Merlino tackles ACHPER

Ramona Chrapot in the Mount Scopus Memorial College library. Photo: Peter Haskin

VICTORIAN Education Minister James Merlino has announced he expects an unreserved apology and a full public accounting from education resources provider, Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER), after a controversy over how it handled a complaint against anti-Israel study materials.

The issue erupted last month when Mount Scopus Memorial College senior secondary student Ramona Chrapot discovered a sample answer on religious discrimination that stated, “An example of an individual being persecuted for their religion could be the Arab families living in Israel who practise the Islam religion rather than the Jewish religion.”

Mount Scopus principal Rabbi James Kennard raised the matter with ACHPER but was dismayed when the organisation, although issuing a recall of the materials, failed to offer a full apology or explain how the false presumption had crept into its content.

However, this week Merlino stated, “I’m appalled by the way ACHPER has handled this matter and its inadequate responses to the Jewish and broader community in recent weeks. I have been engaging with ACHPER over recent weeks and I am completely dissatisfied with their response. I have made it explicitly clear to their president that it is my expectation that a full and unreserved apology is provided immediately.

“It is also my expectation that ACHPER urgently completes its independent review and makes the findings available to the public.

“My views of this organisation have been significantly damaged by its handling of this matter,” said Merlino. 

“I’ve been very clear with ACHPER that this incident will be front of mind as we consider whether to negotiate any future agreement [with the Education Department].” 

ACHPER Victoria’s service agreement with the department expires next year.

In an address to Parliament, Caulfield Liberal MP David Southwick earlier this month called on Merlino to immediately address this issue. 

Rabbi Kennard had stated in an email to ACHPER CEO John Stokes that he and colleagues “remain disappointed and frankly baffled why, one month after the incident, ACHPER has not seen fit to issue a public apology” or confirm that action had been taken against whoever created the material.