27 September 2023

Discrimination laws to test schools

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The ACT’s Discrimination Act has been amended to ensure the Territory’s schools cannot discriminate on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, race, marital status, pregnancy or intersex status.

Announced by Chief Minister, Andrew Barr and Minister for Justice, Shane Rattenbury, the change will grant greater protections for vulnerable students and their families, as well as teachers and education staff.

Mr Barr said religious schools of all faiths played an important role and the Government supported the valuable contribution they made to the diversity of the ACT community.

“However, it is clear that previous exceptions allowing religious schools to discriminate against students and staff are out of step with community expectations,” Mr Barr said.

“We have confronted this issue that caused outrage in our community by introducing provisions based on current anti-discrimination laws in Tasmania.”

He said this sent a strong a message that there was no place for discrimination in this city.

“Exceptions in the Discrimination Act have been narrowed to ensure only a person’s religious conviction can impact their admittance or work at a religious school, and only if a school declares it intends to give preference on that basis in its publicly available policies,” Mr Barr said.

“The right to hold religious beliefs is absolute, but the right to demonstrate those beliefs may be subject to reasonable limitation to protect other human rights such as the right to equality, to freedom from discrimination and children’s rights to the protection they require during their education.”

He said the Government was in the process of commissioning a comprehensive review of legislation to identify any other discrimination against the LGBTIQ community, and would also be having a broader look at the exceptions framework in the Discrimination Act.

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