Weekend Wrap for 14 May 2023
Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 14 May 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
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At the National Level
The Anglican Church’s public affairs unit has backed a push to review the lifetime entitlements of Australian governors-general, as survivors lobby for Dr Peter Hollingworth to be stripped of his $600,000-plus taxpayer-funded salary and perks over his mishandling of child abuse complaints when he was archbishop of Brisbane. The church’s professional standards board last month found Hollingworth committed numerous counts of misconduct in the 1990s, including allowing paedophile clerics John Elliot and Donald Shearman to remain in the ministry despite knowing they had sexually assaulted children, and failing to support victims. (8 May 2023)
Read more at The Age
Calvary National CEO Martin Bowles said that the ACT Government’s unilateral decision to take over the running of the Calvary Public Hospital comes amid a “difficult conversation” around religious versus secular delivery of health and aged care services. Announced on 10 May by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith, the compulsory acquisition of Canberra’s only Catholic hospital, operated by the Little Company of Mary, comes less than a month after a government inquiry into abortion and reproductive choice described Calvary as “problematic … due to an overriding religious ethos.” (10 May 2023)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly
State governments are being forced to strike confidential deals granting taxpayer-funded indemnity to church bodies for child abuse after an inundation of survivors’ claims led commercial insurers to abandon religious institutions in droves. In Queensland alone, the state government has now brokered temporary deals to offer indemnity for child abuse claims relating to 18 organisations providing out of home care and youth homelessness services, including Anglicare Southern Queensland and another four church or faith-based groups. The indemnity deals guarantee to pay out survivors on their behalf where institutions are financially unable to do so. (11 May 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Former governor-general and Brisbane archbishop Peter Hollingworth has given up his right to officiate religious services over concerns it was causing pain to sexual abuse survivors and creating division within the Anglican Church. Hollingworth said he had notified the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne that he would be returning his permission to officiate, a licence often granted to retired priests to allow them to conduct services, marriages, funerals, and baptisms. (12 May 2023)
Read more at The Age
Babies incapable of giving consent are having their genitals modified across Australia in life-altering, often devastating and unnecessary medical surgeries. These procedures, aimed at "normalising" the genitals or sex characteristics of intersex children, have long been lashed by activists as well as medical professionals, who are leading a new push to outlaw the practice. They say the surgeries - which occur in infants as young as two-months-old - are "unnecessary", "irreversible" and cause extremely distressing lifelong side effects. (12 May 2023)
Read more at 9 News
Around the Country
TAS: Real change is possible, and Tasmania's North-West Coast is a testament to that, Rodney Croome says, reflecting on how the region has changed since his childhood. He says that he uses his experience to prove to younger LGBTQIA+ people that change can happen. "I think it's important to take pride in the positive changes that happen in society. Tasmanians should be very proud of the fact that we've gone from the worst to the best when it comes to laws and community attitudes to LGBTQIA+ rights." (5 May 2023)
Read more at The Advocate
ACT: Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Christopher Prowse says he is “stunned and shocked” by the ACT government’s decision to acquire the current site of the Calvary Public Hospital in Bruce to build a new hospital. Archbishop Prowse criticised the government’s decision to begin the acquisition process to take control of the site in Bruce in Canberra’s north, ending 44 years of Catholic-based healthcare without “without warning or discussion”. (10 May 2023)
Read more at The Australian
SA: The South Australian Liberal Party is considering the addition of a "pride branch", creating contention with the right wing of the party. This new "pride branch" would be for gay and transgender Liberal supporters and allow them to debate gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and Queer issues. The initiative, however, is not expected to pass the Liberal party’s state executive administrative board’s conservative majority. (11 May 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer
VIC: The Victorian Parliament and, for the first time, all 79 local councils across the state will fly the rainbow flag to mark IDAHOBIT on May 17 this year. LGBTQI advocacy groups have welcomed the move as "incredible", in light of far-right groups recently targeting councillors and council staff over drag storytime events. (12 May 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer
VIC: Victorian Liberal MPs on Friday morning voted 19-11 in a two-hour meeting to expel rebel MP Moira Deeming from the parliamentary party room, marking what Opposition Leader John Pesutto called a “real turning point”. The MPs also removed Deeming’s supporter, Renee Heath, from her party room secretary role. Pesutto sought to downplay tensions between moderate and conservative Liberals highlighted by the split vote, in which more than a third of party room members supported Deeming. (12 May 2023)
Read more at The Age
Commentary and Analysis
Liam Elphick: Victoria could protect LGBTQI people from hate. Why won’t the government act now?
"For more than 20 years in Victoria, it has been unlawful to vilify people on the basis of their race or religion. Quite rightly, this means action can be taken against white supremacist speech, or hate speech which targets, for example, the Jewish or Muslim communities. But other communities in Victoria have no such protection. It is lawful to vilify people on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics." (9 May 2023)
Read more at The Age
Chris Bonnor: Is NSW education in for big changes? Let’s hope so.
"One firm commitment she has made is to bring NSW public schools to 100% of the School Resourcing Standard. That’s fine, as long as the funding is for schools, and not for other costs that are only loosely related to schools – as is currently the case. But there is a related problem that needs an early and structural fix. Currently the Commonwealth contributes 80% of the public funding going to private schools, and the states contribute 80% of public school costs. Hence there is a perverse incentive for state governments to support the establishment of private schools. Once set up, the running costs are met by the Commonwealth and parents, rather than by the states. The Australian taxpayer doesn’t save by funding private schools but the state treasuries certainly save if someone else builds and runs them. This might help explain the expansion of ‘low fee’ private schools on the fringes of our cities." (11 May 2023)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations
Claire Harris: Beyond Purity: The Story Behind the Four Corners Investigation.
"Neither the schools nor Opus Dei have publicly offered any accountability or apology for the trauma they have caused. Privately, the principals sent each of us a copy/paste email expressing that they were “saddened by our comments” and inviting us to meet with them. After lengthy discussion, we decided that any such meeting would produce more harm to us than good: it would be deeply re-traumatising to come face-to-face with those who have perpetrated and been complicit in our abuse. As long as Opus Dei is embedded in every aspect of the schools, we do not believe they are capable of changing." (12 May 2023)
Read more at the National Secular Lobby
Si Gladman: Key statements absent from policies for new student wellbeing program.
"Two states are so far failing to implement the new National Student Wellbeing Program (NSWP) as agreed with the Albanese government, with Queensland and South Australia having omitted key statements about religious elements from their policy documents. While the new Project Agreement for the five-year federally funded NSWP – which replaces the former National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) – includes a clear statement that the program is “not a religious program”, neither Queensland’s nor South Australia’s guidelines mention that key requirement." (13 May 2023)
Read more at Rationale Magazine
Events and Campaigns
The Human Rights Law Centre are running a website for those who want to support an Australian Charter of Human Rights & Freedoms.
Visit the Charter of Rights website here
Just.Equal has created a tool to enable people to email Tasmanian MPs to urge them to support the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute's proposal to prohibit conversion practices.
View the tool at Just.Equal
A change.org petition has been started, calling for churches to lose their tax-free status and for "the religious influence of churches in Australian politics and society" to be limited.
View the petition at change.org
News Corp have begun a new podcast series, "Faith on Trial", investigating various stories relating to Hillsong, including alleged exploitation of staff, questionable treatment of Hillsong college students, and the trial of Brian Houston.
Listen to the podcast here
Reason Australia have started a new petition to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read and sign the petition at the Reason Australia website
Have you faced discrimination at a religious school or organisation? Equality Australia wants to know!
Humanists Australia have launched a Change.org petition calling for full separation of church and state in Australia. View and sign here.
The Australian Education Union is running a campaign calling for “every school, every child” to receive fair education funding. Support the campaign here.
Funding for public schools has been cut in the latest budget but funding for school chaplains has been assured. A change.org petition is currently calling on the federal government to fund youth workers rather faith-based chaplains in our public schools.
The Human Rights for NSW alliance has launched a campaign calling for NSW to pass a Human Rights Act.
That's it for another week!
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