ALP’s Student Discrimination Bill an Important First Step

PIAC has welcomed the ALP’s Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018, introduced by Senator Penny Wong in the Senate this afternoon.

‘This Bill effectively ensures LGBT students can no longer be discriminated against by religious schools simply because of who they are,’ said PIAC CEO Jonathon Hunyor.

‘This is an important first step towards creating school environments which are inclusive of everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.’

Significantly, the Bill does not include any amendments to the test for indirect discrimination in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), something that had been proposed by the Government in earlier leaked amendments, and about which PIAC had expressed serious concerns. 

‘We welcome the fact the Bill does not undermine the existing test for indirect discrimination. All schools should be subject to the same rules in this area,’ Mr Hunyor added.

The Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum notes that the indirect discrimination provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act ‘will continue to operate in a manner that allows faith-based education institutions to impose reasonable conditions, requirements or practices on students in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of their particular religion or creed.’ PIAC welcomes this recognition that no changes are required to allow schools to act reasonably to maintain their values and ethos.

The Bill does not protect LGBT teachers and other staff against discrimination by religious schools, leaving in place existing exceptions in sections 37 and 38 of the Act.

‘There is still more work to end discrimination in schools. We will continue to push for the repeal of all provisions that allow religious schools to discriminate against teachers and other staff on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. All students, all teachers and all staff should be protected against direct discrimination in all schools’ Mr Hunyor stated.

If passed, the Bill would commence on 1 January 2019.

‘We call on the Parliament to pass these amendments in the final sitting week of Parliament, so that they are in place for the start of the new school year. Students should know where they stand,’ Mr Hunyor concluded.

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