Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws
The Law Council of Australia (the Law Council) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC’s) consultation paper on Religious Educational Institutions and Anti-Discrimination Laws (28 January 2023) (the Consultation Paper), released as part of the inquiry into Commonwealth laws that effectively permit (though the operation of bespoke exceptions) religious educational institutions to discriminate against students and staff on the basis of their sex, gender identity, marital or relationship status.
The Law Council supports the:
- proposition1 that religious educational institutions should not be allowed to discriminate between students (current or prospective) on the grounds of their sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, or pregnancy, or on the grounds that a family member or carer has one of those attributes; and
- the corollary proposed amendment2 to repeal subsection 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (Sex Discrimination Act), which effectively permits such discrimination (through the operation of an exception on a prohibition) and related proposed amendments (albeit with adjustments).
The Law Council has long advocated for the repeal of provisions that permit religious educational institutions to discriminate against students on the grounds of sex, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy.4
1 Consultation Paper, general proposition A.1.
2 Ibid technical proposal 1.
3 Ibid technical proposal 6.
4 See, for instance, Law Council, Sex Discrimination Amendment (Removing Discrimination Against Students) Bill 2018, Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, 23 January 2018,  <https://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/publicassets/55fe0a9d-bb29-e911-93fc-005056be13b5/3570%20-%20Sex%20Discrimination%20Amendment%20Removing%20Discrimination%20Against%20Students%20Bill%202018.pdf>; Law Council, Legislative exemptions that allow faith-based educational institutions to discriminate against students, teachers and staff, Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, 21 November 2018, - <https://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/docs/f446c5d2-cbf2-e811-93fc-005056be13b5/3550%20-%20Legislative%20exemptions%20that%20allow%20faith-based%20educational%20institutions%20to%20discriminate%20against%20students,%20teachers%20and%20staff.pdf>.
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