Compulsory Holocaust education for schools
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VICTORIAN BREAKTHROUGH

Compulsory Holocaust education for schools

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino: 'It concerns me that if asked, most kids today wouldn’t be able to explain what the Holocaust was'.

James Merlino speaking in the Victorian Parliament.
Photo: AAP Image/Wayne Taylor
James Merlino speaking in the Victorian Parliament. Photo: AAP Image/Wayne Taylor

THE history and impact of the Holocaust will be taught in all Victorian secondary schools, in a breakthrough acclaimed by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and other Jewish organisations.

The Andrews government this week announced an initiative with Gandel Philanthropy and the Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC) to adapt Holocaust studies resources to the Victorian curriculum.

It makes Victoria the second state after NSW to introduce mandatory Holocaust education in public schools and comes after horrific incidents of antisemitic bullying in two Victorian schools were reported in The AJN and raised in state Parliament last year. NSW introduced compulsory Holocaust education for years 9 and 10 in 2014.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino stated, “While the teaching of the Holocaust is in the current Victorian curriculum, it is not taught in all schools, and when it is, it is often not taught as well as it could be. It concerns me that if asked, most kids today wouldn’t be able to explain what the Holocaust was.”

Guided by a working paper from Gandel Philanthropy developed with Jewish organisations, the program will include Holocaust education for all year 9 and 10 students in government schools, with the Education Department ensuring it is implemented effectively.

The Education Department and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) will also engage with alumni of the Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators, to review resources, Merlino stated.

Additionally the government will increase support to B’nai B’rith Courage To Care, providing funding of $375,000 over the next three years.

A hotline for schools, students and their families will be set up to report ethnic or religious abuse or vilification, and a student advisory group will be established, with representatives from Jewish youth groups, the United Jewish Education Board and the Education Department.

Gandel Philanthropy chairman John Gandel told The AJN, “We see these actions as a step in the right direction to ensure proper and adequate Holocaust education and we hope there will be additional steps taken in the future, especially around teacher training.”

Jayne Josem, director of the JHC, which hosts around 23,000 school students a year on educational tours through its museum, described the news as “a significant moment when a government supports an educational solution to help solve the troubling societal problems of antisemitism and racism”.

Courage To Care CEO Mike Zervos said funding to his organisation will enable it to reach an extra 30,000 Victorian students over the next three years with its workshops that teach about “transforming bystander behaviour into upstander behaviour”.

Welcoming the changes, JCCV president Jennifer Huppert said, “Education about the Holocaust can play an important role in combating antisemitism, and more generally demonstrating the dangers of prejudice, discrimination and dehumanisation.”

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