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Schools in New South Wales, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania still offer special religious instruction.
The study explored teens' views on religious, spiritual, non-religious, cultural and sexual diversity in 21st-century Australia.
The study comprised 11 focus groups in three states with almost 100 students in Years 9 and 10 (ages 15-16).
In the mid-2000s Australia's public secular schools had few opportunities to provide teaching about diverse worldviews and general religious education.
Victoria prohibited teaching about religion until 2006 but allowed volunteers to deliver special religious instruction in school hours until 2015.
Our pre-survey focus groups also revealed Australian teens have moderate levels of religious literacy.
While their knowledge is quite broad, it is relatively shallow.Around 85% of teens think people of different faiths experience discrimination or abuse because of their religion.In focus groups, some students of minority faiths raised concerns about anti-Semitism and a relative lack of understanding of Hinduism and Buddhism, compared to the Abrahamic faiths in Australian society.In our survey, 56% of students attending government secondary schools and 42% of those attending independent private secondary schools said they hadn't had any diverse religion education or instruction in religious traditions.By comparison, 81% of students in Catholic secondary schools had received both.Students who hadn't were about twice as likely to hold negative or neutral views.This still holds when controlling for factors such as age, gender, school type, socio-economic status and religious identity.Our national study of Australian Generation Z teens (those born around the mid-1990s to mid-2000s) showed teens who had been exposed to education about diverse religions and worldviews were more tolerant of religious minorities, including Muslims and Hindus, than those who hadn't.General religious education is distinct from religious instruction, which is taught by teachers or volunteers from religious communities.Victoria's 2015 iteration of the new curriculum included – for the first time – two dedicated sections on learning about worldviews and religions in humanities and ethical capability.The emphasis is on Australia's major faith traditions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Judaism and secular humanism and rationalism.