Save Victorian Religious Schools' Identity and Culture
Update 3 Dec 2021. Today the Victorian Parliament passed the legislation to narrow religious exceptions to the Equal Opportunity Act regulations, that will now make it illegal for faith-based schools and institutions to hire workers who share their ethos. As a result, Victorian parents and faith communities can only hope that the federal Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 is passed in early 2022.
UPDATE 27 OCT 2021. The bill was introduced into the parliament this morning. It is to be read a second time tomorrow.
UPDATE 15 OCT 2021. This Government bill is expected to be tabled soon but the date is still unknown. The next sitting week commences Tuesday 26 Oct 2021.
With Melbourne in continuous lockdown since August 6, it is unlikely that widespread consultations, about the removal of religious exemptions from the EOA (2010), have taken place.
With time of the essence, we strongly encourage you to write to Jaclyn Symes MLC, asking whether she has made this draft bill accessible to multicultural Melburnians, multi-faith Victorians and parents of school-aged children.
Questions for the Attorney-General:
- Have stakeholders groups been allowed time for careful consideration?
- To what extent have faith-based school communities been approached?
- Has the background to this bill been translated into other languages, such as for the Aboriginal, Arabic, Afghan, Chinese, Croatian, Greek, Indian, Italian and Vietnamese communities? Over one million Victorians speak a language other than English at home and over 200,000 Victorians have limited English proficiency.
The Australian Census of 2016 ABS statistics show that of all Victorian students attending secondary schools, 11% are in Government schools with a significant 4.9% in Catholic schools and 4.0% in non-Government schools. 1 in 5 primary and secondary students in Melbourne attend Catholic schools. The number of students enrolled in Victorian independent schools grew 2.67 % in 2020. Parents are stakeholders. Who has consulted with them?
Here is the email address for Jaclyn Symes:
Also, write to your local Victorian Member of Parliament. You can click here to find your MPs and their contact details.
Please share with family, friends, school and community leaders.https://citizengo.org/en-au/204623-save-victorian-religious-schools-identity-and-culture
This bill must not be rushed through during a State of Emergency in Victoria, Australia.
In the midst of the longest and harshest COVID-19 lockdown, as of 3 October 2021, the Victorian government’s Attorney-General, Jaclyn Symes, is swiftly moving to introduce legislation attacking institutions’ religious identity and culture.
Parents are concerned Ms Symes’ changes to the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act will place restrictions on the freedom of religious schools - where they send their kids - to preference those of their own religious beliefs except where that was an “inherent requirement” of the position.
So if it is only the religious education teacher and co-ordinator, and perhaps the principal and vice-principal, who have to share the faith ethos, what happens when a teacher’s beliefs clash with that of the religious school?
What recourse does a religious school have if... :
...the school nurse recommends the contraceptive pill without the parents’ or the school’s knowledge?
...the maths teacher promotes student activism on LGBTQ issues and/or refers students to social media and online sources for students to become involved and/or explore their gender identity?
...the librarian recommends books or reference materials promoting views opposed to the doctrines or beliefs or values of the school to be available in the school library?
...the school counsellor recommends abortion or gender reassignment to deal with challenges a student is facing?
...the staff member openly promotes a view of marriage contrary to the view of the school that marriage is the union of a man and a woman? This has already happened in Victoria and created a difficult situation.
...the male teacher, identifying as female, seeks access to female school toilets/change rooms, or wants children to call him “Miss”.
The current religious protections enable religious schools to deal with these situations sensitively in a way that, while respectful of staff who hold other views, does not conflict with the religious values and beliefs of the school.
If the grounds on which a staff member can be hired or fired would be restricted to “religious belief” alone, would the biological world view, that human beings are immutably biologically male or female, be considered a religious belief?
Political parties have the right to only employ staff who promote their values and policies, and to not hire or to fire staff who do not. Why should the right of religious schools to do the same be any different?
These changes would also be in contravention of the right to religious freedom enshrined in Article 18 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which includes the right to associate with people of the same beliefs and values such as having their children educated in faith-based schools that uphold those beliefs and values.
The proposed changes would also not respect the freedom of parents enshrined in Article 18 (4) “to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.” Rather, the proposed changes discriminate against parents who choose to send their children to religious schools for the very religious moral framework they provide.
You can tell the Victorian Attorney-General, “Don’t legislate changes on religious schools” by signing the petition.
Sign this petition now!
Petition to: Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes