Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 October 2018) . . Page.. 4154 ..
the forefront of fighting against discrimination and fighting for inclusion for their students.
One example, the Canberra Grammar School, under the leadership of Principal Justin Gerig, absolutely refuses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and aspires to provide a genuinely inclusive learning environment in his school. I want to take this opportunity this morning to commend Mr Gerig, and his entire leadership and teaching group and the school community, for their stand in support of all students at their school. However, the fact remains that religious and independent schools retain the legal ability to exclude LGBTIQ students and employees simply because of who they are. These schools will not be fully inclusive until this right to discriminate is removed.
Sadly, this is not a theoretical problem. This morning I would like to share with the Assembly an example that has been brought to light as a result of the recent public discussion in the last two weeks. This relates to Fred, a qualified teacher who had taught at a conservative Christian school for a number of years. He had excellent references and was very well qualified. Yes, he got on well with students and staff at the school. He left for 18 months and in that time his heterosexual marriage ended. He started a new relationship as a gay man.
On his return, his interview for reappointment went very well, but Fred was not offered casual teaching, a casual contract or part-time work. Other teachers less qualified than Fred were offered positions. Fred felt devastated. He is a well-qualified teacher with solid references. He was not given a reason for not being re-employed. Madam Assistant Speaker, this discrimination should not and must not be acceptable, especially not in our schools and especially not in Canberra. We are the most LGBTIQ inclusive and welcoming city in Australia. We have demonstrated that time and again.
In relation to community attitudes towards these exemptions that currently exist, a recent national poll showed that 74 per cent of Australians oppose laws that allow religious schools to discriminate against students and teachers. This shows the strength of public sentiment on this issue. I note that amongst those three-quarters of Australians who are opposed, a majority of voters for all major political parties in this nation—so including people who vote for the conservative side of politics—oppose these laws.
Given a 74 per cent national vote, I think it is very clear that the result will be even higher in the ACT, particularly given the result here on the marriage law postal survey, which was a full 12 percentage points higher than the national result on that particular issue of discrimination. As a proud human rights jurisdiction, we have to ensure that the correct balance is struck between the freedom to live free from discrimination and freedom of religion. It is possible to strike this balance, but we are not there yet. That is why I confirm today that the government will introduce legislative amendments next week to protect students and teachers from discrimination, including on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, race, pregnancy or intersex characteristics.