A Victorian primary school has been criticized for allowing Muslim children to walk out of assembly while the national anthem was sung.
Cranbourne Carlisle Primary School says a religious month of mourning is the reason Islamic children are able to opt out of singing or listening to the anthem.
Lorraine McCurdy, who has two grandchildren at the school, told 3AW she was furious when school officials invited students to leave during Advance Australia Fair.
“Two children got up and said `welcome to our assembly’ with that a teacher came forward and said all those who feel it’s against their culture may leave the room,” Ms McCurdy said.
“With that about 30 or 40 children got up and left the room.
“We sang the national anthem and they all came back in.
“I saw red, I’m Australian and I felt ‘you don’t walk out on my national anthem, that’s showing respect to my country.”
Independent Senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie also hit out at the school, which promotes the ethos of ‘Many Cultures, One Community.’
“I find that absolutely devastating, we should all be singing the Australian national anthem and we should be doing that with pride,” Senator Lambie said.
“That’s part of us.
“I find these schools that are allowing this to happen disgusting.
“I don’t think religion needs to be brought into the national anthem.
“We should all be proud to be Australians and proud to sing the national anthem”
Principal Cheryl Irving said during the month of Muharram Shi’a Muslims do not take part in joyous events, such as listening to music or singing, as it was a period of mourning.
“Muharram is a Shi’a cultural observation marking the death of Imam Hussein,” Ms Irving said.
“This year it falls between Tuesday October 13 and Thursday November 12.
“Prior to last week’s Years 2-6 assembly, in respect of this religious observance, students were given the opportunity to leave the hall before music was played.
“The students then rejoined the assembly at the conclusion of the music.”
Kuranda Seyit, secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said he understood the school’s sentiments but called on more flexibility.
“I’m a Sunni Muslim myself but I understand Shi’a sensitivities and for them this is a very holy time,” Mr Seyit said.
“It’s a time when they are encouraged to reflect on the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and abstain from all forms of celebrations.
“However for young children I think things like these should be assessed on their merits and a balance found.
“People need to remember that these Muslim children are not against the Australian national anthem but are not allowed to be deemed to be celebrating.
“Maybe there could be a bit more flexibility.”
In a statement, the Department of Education said it supported the school.
“The Department supports our schools to be inclusive for all students, this includes understanding or respecting religious cultural observances.
“From 2016, the new Victorian curriculum will include new subjects such as respectful relationships, world views and ethical understanding, helping to build more inclusive schools and communities.”