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Teachers say NO to defence in the curriculum

Teachers have been organising in their unions to take a stand against the military agenda in the school curriculum.


In August and September, Friends of the Earth's Nuclear Free Collective has been supporting teachers who have taken strong action around the militarisation in schools, including the nuclear propelled submarine challenge, where year 7-12 students are asked to design nuclear submarines, active ADF recruitment in schools and other not so explicit STEM programs in school that are sponsored by weapons companies with the open aim to create an 'extraordinary workforce'. These actions resulted in the AEU Federal and AEU SA making strong condemning statements on the issue. We also got nearly 200 emails sent to Education Ministers around the country of people expressing their concern about militarisation in schools.

Mere weeks after the announcement of the Nuclear Propelled Submarine Challenge, a STEM project for year 7-12, Friends of the Earth has been contacted by concerned teachers who are rising up to oppose the military-grooming and nuclear-glorifying program.

In primary schools, a program called Beacon is targeting year 4-6 students. This program is funded by BAE systems, the weapons company that is said to design and build the Australian nuclear submarines, with the intention to build "an extraordinary workforce".

Please take a minute to send an email to Education Ministers of Education around the country to take this matter to their department and ensure the immediate cessation of involvement with any AUKUS and war-promoting curriculum programs.

The Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) has written a great report about the disturbing role weapon companies and the Defence Department are increasingly playing in our schools: Minors and Missiles. And Teachers for Peace has information on this topic.

Several teachers have taken this back to their union groups and have passed motions, calling for the State Governments and Education departments to cease participation in this or any AUKUS promoting curriculum programs. A national coordination meeting for teachers is held this Wednesday evening via Zoom. Please contact [email protected] for the zoom details.

Friends of the Earth Melbourne's Nuclear Free Coordinator Sanne de Swart commented in Friends of the Earth's full media statement:

"The normalisation of militarisation and downplaying of nuclear risks in schools is a grave concern. Nuclear and military aspects in the curriculum fail to address health and environmental risks associated with both, as well as the drive to war. It fails to acknowledge Australia's significant and devastating history with nuclear, including the atomic bomb tests, uranium mining and the attempts to impose nuclear waste dumps, all which have and continue to affect First Nations communities disproportionately ."

The issue has received well deserved attention in the media, with The Australian, The National Tribune and The Bursar, as well as several radio stations such as 3AW, The Wire, 3CR Dirt Radio, The RadioActive Show, Tuesday Morning Breakfast and Solidarity breakfast, as well as Peace Pod covering the subject. 

As a direct result of the teachers' actions and the media commotion it created, the AEU Federal Execitive released the following statement on August 31:

"The AEU condemns this program, and the use of Australian schools by the Defence Department, in drawing secondary students into the government’s development of new industries focused on armament manufacture and industries associated with warfare. A politicised pro-AUKUS curriculum has no place in our schools, alongside other private industries who attempt to use schools as a vehicle for promotion of their own products and profits hidden behind spurious educational benefits for students."

In recognition of the potential harm caused to students by exposure and positive brand association through partnerships, the Victorian Education Department (VED) has a policy which states that alongside alcohol and tobacco  companies, “schools must not engage in a partnership with… companies involved in the sale/promotion of firearms and organisations involved in offensive or inappropriate activity”. Despite the breach of existing policy in this instance, rather than stepping in to halt the program or informing schools about the inappropriate association involved, the VED is actively promoting the competition on its website.


STEM Hub is an educational technology company, which “collaborate(s) with industry leading companies and government to increase brand awareness and interest in STEM careers”, creating experiential programs for primary and high schools across the country. STEM Hub is sponsored by BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturing companies, which stands to profit from “play(ing) a key role in helping Australia to acquire its first nuclear powered submarines”.  “Human rights groups have named BAE in a dossier submitted to the International Criminal Court. They seek an investigation into the contribution of BAE executives to serious violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen that may amount to war crimes.”

The Nuclear Propelled Subamine Challenge finished late September, but similar weapons-companies funded STEM programs will continue to be active in schools, as well as active ADF recruitment in secondary schools.


Are you a teacher that would like to take action?

Teachers who have been driving these actions are continuing to act on this issue with Teachers for Peace and Wage Peace. If you want to get involved, please get in touch with Teacher for Peace to see when the next meeting or action is happening.


Are you a parent or concerned community member that would like to take action?

Here are 4 things you can do:

1. Bring this to the attention of the school board at your (local) school and request them to boycott the program and speak out against it

2. Discuss this with teachers, especially STEM teachers at you school

3. Contact the Minister of Education on this issue either by using the pro-forma email or contacting the ministers directly: the Hon. Jason Clare MP – Minister for Education [email protected] and your local state or territory Education Minister.

4. Bring the issue to your local council meeting


Examples motions and questions to council:

This motion was passed last week at the AEU sub-branch meeting of the Virtual School Victoria.
This meeting of AEU members condemns the Nuclear Submarine Propulsion Challenge promoted by the Department of Education via their website, and run by the STEM Hub in collaboration with the Department of Defence.

The government spending of $368 billion on AUKUS nuclear submarines will require whole new industries in Australia, and beginning to draw our brightest teenage students into this war industry must be opposed. A pro-AUKUS curriculum that normalises nuclear powered submarines and other military technology has no place in our schools.

We resolve to refuse to refer students to this program or others like it, and we will refuse to promote it within our schools. We call on the Department of Education to cease all involvement in this and similar programs.

We encourage other AEU bodies to take up this resolution and to support a formal AEU boycott of this and similar pro-AUKUS programs.

This resolution was passed on Thursday 17th August. at the Australian Education Union - Benalla Region (representing public school teachers and support staff in Benalla, Violet Town, Euroa and Mansfield)

This meeting of AEU members condemns the Nuclear Submarine Propulsion Challenge promoted by the Department of Education via their website, and run by the STEM Hub in collaboration with the Department of Defence.

The government spending of $368 billion on AUKUS nuclear submarines will require whole new industries in Australia, and beginning to draw our brightest teenage students into a war industry is outrageous. A politicised pro-AUKUS curriculum has no place in our schools. 

We don’t intend to refer students to this program or others like it, or to promote it within our schools.  We call on the Department of Education to cease all involvement in this and similar programs.

We encourage other AEU bodies to support this resolution and a formal boycott of this and similar pro-AUKUS programs.

This motion was passed at two regional meetings earlier this year (Maryibynong and the Inner City).

Australia's announced acquisition of nuclear submarines will escalate the arms race in our region, increase the likelihood of war between the US and China, with Australia's involvement, and cost an estimated $368 billion.

The submarines are a dangerous waste of money, in the face of a cost-of-living and climate crisis, and funding shortages for school, hospitals, housing and social services.

Every facility built to support these submarines turns the host city into a military target. The submarines and the weapons-grade uranium they contain pose an environmental and nuclear proliferation risk. The government is disregarding Indigenous voices by planning to eventually dispose of the reactor cores on Indigenous land.

AEU .... Region therefore resolves to:

1. Reaffirm the AEU’s opposition to the AUKUS pact

2. Request that AEU Victoria Branch organise a contingent of members to future rallies opposing AUKUS.

3. Correspond with our nearest senior Federal Labor member to voice against nuclear subs and for a more socially useful use of the $368 billion such as immediately fully funding the Student Resource Package for government schools, funding schools to reduce class sizes and provide more planning time, and reversing government cuts to students with special needs.

4.  Request that AEU Victoria Include an article in the next newsletter outlining the case against AUKUS to the membership.


On August 14 the Hume City Council was asked these two questions by a concerned teacher and community member:

1. In line with Hume City Council’s position endorsing the ICAN Cities Campaign and the principles set forth in the 2018 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, will Council write to the Federal Government opposing the acquisition of nuclear submarines?
Like other councils (such as Merribek Council) and forward-thinking countries such as New Zealand, I would like to see Hume City Council continue to support these endeavours that embrace a safe and nuclear free world.

2. Will Hume City Council write to the State Government urging them to remove promotional material for the Nuclear-Powered Submarine Propulsion competition? If the inclusion of unrepresentative nuclear curriculum becomes accepted and normalized in Victoria’sschools, our children will not be able to imagine a nuclear free future.

To which Hume City Council responded:

1. We note Council’s endorsement in 2019 of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear
Weapons (ICAN) Cities Campaign and the letter sent by Hume City Council to the Federal Government and opposition to request that Australia sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Hume City Council is one of 43 Australian councils that support the
Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons.

The introduction of nuclear propelled submarines to Australia could potentially have far reaching health consequences, especially if Port Phillip Bay were to be a docking area for the submarines. In recognition of Council’s existing position as a supporter of the ICAN
Cities Campaign, it is proposed that a Briefing Note be provided to Councillors explaining the community health impacts of nuclear submarines in greater detail and focussing on expected impacts to members of our community and informed by the Medical Association
for the Prevention of War Australia.
Additionally, it is proposed that Council’s community environment advisory committee, the Hume Sustainability Taskforce, be consulted on this question and its feedback be provided to Council to further assists its decision making on this issue.

2. It is proposed that Councillors be provided with more information as part of the above-mentioned Briefing Note in order to inform their decision making on this issue.


Please contact us via [email protected] if you have any question or if you are involved in a group that is taking action on this, so we can amplify your efforts.

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