Open Letter to NSW Homeschooling Committee

The letter below is one out of many letters that have been sent, in protest against the proposed legislative framework for homeschooling in NSW, Australia.


Doug Shedden
Committee Chairman
Parliament House
Macquarie St
Sydney NSW 2000

Hi Doug,

I feel affected by the recent proposals regarding homeschooling in NSW. Although I do not currently live in NSW, I and my family did live in NSW before and we may return in future.

Homeschoolers have long argued that compulsory school violates universal rights such as formulated in the UN's declaration of Human Rights, the Rights of the Child, and the protocol on Civil and Political Rights.

In April 1995, the High Court declared in the so-called 'Teoh-statement' that there was a legitimate expectation that bureaucrats are to observe internationally accepted civil rights, even if such rights are not incorporated in a given Act. Bureaucrats who knowingly ignore such rights make themselves personally liable, both for criminal prosecution and for civil litigation.

Furthermore, the harassment of homeschoolers is in conflict with many Australian laws, for a start it is age-discrimination. Also, the denial of educational methods that are accepted in other States and abroad, violates international free trade agreements, as well as the Australian Constitution, e.g. article 92, as well as accepted political directions, such as set out in the Hilmer program on competition policy.

From this perspective, the Education Amendment (Home Schooling) Regulation 1998 appears to be invalid and, accordingly, it will be perfectly legitimate for homeschoolers to ignore these proposals, even if they were enacted as NSW law. But even within its narrow and legally invalid framework, these proposals do not make sense. The proposals are unworkable and raise more points than they 'clarify', such as:

  • How can compliance with the regulations be measured? One example (out of many) is the difficulty, if not impossibility, to measure commitment to homeschooling, as proposed. Isn't it obvious that homeschoolers are more committed to homeschooling than to school? Procedurally, this looks outright ridiculous and it is also contrary to all principles of law.

  • Can the respective family view and dispute the findings of such authorised persons? Is an appeal possible against the conduct and advice of such authorised persons? What if the 'evidence' of authorised persons is denied by parents? Will the word of ONE authorised person prevail against the word of TWO parents?

  • What does it take to become an authorised person? How can people who lack sufficient knowledge and background in homeschooling decide who is fit to homeschool? Can homeschooling parents become authorised and review their own situation?

  • Can homeschooling families apply directly to the Minister, thus bypassing the authorised persons altogether? What if many homeschoolers decide not to work with the authorised persons and instead demand to speak to the Minister? Will such cases be rejected on this ground alone?

  • Do homeschooling parents who are registered as teachers in NSW also have to comply and be evaluated by such an authorised person? In other words, is a teacher allowed to teach at school, but not at home? If so, doesn't this constitute a downgrading of the professional recognition of all existing teachers? Has the Teacher's Union been consulted on this point?

  • It is a common principle in law that someone is only regarded as guilty after sufficient evidence is gathered, without violating the privacy of the people affected in the process. One would expect this to be even more the case when children are affected by legal decisions. The proposals turn homeschoolers into second-rate people, who have to provide evidence of their own innocence.
The many legal uncertainties and grey areas make the proposals unworkable in practice. Moreover, they constitute outright violations of natural law and what is common in other laws.

What perhaps hurt most is that the people who put this piece of legislation together lack sufficient understanding of what homeschooling is about. The focus is on teaching and learning programs, on facilities and equipment, and on premises requirements. This may be common practice in the case of school-based teaching, but it is inappropriate in the case of homeschooling. The demand for records of progress in 'key learning areas' is in conflict with methods such as natural learning, the very area where the biggest growth in homeschooling is taking place.

There are many journals and newsletters devoted to homeschooling in Australia. There even are Internet sites, newsgroups and mailing lists entirely dedicated to discussing these kinds of matters. It seems that the proposals have been put together without a decent effort to consult people with a homeschooling background.

In conclusion, I hereby call for the resignation of the persons responsible for this shameful cause of events.


Sincerely,

Ben Mettes
Managing Director
Quintessence Pty.Ltd.
PO Box 50
Caboolture 4510 Australia



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