“This needs to stop” Equality Australia calls for urgent laws to protect LGBTQ+ students

12 July 2022 – National LGBTIQ+ group, Equality Australia, has responded to new reports of discriminatory ‘enrolment contracts’ in religious schools, calling on the newly elected Albanese Government to urgently fulfil its promise to protect LGBTQ+ students and staff in religious schools.  

“When a student walks through the school gate, they should feel supported to be themselves, safe to grow and learn, free from discrimination”, said Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director at Equality Australia.  

“But outdated carve-outs in our federal laws and patchy protections in states and territories across Australia, currently allow religious schools in many places to expel or discriminate against a student because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

“This needs to stop. The newly elected federal government must act urgently to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in religious schools and other faith-based organisations.” 

The call comes after the ABC today revealed that 11 schools in the Christian Community Ministries (CCM) network may require families with children enrolled in the school to sign a statement that allows students to be expelled should they behave in a way that contradicts the school’s beliefs about gender or sexual orientation.     

According to the ABC reports, Christian Community Ministries runs schools across Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, with over 6,000 students. In a comment to ABC, the organisation claimed that its school communities are diverse and that they treat every student with compassion. 

“If Christian Community Ministries are serious about the diversity of religious beliefs on matters of gender and sexuality among their school communities, they would respect that diversity and withdraw the contracts”, said Mr Kassisieh.  

“No student should have to sign such a condemnation of who they are to get an education.” 

The Queensland Government is currently undertaking a review of the state’s anti-discrimination laws, and Mr Kassisieh said that the contracts underscore the importance of strengthening those laws.  

“These contracts are likely to be unlawful under existing Queensland law. But the fact that they exist demonstrates the need for the state government to go further as part of the review of the Anti-Discrimination Act to better protect the teachers who work in these schools.” 

“These shocking reports provide yet more evidence that discrimination is occurring in faith-based schools and other religious institutions across the country. No matter where they live in Australia, LGBTQ+ people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect at school, at work and when they access services.” 

“Before they were elected, the Labor Party under the now Prime Minister’s leadership promised to protect LGBTQ+ students and staff from discrimination in religious schools. We urge the new Prime Minster to urgently act to deliver that promise, and to extend those same protections to all staff working in any faith-based organisations, and LGBTQ+ people accessing services from religious providers.” 

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