ACT Government to legislate to remove exemptions in relation to students and teachers

Without notice or consultation the ACT Chief Minister has announced that the Territory Government is planning on ‘removing loopholes’ in Territory law allowing discrimination.

According to media coverage in The Canberra Times and ABC News the ACT Government introduced legislation next week to prevent discrimination against Canberra students and teachers based on their sexuality, gender identity, race, pregnancy or intersex characteristics.

The Chief Minister is reported to have claimed that there is a “legal loophole” created by the conflict between the Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT) and the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT). The nature of the claimed conflict is unclear and seems inconsistent with protections in the Human Rights Act for religious freedom –

  • the freedom to demonstrate his or her religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching, either individually or as part of a community and whether in public or private‘ – section 14(1)(b), and
  • [the right] ‘to ensure the religious and moral education of a child in conformity with the convictions of the child’s parent or guardian, the parent or guardian may choose schooling for the
    child (other than schooling provided by the government) that conforms to the minimum educational standards required under law‘ – section 27A(3)(b)

These provisions, and the general commitment of the ACT community to human rights, fly in the face of proposals to reduce religious freedom.

We have written to the Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Education Minister and their Shadows outlining the concerns of Christian schools but have not yet received a response.