Time to overhaul discrimination exemptions
Our union opposes discrimination based on a student or staff member's personal life.
In late 2017 the Turnbull government commissioned a review of religious freedom, led by former attorney general Philip Ruddock.
As revealed by the media in early October 2018, the Ruddock review, which is yet to be officially released by the federal government, recommended amendment to the federal Sex Discrimination Act to provide “that religious schools may discriminate in relation to students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status".
The review also recommended a right for religious schools to discriminate against staff “on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status” provided the policy is advertised.
Despite widespread public concern with these recommendations and apparent commitment to make discrimination against students illegal, at time of publication of this article, the federal coalition government had yet to make any changes which would protect students from discrimination in schools.
We welcome attempts by other political parties to widen the scope of legislation to make discrimination against employees also illegal.
Our union remains steadfast in its support of our members rights to teach and work in safe environments free from discrimination.
No room for discrimination
Our union believes that current exemptions should be removed.
Practices in faith-based schools, and indeed in any endeavour conducted for the public by faith-based organisations, should reflect community standards and expectations.
Our union does not accept that the faith-based school communities in Australia are so fragile that they require exemptions from discrimination laws.
Our union believes that:
- all staff and students in schools deserve safe workplaces/learning environments; and
- staff in schools should not be discriminated against on the basis of their personal lives.
Faith-based schools have the capacity and resilience to continue to operate in the absence of discrimination exemptions.
Australia’s current community standards judge that discrimination on the basis of sexuality is unsustainable.
Time for change
Several jurisdictions in Australia do not have these exemptions, for either staff or students.
In these states, faith-based schools have flourished and enrolments continue to grow.
Not having the right to discriminate has not undermined the capacity of faith-based schools to operate.
However, some states are falling behind when it comes to
New South Wales’ Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 also contains exemptions for ‘private educational institutions’, not just faith-based schools.
This provision needs immediate change.
Members who wish to seek advice and assistance in relation to this matter can contact our union on FREECALL 1800 177 937. .