Last year, the Justice and Community Safety Directorate of the ACT Government released a Discussion Paper which outlined areas for reform and posed questions about amendments to the ACT’s anti-discrimination laws. AACS made a submission which you can read here.
On 1 June the Human Rights Minister, Tara Cheyne, released an Exposure Draft Bill and accompanying Fact Sheet for consultation and feedback by 1 July. AACS has raised a number of concerns about the Exposure Draft in meetings with the ACT Government and Opposition and will be providing formal feedback as part of the consultation.
In particular we are concerned about a new definition of ‘religious educational institution’ which means that a school must be ‘associated with a religious body and does not a commercial purpose as its sole or main purpose’. The ‘religious body’ restriction leaves independent Christian schools that are not aligned to a particular church in doubt as to whether they are covered by the exceptions contained within s 46. The Government conceded that this was not their intention and provided AACS with written assurances that they ‘will amend the final Bill to correct this drafting issue and ensure that there is no change to the definition of religious educational institutions.’ in their letter to us, which you can read here.
AACS also has concerns about the more restrictive exception available to voluntary bodies by adding a ‘reasonable, proportionate and justifiable’ test to the discrimination of new members. This could create unintended consequences for our school associations and boards which have a clear set of criteria for membership and rely on this exception to maintain the religious ethos and direction of their school.
AACS will be making a submission on behalf of member schools. Community members are also able to provide feedback at https://yoursayconversations.act.gov.au/discrimination-law-reform