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Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021

Dec 3, 2021 | News, Parliament

I also rise to speak on the Equal Opportunity (Religious Exceptions) Amendment Bill 2021, which will strengthen Victoria’s anti-discrimination legislation. I will be supporting this bill today, and I do not think that is any surprise. Everyone is entitled to a safe and secure workplace free from discrimination. That extends to our education sector as well. No-one should be fired, expelled, denied services or treated unfairly because of their sexual orientation, their gender identity or their parental or marital status. The proposed amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 will better protect Victorian students, teachers, staff and people accessing services from discrimination by faith-based organisations. There will be some scope provided in the bill for discrimination if it meets a number of stringent requirements. This recognises that in specific circumstances there may be a requirement for a staff member of a certain faith. Currently there is a much broader scope for discrimination by faith-based schools, extending even to cleaners and gardeners. Every Victorian deserves to live, work and study with dignity and respect no matter who they are and whom they love. This bill is a huge step forward in protecting individuals from discrimination. These reforms will make a huge difference to the daily life and the mental health and the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ Victorians who work and study in religious settings and those who access services from faith-based organisations.

An important aspect of this bill will be also protecting students from being discriminated against by their school. The bill prevents religious schools from discriminating in establishing, directing, controlling or administering their institution on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or parental or marital status. This will absolutely stop vulnerable children feeling outcast and isolated in their own school, which often they do not have a choice in attending. Schooling years are absolutely formative in young people’s lives. It is vital that Victorian kids feel safe and accepted at school. More than that, it is important that they see the staff members equally respected despite their differences. This will make all the difference in the upbringing of our next generation.

I support these reforms to ensure no more Victorians are sacked, expelled or treated unfairly by faith-based organisations simply because of their gender identity, their family circumstances or their sexual orientation. This is an important step forward in improving the safety and fairness of Victorian workplaces. I commend this bill to the house.

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