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MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA & NATSIPA recommend the Religious Freedom Bills be rejected

5 Feb 20

CAPA & NATSIPA recommend the Religious Freedom Bills be rejected

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) expresses serious concern about the implications of the Morrison Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill.  National Queer Officer, Shae Brown summarises CAPA’s position, “We represent the postgraduate students of our affiliates across Australia, and this Bill is poised to legislate the right to discriminate against all minorities, or in fact anyone, based on a ‘statement of belief’. This Bill is particularly concerning for LGBTQ students.” 

Currently in its second draft, the Religious Discrimination Bill is set to be reconsidered and presented to Parliament in 2020. In essence it overrides all Commonwealth, State and Territory anti-discrimination laws, including the Fair Work Act and the Anti-Discrimination Act. This Bill removes the rights of people to be protected if they are verbally abused or discriminated against in any way, if the abuser claims to be making a ‘religious statement of belief.’ What is deemed to be discrimination at present will be given a free rein if this Bill is passed. 

Students’ rights are threatened in a range of ways. According to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre these are some examples of how this Bill can affect students:

  • A transgender student can be told their gender identity is an illusion, and publicly outed.
  • An LGBTQ student can be harassed for living a sinful life.
  • A single mother can be told that her life is damaging to children and that she is living against God’s will.
  • A student with a disability can be told that their situation is a punishment by God.
  • A student who experiences sexual assault can be denied a morning after pill, on the basis of contraception being a sin.
  • Employment, academic supervision and other support can be limited and distorted based on  religious beliefs against women, LGBTQ students, people with disabilities, and people from minority faiths. 

“This Bill will undoubtedly generate tensions and divisions among people, and has the potential to open the way for a range of discriminatory decisions and actions” stated Shae Brown. “Students can be refused accommodation, have problems with placements and practicums within institutions that are connected to religious organisations, and a range of issues that we cannot even predict based on the vague and broad nature of the wording of this Bill.”

”As Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students, we face discrimination in the classroom everyday. This Bill would only exacerbate the existing racism and continue the denial of our culture and spirituality. The privileging and prioritising of Eurocentric settler colonial ways of being, specifically as it relates to the Abrahamic religious beliefs and practices will only centre Western ways at the expense of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Knowledge, cultural and spirituality systems.” says Robyn Oxley, NATSIPA Queer Officer.

“CAPA is concerned about this legislation, and we will encourage Postgraduate Associations to request a statement of position from their university executive. If this Bill is passed, CAPA will be calling on Vice Chancellors to take clear and ethical leadership in ensuring that all students are protected from both overt and covert discrimination”, says National President Romana Begicevic. 

For comment:
CAPA National President Romana-Rea Begicevic
M: 0414 792 540