Intelligence Squared Debates: Faith-based Religious Education Has No Place in Public Schools

Intelligence Squared Debates: Faith-based Religious Education Has No Place in Public Schools

By the late 19th century, all Australian colonies had decreed that education must be compulsory, free and secular. By the middle of the twentieth century, ‘secular’ had gone out of fashion, seeing special religious instruction in all states. Today most primary schools in Australia must allow for special religious instruction.

Was the old legislation insisting on secularity out of touch with modern times, or is it more relevant than ever? Is it possible to teach children about the importance of faith without proselytising, and if so, where should the boundaries be drawn? Does faith-based religious education have a place in public schools?


No spoilers on this page, but if you’d like to jump to the results of the debate, you’ll find them here.


Portrait of Michael Williams

Michael Williams

Michael Williams is the Director of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne. He has worked at the Wheeler Centre since inception in 2009, when he was hired as the Head of Programming before being appointed as Director in September 2011.

He has hosted Blueprint for Living (2015–2016), then Talkfest (2017–2019), on ABC RN. He remains a regular guest on ABC Radio and TV. Michael has also worked as a Breakfast presenter for Melbourne’s 3RRR, as a member of the Australia Council’s Literature Board, in publishing and has written extensively for the Guardian, the AgeSydney Morning HeraldAustralian and elsewhere.

Portrait of Justine Toh

Justine Toh

Justine is senior research fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity. She worked as a researcher and presenter with both Reuters Australia and Fairfax Digital Media before completing her doctorate in cultural studies at Sydney’s Macquarie University in 2009. Justine is a popular public speaker and a prolific writer with a special interest in the intersection of Christianity and popular culture.

Portrait of David Vann

David Vann

David Vann is an internationally bestselling author published in nineteen languages. He is the winner of fourteen prizes, and his books (Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, Dirt, A Mile Down, Goat Mountain and Last Day On Earth) have appeared on seventy Best Books lists in a dozen countries.

Portrait of Peter Sherlock

Peter Sherlock

Professor Peter Sherlock is the vice-chancellor of the University of Divinity. He is an historian of religious belief and practice in Europe and Australia, writes a column on religious issues for The Conversation, and is a member of the Anglican Church.

Portrait of Marion Maddox

Marion Maddox

Marion Maddox is a Professor of Politics at Macquarie University in Sydney. She holds PhDs in Theology (Flinders, 1992) and Political Philosophy (UNSW, 2000) and has taught in both Religious Studies and Politics Departments and held distinguished research fellowships in Australia and overseas.

Portrait of Tim Costello

Tim Costello

Tim Costello is one of Australia’s most sought after voices on issues of social justice, leadership and ethics. Since 2004, Tim has been CEO of World Vision – Australia’s largest international development agency.

Portrait of Nick Cater

Nick Cater

Nick Cater is a journalist, author and visiting fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies. He is a former editor of the Weekend Australian and held senior editorial roles at the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph.

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