of Public Policy – Christian Schools Australia) and Mrs Vanessa Cheng (Executive Officer – Australian Association of Christian Schools) to speak about the religious freedom debate in the nation’s capital. A subsequent visit to Parliament House saw Mr Joel Vallance bring greetings from Southern Hills Christian College (SHCC) to their local member, Mr Andrew Hastie MP, who welcomed the gathered group and spent time talking about his faith and how it shapes his work as a member in the political sphere.

The group then moved from Canberra on Wednesday, heading to Sydney and visiting Australian Christian College Marsden Park, before spending Thursday at Christian Education Ministry (CEM) in the morning and Green Point Christian College with Principal Mr Philip Nash in the afternoon.

They return to Perth later today.  

The purpose of conducting the SCEA Research Trips in 2023 is to see Christian education firsthand in other parts of the country and bring back insights and learning to shape practice in our schools here in WA.

The travelling group for this trip consisted of:

  • Dr Graeme Cross (Chief Executive Officer, SCEA )
  • Dr Darnelle Pretorius (Principal, SCC),
  • Mr Scott Puzey (Head of Junior School, SCC),
  • Miss Angel Hanna (Dean of Curriculum, NCGS),
  • Mr Jethro Sobejko (Head of Secondary, NCGS),
  • Mr Joel Vallance (Dean of Students, SHCC),
  • Mr Giles Creelman (Head of Marketing & Community, SCEA),
  • Mr Rhys Vallance (Risk & Compliance Manager, SCEA), and
  • Mr Craig Clark (SCEA Board Chair)  
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