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Statement on meeting with the Hon. James Merlino MP

Following a meeting today with Deputy Premier and Minister for Education James Merlino, Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler and Zionism Victoria President Sharene Hambur are  confident that the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER), an organisation representing Victorian teachers, will offer a belated apology for distributing a factually inaccurate and deeply offensive Year 12 practice resource.

Last month, ACHPER was forced to withdraw a sample exam paper, which stated that “an example of an individual being persecuted for their religion could be the Arab families living in Israel who practice the Islam religion rather than the Jewish religion, including unlawful demolition of homes and forced displacement and detainment of these families.”

“The public outcry from Jewish and non-Jewish students and their families gave ACHPER little choice but to recall the paper,” said Mr Leibler. “But the organisation’s refusal to agree to an independent investigation of how and why such ignorant and offensive material found its way into the exam paper in the first place, was entirely inadequate. As is its ongoing refusal to issue an apology.”

“The Zionist Federation of Australia and Zionism Victoria have been in discussions with the State Government, seeking its support in pressing ACHPER for a more appropriate response, including an independent inquiry, which would be made publicly available together with an unqualified apology”.

“In the meeting today with the Deputy Premier, Ms Hambur and I were able to convey to him directly the concerns of the community – both about the resource itself, and ACHPER’s resistance to responding in a way that would reassure us the same thing won’t happen again”, Mr Leibler concluded.

Ms Hambur remarked, “We understand that ACHPER is an independent organisation and that the government has no involvement in the materials that it produces. In fact, the Deputy Premier was unaware of the offensive material until it became public. In our meeting it was clear that Mr. Merlino understood and shared our concerns, and he reassured us that he and his Department had informed ACHPER that the government expected the ZFA’s calls for an independent inquiry and an apology to be fulfilled”.

Mr Leibler and Ms Hambur thanked the Deputy Premier for his efforts in pursuing a meaningful resolution to this issue from the outset.

 

For media enquiries please contact:

Jeremy Leibler, President: +61 417 382 387, jleibler@abl.com.au
Emily Gian:  +61 418 819 161,
emily@zfa.com.au