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.

Update – you speak, the government listens.

Here’s some good news!

First, since the release of the discussion paper, mychristianschool.au was launched and thousands came to visit, just like you’re doing now. More than 900 teachers and parents from the community of Christian schools started sending in their stories. All about how Christian faith makes a difference to schools and, more importantly, to the young people they serve. Some people went further and told their stories to their local MP.

Second, the Commonwealth Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, announced he has provided the ALRC an extension and the report is now to be finalised by 31 December 2023. Apparently the discussion paper may need something of a re-think.

It could be a coincidence. Or it could mean the Government is doing its job. It’s listening to parents and teachers like you.

Do not underestimate the significance of the Attorney General’s decision!

More than that, don’t underestimate the power of your prayers, your stories and — for those ready to pluck up the courage — your messages to Parliamentarians.

The government is listening.

This extension is an acknowledgement by the government that these massive changes cannot be rushed through without serious consideration.

What can you do?