Bad News

Issue Guide:

How a law to prevent “conversion” practices could suppress care

1. The issue in brief

According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 11 August 2023, the NSW Government is proposing laws that may affect the way teachers, chaplains and counsellors interact with students at school. 

We all agree that trying to force people to change their sexual orientation is just wrong. We all want to outlaw these coercive practices. Unfortunately, there are significant unintended consequences of the Government’s proposal. These proposed laws threaten to gag or intimidate teachers motivated by their faith who want to support young people who have questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity. It may also criminalise the actions of parents genuinely trying to support their children.

2. What could this mean for your sons and daughters at Christian schools?

The full roll out of the reform package could criminalise a pastoral conversation that a teacher has with a young person who is struggling with questions about their gender identity or exploring their sexual orientation. 

Once implemented, some teachers at your Christian school may feel threatened by the laws. It may mean they avoid contact with a child who simply needs support. For other staff, led by their conscience, it could mean facing a fine or even jail time. 

The law could also restrict the preaching and teaching of traditional Christian morality and values in schools and churches. Even though the majority of Christian school  parents (in one large survey with over 8,500 responses, 74%) say they parents have chosen their Christian school because of the Christian values and teaching.

3. What can you do?

If you live in NSW, contact your local member today, which you can do below.

Issue Guide:

Review of Anti-Discrimination Act in NSW

1. The issue in brief

The NSW Attorney General, Michael Daley, has asked the NSW Law Reform Commission to review the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). This could have a significant impact on Christian and other faith-based schools, but also people of faith in NSW more broadly. 

The Terms of Reference which determine the scope for the review are very broad, “to review and report on the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)”. The Commision is asked “whether the Act could be modernised …” to “… reflect contemporary community standards”.  This often means fundamental and inalienable human rights are simply ignored if they are politically unpopular – not an appropriate basis to protect human rights.

2. What could this mean for your sons and daughters at Christian schools?

The potential implications for Christian schools are wide-ranging and could include far more restrictions on our ability to choose staff who share our beliefs.  This is an essential element of Christian schools being able to provide the high quality, caring and compassionate education which you have chosen for your children.

3. What can you do?

Sign up below and we’ll keep informed as the review progresses. Share your story about how the faith of teachers and staff makes a difference at Christian schools.

What changes are proposed for Christian schools?

Christian schools employ Christian staff. People who believe Christian teachings and seek to live in accordance with these beliefs. They serve their students as a way of living out those beliefs. 

When teachers and staff live out their faith, it creates a unique culture and school experience that an increasing number of Australian parents choose for their children.

From 2023, this could all be lost. Especially if proposals in a discussion paper from the Australian Law Reform Commission are put into practice.

Wait, how did we get here?

In November 2022, the Attorney-General of Australia, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP, referred the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to consider potential reforms to Federal anti-discrimination laws and how they apply to educational institutions.

On 21 January 2023, the ARLC released a Consultation Paper with “proposals for changing the way Commonwealth anti-discrimination law applies to religious schools and other educational institutions.”

These proposals are massive. What will these changes mean? Here’s what some other groups are saying. 

The Presbyterian Church of Australia in the State of New South Wales:

The proposals in the Commission’s paper will compromise the ability of Christian schools to provide what many Christian parents desire for their families, and thus will undermine the liberty of parents to raise their children in consistency with their Christian faith.

The Institute of Public Affairs:

The ALRC’s proposals would give government bodies such as the Australian Human Rights Commission powers to control what faith-based schools do and say.

In short, as Associate Professor in law, Neil Foster notes:

“…when we come to the substantive recommendations, what we find is that at almost every point, balancing clauses currently in force to allow religious schools and colleges to operate in accordance with their faith, are to be abolished.”

Christian teachers and staff are the heart of Christian schools. By removing the ability of Christian schools to hire people who live and breathe the Christian faith, the Government is removing the very heart of what makes Christian schools special. 

There is still time to speak up.

The ALRC is now reviewing submissions and must provide its report to the Attorney-General by 21 April 2023.

What can you do?