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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 October 2018) . . Page.. 4160 ..

I certainly do not stand to minimise the importance of religious freedoms. It is important, however, to recognise that our religious practices operate in a social context. An important feature of the ACT’s anti-discrimination framework and debates about competing views of rights is that we have a Human Rights Act. From the perspective of human rights, it is clear that the power differentiation in our schools justifies careful and considered attention to how students will be treated. It is unacceptable that students would be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, their gender identity or their sex characteristics. Further, signalling that students are somehow less welcome, by discriminating against staff for the same reasons, is equally unacceptable.

The role that schools play in our society is one that comes with great power. Students’ lives are profoundly affected by experience in our schools at crucial and formative times. Institutions have a profound responsibility to ensure that they place those students, and their wellbeing, first and foremost. We can, and we will, have schools that offer diverse religious and cultural education without institutionalising discrimination. Indeed, support in this Assembly for today’s motion is support for ensuring that our schools empower students to express their diverse beliefs and their diverse personalities as part of a cohesive and inclusive society.

Today’s motion is an opportunity, and it is also a call to action. Our longstanding efforts to promote an equal and inclusive society have already borne results. We will continue to make sure that we work to make Canberra a safe city for all its residents and to eliminate discrimination in all its forms. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

MR PETTERSSON (Yerrabi) (11.56): Today I stand in support of all LGBTIQ students and staff at independent or Catholic schools. No-one should be made to feel ashamed, or even threatened, because of their sexuality or gender identity. The way we as a society talk about gender identity and sexuality has a massive impact on LGBTIQ Canberrans, especially young Canberrans who may still be coming to terms with their identity.

When the federal government perpetuates a narrative that there is something wrong with a person if they are not heterosexual or if they do not identify with the gender of their birth, that is especially damaging. In legitimising the circle of debate on this issue, which is in fact just hateful talking points from far-right homophobic conservatives, the federal government has effectively dehumanised and devalued a significant proportion of our community. This is a disgrace.

I am glad that the federal government has now come out in support of closing the loophole in the law that allows for discrimination against LGBTIQ students at non-government schools. We should, and we will, move locally to ensure the same things for kids and teachers. The federal Liberals can show that they have truly had a change of heart if they expand their legislation to include teachers and other staff at schools. Otherwise this is simply lip-service to the notion that we are all equal and all deserve the same rights.

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