Page 4616 - Week 12 - Thursday, 1 November 2018

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wellbeing and human rights of young people and the role of schools to protect and support all students.

The bill also introduces a limited exception allowing religious schools to discriminate in employment or contracting of staff, but only on the grounds of the religious conviction of those staff, and only where the discrimination is intended to enable, or better enable, a religious school to be conducted in accordance with doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of the school.

This provision is modelled on an equivalent provision in the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1998, which is amongst the best available in Australian jurisdictions, in terms of the protections it provides. While this exception will permit a level of discrimination against teachers and staff, the ability for religious schools to employ staff who have religious convictions that are consistent with the doctrines and teachings of the school is an important part of the right to religious freedom.

Again, this exception does not apply unless the religious school has published its policy in relation to staff matters and this is readily accessible to current and prospective employees and contractors. This is important to ensure transparency and consistency of any religious conviction requirements of staff.

The bill also clarifies that a general exception for religious bodies in section 32 will not apply to employment or contracting or the admission, treatment and continued enrolment of students in religious educational institutions. The amendments proposed in this bill are intended to rectify potential limitations on human rights arising from existing exceptions for religious educational institutions in section 33 of the Discrimination Act.

These amendments promote the right to equality and non-discrimination, the rights of children to protection and the right to privacy. The amendments will engage and limit the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. They engage and potentially limit the right of parents to ensure the religious and moral education of a child in conformity with their convictions.

However, in the context of the scheme of the Discrimination Act as a whole, these limitations are reasonable and proportionate in accordance with section 28 of the Human Rights Act. This bill is an important improvement to our discrimination laws which are aimed at ensuring that students and staff are treated fairly and equally in all of our ACT schools.

Madam Speaker, this bill also sends a clear and consistent message that we live in an inclusive, supportive city and that this government reflects the overwhelming views of our community. It is about walking the walk, not just talking the talk, when it comes to reducing vilification and discrimination.

It is my sincere hope that no ACT student or teacher will be ostracised or excluded from their choice of education or opportunity for employment on the basis of their gender, disability, race or sexuality. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Coe) adjourned to the next sitting.

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