1. The Context of Awakenings

1.1 From the Murray to the Sea

The resources of the Awakenings Religious Education Curriculum are provided to support
and enliven learning and teaching in Religious Education throughout the Diocese of
Ballarat. In particular, they are designed for use by religious educators in the Catholic
primary schools and secondary colleges located and operated within the diocese.
With its various landscapes and ecological systems, its economies of agriculture,
manufacturing and service provision, its communities of indigenous, settlement, post- war
and recent Australians, the land of this diocese extends across Western Victoria from the
Murray River to the Southern Ocean.

It is in this land, in communities large and small, isolated and yet connected, that Catholic
organizations find their place and their mission, sometimes in seasons of growth and
sometimes in seasons of decline.

From their first days in this land, Catholics have been involved in schooling.
‘Well before Ballarat became the focal point of a vast Western Victorian
diocese....schools run by Catholic teachers were providing the rudiments of learning
to Catholic children. Some of these schools were little more than shacks with dirt floors
and hardly enough furniture for the children to sit and write on the handful of slates available.
Some were portable, made of canvas or calico, so they could follow the gold-seeking population
from one goldfield to another.’
(Jill Blee, From the Murray to the Sea, CEO Ballarat and Indra Publishing, 2004, p. 9)

Much has changed since the first Catholic schools were established on the rich soil along the
coast, on the goldfields of Central Victoria, and in the irrigation areas of the north. Catholic
schools no longer educate the majority of Catholic children, they no longer rely solely on the
financial support of Catholic people and the generosity of religious sisters and brothers, and
they no longer understand themselves to be the means of advancement for Catholic children
in a sometimes hostile society.

Yet Catholic schools are still central to the mission and work of the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat
today, and to the life-quality of students and their families. Inspired and governed by the
message and person of Jesus Christ, and committed to the physical, intellectual, social and
spiritual development of each person, they provide education of the highest quality to their
communities. In line with the self- understanding of the Church, they are welcoming to all
who share their educational philosophy. Through their distinctive educational style, Catholic
schools make an irreplaceable contribution to the intellectual, ethical and spiritual well-being
of their own community and of Australian society.

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2.1 For us and for our time

Catholic schools are inspired by a distinctive vision and seek to live out a distinctive mission.
Although Catholic schools may differ in many ways, they all seek to be religious schools in the
Catholic tradition. To be religious (re-ligare, to re-connect, to bind together) is to live in
relationship with all reality, including the transcendent source of reality we name ‘God’. To be
religious (re-legere, to re-read, to interpret) also means to see and understand reality through
the perspective of this relationship with God, who is made known in the ministry, death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A Catholic educational style is attentive to both these dimensions. It articulates and celebrates
the bonds of connectedness within all reality, human, non-human and divine, and engages
students and adults in that network of relationships. It also seeks to develop in learners the
cognitive, affective and spiritual skills needed to experience and interpret their lives as a
personal journey of meaning-making and growth toward truth and wholeness, in the light of
the Judeo-Christian worldview.

It is widely recognised that Australian society is undergoing profound and disruptive social,
economic and cultural change. Some theorists describe the conditions of today’s context as
volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). These conditions also affect both
religious traditions and educational organisations. Catholic communities and Catholic schools
face new challenges in realising their distinctive vision and mission in today’s context.
A significant challenge for Catholic schools in Australia today is the presence of a plurality of
worldviews and cultural traditions at all levels of society, including among the members of
school communities. For some people, their worldview is shaped by a religious faith tradition;
for others, their worldview does not include reference to a transcendent reality or God; for
still others, a spirituality arising from their indigenous culture or other traditions shapes their
worldview and outlook on life. Many Australians live ‘in between’ religious and nonreligious
worldviews, neither identifying with particular religious faith traditions nor rejecting all
spiritual or transcendent realities. The 2016 Australian Census indicated an increasingly
complex plurality of religious traditions and nonreligious affiliations.
It is a fact that today’s society has a multi-cultural make-up, accentuated by
globalisation. The overlapping presence of different cultures is a great resource, as long
as the encounter between those difference cultures is seen as a source of mutual
enrichment...Education contains a central challenge for the future: to allow various
cultural expressions to co-exist and to promote dialogue so as to foster a peaceful
society. (Educating for Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools, 2013)

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Recognising these changing conditions in which Catholic communities and Catholic schools
operate in Australia, in recent years the Victorian Catholic Education Commission (CECV) has
participated in a research project with KU Leuven (Belgium) that develops theoretical and
empirical frameworks for Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI), which encourage and
assist school communities to respond openly and creatively to the plurality of worldviews and
cultures within their own ranks and in the broader Australian community. This calls for a
renewed understanding of the distinctive vision and mission of Catholic schools. It has
implications for both the culture and ethos of the school in all its aspects (chapter 2), for the
personal worldview and quest for meaningful living of each learner (chapter 3), and for the
pedagogical style of religious learning in the curriculum (chapter 4).
The title of this Religious Education Curriculum, Awakenings, attempts to capture the
distinctive vision and mission of Catholic schools, and as they embody and relate to the
plurality of religious and nonreligious worldviews in Australia today. Awakenings is a way of
describing the goal, the content and the method of a Catholic schools as religious schools, in
the two senses described above: we are awakened to the relational character of all reality,
including transcendent reality or God, and we are awakened to the ‘way of seeing’ that flows
from our own and others’ worldviews in relation to the Catholic faith tradition.
The Awakenings Religious Education Curriculum is the result of a collaborative project of the
Dioceses of Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst, and the Archdiocese of Hobart, undertaken in 2002-
2006, to provide resources for leaders and teachers in Catholic schools that address the
Catholic ethos of the school community as well as teaching and learning the Religious
Education curriculum area. This 2018 revised version of the Awakenings Core Document and
Curriculum Framework aims to strengthen the alignment of these resources with the
Enhancing Catholic School Identity frameworks and with the Victorian Curriculum Foundation
– 10 (2015).

Learning and teaching in Religious Education must respond to changing contexts and
circumstances. Awakenings offers an invitation, a structured approach, and an evaluative
framework to students, teachers, leaders and governors, so that they might respond
creatively to the challenges they face.
The National Catholic Education Commission Religious Education Framing Paper (2017)
challenges Catholic schools to respond to the societal, ecclesial and educational contexts in
which they operate. These contexts ‘offer challenges and opportunities to Australian Catholic
schools as they strive to offer high quality Religious Education that is faithful to the Catholic
tradition and responsive to the circumstances of the students and their families’ (p. 11).
In consultation with school stakeholders in the Diocese of Ballarat the following trends
affecting schools were identified:

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Directions in Australian society
• more interconnected and vulnerable to global issues and patterns
• awareness of the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural identity and character of Australians
• changes in the structure of work, family, community and social life
• public awareness of growth in world religions and non-religious affiliation
• high levels of wealth with increasing inequalities in some areas

Changes in the Catholic community
• decreasing participation by Catholics in regular worship and church-based activities
• broader range of beliefs and values held by Catholic people
• greater solidarity with Christians of other traditions, and people of other faiths
• fewer clergy and religious women and men providing full-time ministry
• more roles for non-ordained Catholics in pastoral ministry, governance, administration and worship
• stronger focus on community building and belonging
• increasing awareness the effects of history of child sexual abuse by church personnel and the
priority of creating safe communities for children, young people and vulnerable adults plenary council

Changes in Catholic schools
• clearer focus on the core business of learning and teaching
• changing governance relationships and structures with dioceses, parishes and religious congregations
• more students and families with little or no explicit religious participation
• greater awareness of accountability, standards, and risk management
• challenges of securing appropriate staff, including Religious Education teachers
• higher expectations to meet a range of student needs
• some anxiety about the diminishment of Catholic ethos of schools

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Directions in Church teaching on Catholic schools
• centrality of the integral development of the human person and the common good of society
• identifying the role of the school in the mission of evangelization
• awakening the religious dimension of all curriculum areas
• the contribution of Catholic schools to the common good of society
• the rich vocation of teaching
• the role of schools in promoting the dialogue of cultures, worldviews and faith traditions

Directions in the Australian educational context
• alignment of national curriculum frameworks around knowledge and skills in learning areas and
  capabilities aimed at promoting deep understanding
• renewed understandings of the relational dynamics of teaching and learning
• intensive and collegial professional development of teachers
• extended learning pathways and alternative learning environments for students, especially in
   the Post- Compulsory Years
• increasing impact of information and communications technologies in all curriculum areas
• articulation of professional standards of practice for teachers
• focus on reporting to parents and employability outcomes

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1.3 Guiding Principles
Awakenings Religious Education Curriculum is a response to these contexts. The challenges of
contemporary Catholic schooling are seen as an opportunity to enter more deeply into the
intellectual, ethical and spiritual riches of the Catholic tradition, and to seek ways to make
those riches available in a respectful dialogue with the world of students and their families,
and Australian society in general
The development of the Awakenings resources is guided by the following principles:
 it recognises that the beginning and the end of the educational process is a
unique human person, a learner who isin relationship with themselves, other persons,
culture, the cosmos and, in and through all these, with God

 its reference point for content is Christian revelation through the sources of Scripture
and Tradition, and expressed in the faith of the Catholic Church

 its reference point for methodology is pedagogy informed by the dialogical character
of evangelization, catechesis and Religious Education; a critical adaptation of Shared
Christian Praxis methodology appropriate for the range of religious and nonreligious
worldviews of students; and current research on creating rich learning experiences

 its reference point for curriculum structure is the Victorian Curriculum Foundation –
10, and the progression of learning in knowledge, skills and dispositions in all learning
areas and in general capabilities

 it recognises the essential educational partnership of home, school, parish/local
church, sponsoring religious institute and diocese, and locates classroom-based
Religious Education as one significant component in a broader, lifelong religious
education mediated by all these agencies

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 it explicitly relates education to the formation of moral character and the exercise of
virtue in public and persona life, and the promotion of individual and social justice for
the sake of the common good

 it draws on the shared wisdom and practical knowledge of practitioners and leaders
of Religious Education in Catholic schools in Dioceses of Ballarat, Sale, Sandhurst and
the Archdiocese of Hobart

 it recognises the increasing use of information and learning technologies in all aspects
of school life, and in delivering rich learning environments

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· we acknowledge that our schools are at the intersection of social, cultural, political
and religious aspirations and accountabilities
· we celebrate the rich diversity and shared purpose of our school members and of the
local communities they serve
· we assume that students, families and staff do not all share knowledge and
experience of the customs, rituals and beliefs of the Catholic Church
· we are committed to our schools providing excellent education based on proven
research in student learning, wellbeing and faith formation
· we aim to be inclusive of the faith stances of all members and encourage inquiry and
· we are confident of the integrity and value of the Catholic faith, and that schools
provide a point of contact for many families with the church
· we strive to promote spiritual growth for all members of the community through
transformative dialogue with all authentic worldviews and spiritualties
· we are committed to building communities that are safe and happy for students and
adults, particularly in the light of the experiences of child sexual abuse in the history
of Catholic education in Australia


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· learning experiences in religious education should be designed in the light of
evidence of student engagement and achievement
· effective religious learning occurs in a multi-correlational approach that
deepens learning through dialogue with others
· religious education should promote a post-critical capacity in understanding
and communicating religious texts and traditions
· religious education should reflect high quality practices in planning,
classroom practices, and assessment and reporting procedures
· we seek to make visible the religious dimension of all curriculum learning
areas in the light of the Catholic tradition
· we need to model lifelong learning in religious identity and faith formation,
integrating cognitive, affective, ethical and spiritual capacities
· we recognise differentiated valued learning objectives in religious learning,
according to students’ faith stance and level of schooling


· teachers need ongoing professional development in content knowledge and effective
pedagogies in religious education, building on the CECV Accreditation policies
· we need to create communities of professional dialogue for RE teachers, and to
provide time and resources to support them
· print and digital curriculum resources should promote an inquiring and post-critical
approach in religious learning

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· religious education teachers will develop skills of witness, specialist and moderation
to create multi-correlational learning opportunities
· teachers need opportunities and support to explore and deepen their own faith
stance and personal worldview in open and non-judgmental dialogue
· we recognise that teachers’ understanding and expectations of the religious
worldviews of students deeply impact student engagement in religious education
· school leaders, including Religious Education Leaders, need formation and support to
articulate and model the Catholic dialogue school ethos


· the levels and learning styles of students should drive our curriculum design,
learning strategies and assessment procedures
· a knowledge-based curriculum of religious education is essential, sequenced across
the levels and stages of learning
· pedagogical approaches in religious education should promote inquiring,
interpersonal, and critical thinking skills
· religious education should fire the imagination and extend the understanding of
learners and teachers
· we aim to develop cognitive, affective, ethical and spiritual capacities of all learners
at stage-appropriate levels
· we strive to engage students’ faith stance and spiritual maturity through prayer and
liturgy, meditative and retreat experiences
· religious education aims to integrate religious knowledge with ethical attitudes and
practical behaviour for members of church and society.