Australia Launches Inquiry Into Anti-Discrimination Protections For LGBT Students In Religious Schools 

Australia Launches Inquiry Into Anti-Discrimination Protections For LGBT Students In Religious Schools 
Image: Attorney General Mark Dreyfus

Australia has launched a historic inquiry into its anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQI students and staff in faith-based schools. 

Last week Attorney General Mark Dreyfus set out the terms of reference for the Australian Law Reform Commission and NSW Supreme Court judge Justice Stephen Rothman was appointed to head the inquiry. 

One in three students and almost two in five school employees in Australia are employed in non-government schools, “most of which are religiously affiliated”, according to LGBTQI advocacy group Equality Australia. 

At present, religious schools and faith-based organisations have exemptions under federal anti-discrimination laws. This means that religious organisations are allowed to discriminate against students, staff members and people who avail their services, on account of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or other attributes like marital status. 

‘LGBTQI Students And Staff Face Discrimination’

“LGBTQI people and people who affirm us have told us about losing their jobs, having to hide who they are, and having experienced discrimination while working or studying in religious schools because of their sexuality or gender identity or beliefs about LGBTQI people,” said Anna Brown, CEO, Equality Australia, in a statement. 

“Every student should be able to go to school and feel free to be who they are, supported to learn and safe from discrimination, and no teacher should feel they might lose their job because of their sexuality or gender, or because they support a student who is gay or trans,” said Brown.

The government has asked ALRC to conduct an inquiry and make recommendations for law reforms to ensure that religious schools are not allowed to discriminate against a student or staff member because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital, relationship status or pregnancy. The inquiry will also look into laws so that religious schools can preserve their right to recruit a new staff member who shares their religious beliefs. 

Justice SC Derrington, president of the ALRC said that the commission would closely work with with stakeholders to understand the key issues and will look at the outcomes of recent inquiries that have dealt with the topic. 

Law Could Be Bused As Camouflage To Discriminate Against LGBTQI People

LGBTQI organisations welcomed the inquiry, but said that it does not go far enough to address issues raised by the community. The scope of the inquiry is restricted to religious schools, and leaves out faith-based organisations that provides other services like hospitals or aged care. 

“The door should always be open to LGBTIQ+ people who need services, like healthcare, homelessness or disability support – no matter who is delivering that service. This review should consider closing gaps in our laws consistently so that all schools and organisations play by the same rules,” Brown said.

Just-Equal said it was concerned that the Government’s terms of reference appear to support religious schools giving perefenrce to staff who share their religious beliefs. According to Just.Equal spokesperson Brian Greig, it could be used as “camouflage” for discriminating against LGBTQI people.

‘Schools Must Not Be Allowed To Engage In Religious Preferencing’

“It must be very clear that if faith-based schools are allowed to engage in religious preferencing this cannot be used to justify indirect discrimination against LGBTIQA+ students or teachers,” Greig said in a statement.

“If schools are allowed to use discrimination on the grounds of religious affiliation as a loophole to discriminate against LGBTIQA+ people it will just result in a slow purge of LGBTIQA+ teachers from faith-based schools.”

“It is not enough to simply protect LGBTIQA+ teachers who are currently employed, our laws must also prevent anti-LGBTIQA+ discrimination in the workplace at point of application, just as with race ” Greig added. 

The Attorney-General has asked the ALRC to report back to the government by April 21, 2023.


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One response to “Australia Launches Inquiry Into Anti-Discrimination Protections For LGBT Students In Religious Schools ”

  1. Labor and Liberal are much the very same, they both do not care about LGBT individuals – what is the point of voting anymore anyway! Another review and another inquiry means a delay and to continue the discrimination!