20 October 2022 – The Victorian Opposition’s attempt to wind back protections from discrimination in religious schools is an alarming step backwards for all Victorians and the broader community, national LGBTIQ+ rights organisation Equality Australia says.
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown said Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy was playing politics with the lives and livelihoods of workers across the state.
“It is disappointing to see the Opposition Leader resorting to the same divisive and damaging politics that led to the downfall of the Morrison government,” she said.
Last December the Andrews’ Government’s Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021 passed the upper house with an overwhelming majority of 22 votes to 12.
The long-overdue reforms, which came into effect in June this year, prevent religious organisations and faith-based schools from discriminating against staff and students based on their sexuality, gender identity or marital status.
However, they are able to employ people who share their beliefs in positions where religion is inherent to the job. The law also recognises their right to provide religious teachings and instil their religious ethos.
Mr Guy yesterday said he would amend the law to give more power to faith-based schools to hire all school staff on the basis of religion and not just those in relevant positions.
“Every worker in Victoria, regardless of their sexuality, faith or gender identity, deserves the right to be treated fairly and judged on their capacity to fulfil their role,” Ms Brown said.
“Last year’s landmark reforms brought the state into line with 21st-century community expectations, ensuring that students would not be robbed of skilled teachers and the staff who make schools inclusive and welcoming spaces.
“These laws already allow faith-based schools to hire people who share their beliefs in positions where religion is essential to the role, and where it is reasonable and proportionate to do so.”
Ms Brown said the Victorian Opposition was opening the door to unfair and discriminating hiring practices on a range of grounds that extended well beyond the LGBTIQ+ community.
“Allowing schools to hire based on religious beliefs just provides a cover for other forms of discrimination, such as schools insisting employees believe gay people must remain celibate or the birth of a child outside wedlock is something to be ashamed of,” Ms Brown said.
“Every Victorian deserves the right to be hired on their abilities and experience, and to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of who they are, what they believe or those they love.”
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