Media Release by Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Intercultural and interfaith education – key to an inclusive society

Senator Ursula Stephens, today addressed the 7th International Dialogue Australasia Network Conference at Old Parliament House, Canberra.

The conference focused on ‘Teaching the Abrahamic Religions: Christianity in Dialogue with Judaism and Islam’.

Senator Stephens spoke about the challenges of promoting and strengthening mutual understanding, acceptance and social inclusion among all Australians.

She said this includes the role of intercultural education in building bridges among global citizens and helping young Australians to develop a critical appreciation of different belief systems and their impact on cultures, traditions and customs.

“Gaining intercultural understanding takes time and patience and is not always comfortable.

“But the rewards are great. A deeper and well-round understanding of those around us that in turn creates strong and vibrant communities where people care for one another,” she said.

Senator Stephens said a good example of social inclusion in action is the Australian Government’s Promoting Interfaith and Intercultural Understanding in School Settings Pilot Program in Lakemba and Macquarie Fields, Sydney.

“This pilot has helped to connect students, parents and community leaders with different cultural backgrounds and belief systems, especially Christianity, Islam and Judaism,” she said.

Senator Stephens thanked school principals, teachers, lecturers and other educators for promoting intercultural education as a key pillar of an inclusive society.

The Australian Government is committed to building strong, resilient communities where everybody has the opportunity to fully participate in the social and economic life of the community, particularly those in disadvantaged communities.