Australian laws still allow schools to sack gay teachers

Religious schools Citipointe Christian College sign in Brisbane
Image: Swadge2/Wikimedia Commons

Laws allowing religious schools to sack teachers on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity should be repealed, advocates say, as Brisbane’s Citipointe Christian College is back in the news.

Citipointe Christian College has issued a “statement of regret” for distress caused by a withdrawn 2022 enrolment contract that suggested gay and trans students could be expelled.

Outraged Citipointe parents complained to the Queensland Human Rights Commission. The legal action led to the settlement and statement from the school.

However, in some Australian states, discrimination like this against students and teachers is sadly legal.

LGBTQIA+ advocates want the federal and various state governments to finally repeal religious exemptions that allow it.

Months ago, the Albanese government drafted a pair of bills on this, in response to an Australian Law Reform Commission report.

The Commission recommended scrapping provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act that allow religious schools to discriminate against staff on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.

However, the government hasn’t released the draft laws to do so and delayed their introduction for months.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he’d only move forward with bipartisan support. However, the Coalition hasn’t offered its final position on the draft bills.

Citipointe saga is the tip of the iceberg

But the delays are frustrating Equality Australia, Just.Equal Australia and Brisbane’s LGBTI Legal Service.

Equality Australia legal director Ghassan Kassisieh said the Citipointe contract was “deeply offensive” to most Australia.

However, if the school was located in some other states, discrimination against students and teachers is sadly permitted.

“In NSW or Western Australia, parents would be forced to agree with these outdated and offensive contracts just to keep their kids enrolled at school,” he said.

“What happened at Citipointe is happening elsewhere around the country and we are powerless to stop it without strong national laws, as well as fixing the remaining gaps in state laws.

“Citipointes are happening across the country on this federal government’s watch.

“It’s time for the Prime Minister to introduce the laws he promised at the last election, and protect all of us from discrimination, equally.

“We know the Bills are ready – let the parliament do its job.”

Discrimination unpopular with Labor voters, PM told

New YouGov polling commissioned by Just.Equal found over half (52%) of Australians oppose laws allowing faith-based schools to legally sack or refuse to hire teachers because of their sexuality or gender identity.

  • 59% of surveyed voters are against public funding for schools that discriminate, including 71% of Labor voters
  • 64% of Labor voters polled want teachers protected, only 35% of voters don’t
  • 65% oppose discrimination by faith-based service providers (such as hospitals, age care facilities, disability support services, charities, employment services), including 76% of Labor voters

“These results should give added impetus to protect LGBTIQA+ school staff and students from discrimination,” Just.Equal’s Brian Grieg said.

“If Labor wants to stop voters who care about discrimination defecting to the Greens or independents at the next election, it must take action to repeal laws that allow discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people in faith-based organisations.

“With the election less than a year away, Labor is running out of time to fulfil the promise it made to Labor voters that it will end discrimination in faith-based schools.”

Queensland and NSW governments must act

Queensland’s LGBTI Legal Service assisted in the complaint against Citipointe Christian College.

Director Jo Sampford said Queensland’s discrimination laws provide strong protections for students.

But Jo warned “big loopholes” in state laws still allow religious schools to sack gay and trans teachers “for who they are and who they love”.

She called on the Queensland government to change this before the state election in October.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre also said the NSW government must scrap the state’s own “broad and outdated” exemptions to protect students and teachers.

“All students should have the right to learn and grow, free from the fear of discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the Centre’s director Alastair Lawrie said.

Read more:

Fury over PM’s ultimatum on religious discrimination laws

Christian school suspended student for coming out as gay

Anglicare Sydney refuses same-sex carers in ‘alarming’ case

‘Fix this’: Ian Thorpe’s message to PM Anthony Albanese

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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