A momentous day: Equality Australia and Independent Education Union welcome Victorian discrimination reform

3 December 2021 – Equality Australia and the Independent Education Union Vic/Tas have today welcomed the passage of new laws that better protect LGBTQ+ Victorians and others from discrimination in faith-based organisations and schools.  

The Andrews’ Government’s Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021 overwhelmingly passed the upper house with the support of the Greens and key crossbenchers, the Reason Party’s Fiona Patten, the Derryn Hinch Justice Party’s Tania Maxwell and Stuart Grimley, the Transport Party’s Rod Barton and Sustainable Australia’s Clifford Hayes. The final vote was 22 in favour, 12 against. 

“Every Victorian deserves to live, work and study with dignity and respect, no matter who they are or whom they love,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.   

“Today is a momentous day and a huge step forward for fairness and equality. We acknowledge decades of advocacy by members of our community who have been fighting for this change and commend the Victorian Government on its continued commitment to LGBTIQ+ equality.”  

In her extraordinary speech in support of the Bill, Harriet Shing, the only openly gay member of the Victorian Parliament, spoke emotionally about how LGBTIQ+ people are denied equality “in a thousand cuts” of discrimination.  

“Thank you to the Andrews Government and all those elected representatives that have stood with our community in voting for this Bill, including the Greens who moved amendments seeking to further strengthen the legislation,” added Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia. 

The law removes carve-outs to the state’s anti-discrimination laws that allow religious organisations such as schools and services providers to discriminate against staff, students and people seeking to access services on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or parental status.   

Faith-based schools and organisations will be able to employ people who share their beliefs in positions where religion is essential to the role, and where it is reasonable and proportionate to do so. But faith-based organisations will no longer be able to fire or turn away LGBTQ+ staff who can do the job required of them.  

“Every worker should be confident that they are safe in their workplace, treated fairly by their employer, and judged only by their capacity to fulfil their role, not by their gender or sexual orientation, pregnancy, parental or marital status” said Deb James, General Secretary of the Independent Education Union Victoria Tasmania.  

“This reform brings Victoria’s outdated anti-discrimination laws in line with 21st century expectations. Students will no longer be robbed of skilled teachers, who also make schools inclusive and welcoming spaces for LGBTIQ+ students.  

“We commend the Victorian Parliament for coming together to support these reforms to ensure no more of our members are sacked or treated unfairly by religious schools simply because of their gender identity, family circumstances, sexual orientation or private beliefs.”   

The Victorian Coalition opposition voted against the legislation, and the Morrison Government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill threatens to override provisions in the new Victorian law that ensure a religious organisation can only discriminate against a person based on their religious belief when that belief is actually relevant to the role. 

“It is deeply disappointing that the Liberal National Coalition in Victoria has voted against protections for LGBTQ+ students, staff and people who are in need of services provided to the public by faith-based organisations,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia. 
“Efforts by the Morrison Government to override these hard-fought protections in Victoria and anti-discrimination protections in other states is an extraordinary act of overreach. 

“Our laws should protect all of us, equally, regardless of who we are, what we believe or whom we love. But the Morrison Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill fails to do so. We urge the Federal Parliament to stand together to oppose the bill in its current form.”

Media Contact: Tara Ravens 0408 898 154, tara.ravens@equalityaustralia.org.au