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Religious and Spiritual Observance Procedure

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Section 1 - Summary

(1) This Procedure describes the process for enabling all students and staff to meet their obligations or needs in relation to religious and spiritual observance where practicable, including provision of religious or spiritual observance space and multi-faith chaplains.

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Section 2 - HESF/ASQA/ESOS Alignment

(2) HESF: Standard 2.2 Diversity and Equity; Standard 2.3 Wellbeing and Safety

(3) ESOS National Code of Practice 2018:  Standard 6 Overseas Student Support Services

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Section 3 - Scope

(4) All students and staff.

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Section 4 - Definitions

(5) Staff

(6) Student

(7) Chaplain

(8) Prayer Room

(9) Aboriginal

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Section 5 - Policy

(10) See Religious and Spiritual Observance Policy.

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Section 6 - Procedures

Part A - Summary of Roles and Responsibilities

Roles

Responsibilities

Director, Student Services Receives, considers and determines requests to use a VU room for religious or spiritual observance purposes.

Part B -  Procedures

Release for Religious or Spiritual Observance

(11) Where a student or staff member is required to undertake religious or spiritual observance activities during VU’s operating hours, they may request to be released from their duties or excused from class attendance or study requirements in consultation with their manager or Course Chair. 

  1. In the case of students, and where it is reasonable, VU accommodates these religious needs through measures such as flexibility in the provision of learning materials, assessments and access to facilities. Students should follow the Alternate Examination process should they require flexibility in exam dates or times. 
  2. In the case of staff, there is access to flexible working arrangements and/or leave entitlements as appropriate.
    1. The provision of Clause 49 of the Victoria University Enterprise Agreement 2019 apply to academic and general staff who are required to take specified days of leave for religious and cultural observance.
      1. A staff member may nominate, on an annual basis, specific days which that staff member wishes to take as religious and/or cultural leave, provided that:
        1. Subject to normal operating requirements, VU will not unreasonably refuse the grant of that leave as unpaid leave;
        2. A staff member may be required to provide reasonable evidence, such as a statutory declaration, in support of their request for religious and/or cultural leave.
      2. Applications from staff members who are members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture or religion will be dealt with under Clause 50 of of the Victoria University Enterprise Agreement 2019.
        1. Staff members who identify and are accepted as members of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities will be entitled to paid leave up to a maximum of five working days, and leave without pay up to a maximum of ten working days, per calendar year for the purpose of fulfilling ceremonial obligations. Such obligations may be 'traditional' or 'urban' in nature and may include initiation, birthing and naming, funerals, smoking or cleansing and sacred site or land ceremonies.
        2. Special paid leave may be approved by VU, up to a maximum of five days per calendar year, for staff members who are members of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities to prepare for or attend community organisation business, National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observation Committee (NAIDOC) Week functions, or other relevant cultural events.
        3. A staff member may elect to use annual leave in lieu of any unpaid leave granted in accordance with this clause.
    2. Clauses 42 and 43 of the Victoria University Vocational Teacher Enterprise Agreement 2019 provides for Ceremonial/Cultural leave. 

Use of University Facilities

(12) While all Prayer Rooms operate on a drop-in basis, VU will also consider requests from students and staff to use a VU room for religious or spiritual observance purposes. This may include a dedicated prayer room or other facility that can be used by the group in question. In considering such requests the following factors will be taken into account:

  1. Number of students and staff who would use the room.
  2. The need for a discrete facility that cannot be shared with others.
  3. The amount of time that such a facility would be used during University operating hours.
  4. The accessibility of other appropriate facilities in the community.
  5. Whether shared use arrangements are possible.
  6. Whether special provisions are required which would involve significant cost to the University.

(13) Whenever possible, chaplains will be provided a confidential space when providing support to students.

(14) Room bookings can be made via the Facilities website.

Appointment of Chaplains

(15) VU will consider applications from religious and spiritual groups operating within VU for the appointment of chaplains to assist in religious and spiritual observance.

(16) The appointment of such chaplains will be considered by the Senior Manager, Wellbeing Services who will make recommendations to the Director, Student Services who will confirm appointments.

(17) Where approval is given for a chaplain to operate within VU, they will operate within VU’s policies and procedures. The appointment will be subject to regular review.

(18) Requests for the appointment of chaplains must be made in writing to the Senior Manager, Wellbeing Services and should include materials and vetting as per the Manager, Wellbeing Services' request.

(19) Chaplains operate on a volunteer basis and are to be vetted/endorsed by the Council for Chaplains in Tertiary Institutions.

(20) The Director, Student Services will make the final decision on appointments.

Spiritual Ceremonies on Campus

(21) When requesting an external space on campus for spiritual ceremonies, i.e. Indigenous smoking ceremonies, the Executive Director, Facilities or nominee is to be approached formally in writing by the Executive Director, Moondani Balluk or nominee for authorisation.