Media Release: ‘Chance to lead the nation’ – LGBTIQ+ groups welcome proposed NT discrimination reforms, urge improvements

18 July 2022 – National and Northern Territory LGBTIQ+ groups, Equality Australia and Rainbow Territory, have today welcomed the release of an exposure draft bill seeking to prohibit religious schools from discriminating against LGBTQ+ staff and improving discrimination protections for LGBTIQ+ people in the Northern Territory. 

“We welcome the Northern Territory Government’s commitment to reforming NT laws to protect LGBTIQ+ people from discrimination, no matter where we work, study or access services,” said spokesperson for Rainbow Territory, Dr Ahmad Syahir Mohd Soffi (they/ them). 

“This is a reform, years in the making, and gives the Northern Territory the chance to lead the nation in laws that protect all of us, equally.” 

The draft bill, which has been released for public consultation, seeks to:  

  • protect all types of paid and unpaid workers, including by removing exemptions allowing religious schools to discriminate against LGBTQ+ staff; 
  • introduce additional protections from discrimination and vilification for LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability, carers, sex workers, and people who are experiencing homelessness, socioeconomic disadvantage or domestic and family violence, among others;  
  • introduce a positive duty on employers, educators and service providers to take steps within their means to eliminate discrimination, victimisation and sexual harassment; 
  • improve the process for complaints, including by allowing representative complaints brought by an organisation on behalf of a group of individuals. 

“The Northern Territory is taking its anti-discrimination laws from a framework that was good for the 1990s into one that is better for now, with additional protections for people who are treated unfairly.  But this Bill will need improvement if it is to deliver on its promise of equal protection for LGBTIQ+ people, including Sistergirls and Brotherboys, in the Northern Territory,” said Equality Australia Legal Director, Ghassan Kassisieh (he/him). 

Equality Australia and Rainbow Territory will be making suggestions for technical improvements to the Bill that include: 

  • ensuring the religious exemptions in the NT Anti-Discrimination Act 1992 do not allow discrimination against LGBTIQ+ people (sections 37A and 51); and 
  • ensuring the attributes of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics are properly defined, so that all LGBTIQ+ people are protected from discrimination. 

“LGBTIQ+ Territorians do not have the luxury of choice if a local religious school or service provider discriminates against them or turns them away. That’s why this Bill needs to go further in ensuring the law protects everyone’s right to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter who they are or whom they love,” added Mr Kassisieh

“The bill provides a good start towards laws that ensure a fairer and more equal Northern Territory for all of us, and we look forward to working with the Northern Territory Government on improvements to implement that vision,” added Dr Ahmad Syahir Mohd Soffi. 

For media inquiries contact Matthew Phillips on 0408 541 717 or media@equalityaustralia.org.au  

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