Equality Australia welcomes ‘landmark’ reforms to protect LGBTQ+ workers in religious schools, urges Parliament to get the details right
13 October 2022 – National LGBTIQ+ organisation Equality Australia has today congratulated the Northern Territory Government and Attorney General Chansey Paech on introducing a bill prohibiting religious schools from discriminating against LGBTQ+ staff, alongside landmark reforms strengthening discrimination protections for LGBTIQ+ people and others in the Northern Territory.
“Our laws should protect all of us, equally. LGBTIQ+ Territorians can now look forward to greater protection from discrimination, no matter where we work, study or access services,” said Equality Australia Legal Director, Ghassan Kassisieh (he/him).
The Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2022, which has been introduced into the Northern Territory Parliament today, proposes landmark protections for LGBTIQ+ people as well as others who experience 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. Removing special carve-outs for religious schools and organisations mean that no one can be denied employment or turned away from services available to the general public because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics,” added Mr Kassisieh (he/him).
The Anti-Discrimination Amendment Bill 2022:
- protects all types of paid and unpaid workers from discrimination, including by removing exemptions allowing religious schools to
- discriminate against LGBTQ+ staff;
- introduces additional protections from discrimination and vilification for LGBTIQ+ people, people with disability, carers and people who are experiencing homelessness, unemployment or domestic and family violence, among others;
- introduces a positive duty on employers, educators and service providers to take steps within their means to eliminate discrimination, victimisation and sexual harassment;
- improves the process for complaints, including by allowing representative complaints brought by an organisation on behalf of a group of individuals
The Bill requires some improvements and clarifications, including to ensure it does not stigmatise Territorians living with HIV and hepatitis, to ensure that religious schools and organisations (such as accommodation providers) cannot rely on other loopholes in order to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people and to meet the needs and expectations of all affected communities including sex workers.
“We look forward to working with the Government and the Territory Parliament on ensuring everyone is protected from discrimination, no matter who they are or whom they love. They’ve done a great job to get us to this point, and fine-tuning the Bill, including to remove language which stigmatises people with HIV or hepatitis, will ensure it lives up to its promise,” added Mr Kassisieh.
“It’s very encouraging to hear the Attorney General indicate that the opposition is inclined to support the Bill, as every Territorian deserves to live, study and work with dignity and respect.”
“For decades, community advocates have worked so hard to imagine a day like today, and it is a special moment to see this bill presented to the Parliament by one of our own. The Northern Territory Parliament now has the chance to consider the bill and vote to ensure everyone has a fairer chance in life,” concluded Mr Kassisieh.