Disappointment at ACHPER review

Disappointment at ACHPER review

Communal leaders say a report into controversial VCE coursework that accused Israel of persecuting Muslims avoided critical questions.

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

A REVIEW’S finding that VCE coursework accusing Israel of persecuting Muslims was “not a result of systemic or deliberate antisemitism” has been criticised by communal leaders.

A sample answer in year 12 VCE school assessed coursework in Health and Human Development stated, “An example of an individual being persecuted for their religion could be the Arab families living in Israel who practice the Islam religion rather than the Jewish religion. Including unlawful demolition of homes and forced displacement and detainment of these families.” 

Supplied by the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER), the sample response – seemingly a factually skewed reference to Israel destroying terrorists’ homes – was discovered by Mount Scopus College student Ramona Chrapot.

The review was conducted for ACHPER by consultancy HLB Mann Judd and businessman Peter Lewinsky, who stated it “finds that the mistake was the result of weaknesses in internal processes; principally, inadequate research and ineffective quality controls” but “not a result of systemic or deliberate antisemitism, or any other cultural bias”. 

It recommended ACHPER end its contract with the originating writer, engage a quality-control specialist and include “training and education on cultural awareness, diversity and inclusion”.

Panning the report, Mount Scopus principal Rabbi James Kennard said “the matter, and ACHPER, will not have closure” until questions “ignored by Mr Lewinsky’s report are answered”. 

These include why the coursework writer appeared to have drawn the material “from what can only have been an extremist, anti-Israel propaganda source”, why the material was not internally questioned, and why it took ACHPER six weeks to apologise.

Lewinsky told The AJN that while ACHPER acknowledges the delay in apologising was a mistake, that delay was not within the ambit of the review, whose focus was on the process leading to the material becoming part of ACHPER’s offering, not on how it handled events afterwards.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler and Zionism Victoria president Sharene Hambur welcomed the cancellation of the writer’s contract but said the report avoided critical questions.

“Why did ACHPER initially refuse to engage with stakeholders and agree to an independent investigation? … The heart of the issue is that someone put incredibly biased views into a completely unrelated product and it didn’t raise a red flag at ACHPER,” said Leibler.

Hambur added, “I’m not sure that the review’s recommendations would prevent a similar occurrence.”

Stating her organisation has adopted the review’s recommendations, ACHPER Victoria CEO Hilary Shelton told The AJN, “I am deeply sorry for the mistake we have made and the hurt this has caused … Some hold a perception that our response should have been quicker. 

“In reality, we have been working on this issue continuously since first finding out about it through the media.”

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