Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 18 June 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
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At the National Level
Brian Houston did not report his paedophile father to police in order to protect the church, and bought his father’s victim’s silence to stop him going to the 'secular authorities', a Sydney court has heard. Houston, the founding pastor of the Hillsong megachurch, is on trial for one count of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person, for not reporting to police his father’s confession to repeatedly sexually assaulting a young boy who was a member of his church. (15 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Sydney Anglicans are in the middle of a global ecclesiastical stand-off over sexuality and colonialism after the bishop of Uganda, an ally of the Sydney Diocese, praised his country’s new laws that punish homosexual acts with life imprisonment and the death penalty. Sydney, one of the most conservative Anglican dioceses in the English-speaking world, sits with Uganda in an alliance of mostly African churches that have split from the Archbishop of Canterbury over theological differences, including the British primate’s refusal to take a stance against same-sex marriage. (16 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Age
Around the Country
TAS: Tasmanian advocates have called on the state to follow the Australian Capital Territory’s lead by banning unnecessary, non-consenting medical interventions on children with innate variations of sex characteristics. Last week, the ACT passed Australia’s first laws protecting intersex people from unconsented medical procedures. Simone-lisa Anderson, the Tasmanian representative on Intersex Peer Support Australia, said it was 'a monumental day for human rights protections.' (11 Jun 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
QLD: Pat Murphy, the president of Queensland Association of State School Principals (QASSP), has told ABC Brisbane that his association had long advocated for the state government to give schools the option of moving Religious Instruction (RI) to out-of-school hours. Mr Murphy said participation rates had dropped across a number of schools – including to as low as 15 per cent in some schools. While children with permission are taking part in RI for up to one hour each week, all other students are not allowed to continue with normal learning. (12 Jun 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Association of Australia
WA: Members of Perth’s LGBTIQA+ communities have gathered to voice their concern about the growing number of laws around the world that outlaw drag performances and restrict the rights of people who are transgender. The gathering was organised by new activist group Queer Liberation Boorloo who said they were concerned about the recent protest outside a Drag Storytime event at the City of Perth Library which drew a loud group of protesters, including a man who made Nazi salutes at the event. Organiser Nova Sobieralski said what they saw at the protest was 'terrifying'. (12 Jun 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
QLD: Trans and gender-diverse Queenslanders will be able to change the gender on their birth certificates without having to undergo surgery, in a development that advocates have called 'life-changing'. Previously, people could only apply to change the sex on their birth certificates where they'd undergone sexual reassignment surgery – an invasive, costly procedure that isn't readily available. The new laws remove that provision and instead require people to supply a supporting statement from someone they've known for 12 months or longer. They'll also allow people to formally change their name at the same time as an alteration of sex. (14 Jun 2023)
Read more at ABC News
ACT: Senators this week voted against the referral of the ACT government’s controversial takeover of Calvary Hospital to a formal inquiry. Nationals Senator Matt Canavan lodged a motion on Wednesday to refer the forced acquisition of the north Canberra hospital by the ACT Labor government to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee but a lack of support from independent Senator David Pocock closed off that avenue. (14 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Australian
Commentary and Analysis
The Age Editorial: Euthanasia law review must consider the thorny issue of dementia.
"...a particularly challenging issue for state Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas when she undertakes the review into the laws will be the push by some activists to allow dementia patients to be able to access them. Nowhere in Australia is this yet the case, and it’s rare globally, but reporting in The Age has shown the strong desire for this among many in the community. Others oppose the idea. It’s no niche issue. Dementia accounts for almost 10 per cent of all deaths in Australia and is the second leading cause of death after coronary heart disease. If you’re a woman aged 75 or more, it’s the thing you’ll most likely die of. Any expansion of the law, however, would be complex and controversial. At the heart of voluntary assisted dying laws must always be the word “voluntary”, and, as people lose their cognitive capacity, it’s difficult at the end to verify ongoing consent." (13 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Age
Maeve McGregor: The school funding wars are over: rich people won and the country lost.
"For at least 20 years, the bonds of citizenship and basic fairness written into our social contract have cracked under the weight of a series of attacks disguised as benign policy changes. Though rarely cited, chief among them is the way in which successive governments have allowed the civic mission of public education to be debased not only by the onward march of neoliberalism, but by the wealthy’s almost preternatural sense of entitlement. Unspooled from notions of the public good, the common thread which runs through the arid funding landscape for public schools finds itself anchored to ideas of competition and unfettered parental “choice”. Underpinning this shift in approach lies a logic which holds out the promise, or illusion, that the more the education sector can be refashioned in the mould of a marketplace, the greater the chances that excellence will triumph. Yet as any objective autopsy of the nation’s schools shows, what’s instead manifested is one of the most segregated education systems in the Western world, and one defined by impenetrable barriers of class, privilege and wealth." (13 Jun 2023)
Read more at Crikey ($)
Anthony Haneveer: Editorial - Schools must be supportive of gender diverse students.
"The obvious is the idea that there is something wrong with supporting - and that is the right word, supporting, not encouraging - children who are gender diverse. It is perverse to give the impression that one cares about kids while arguing that those students should not be accepted and instead have their identity denied. This is only made worse when you consider that it is coming from someone who claims to be representing gay, lesbian and bisexual Tasmanians." (14 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Advocate
Michael Schiffer: The type of school does matter when it comes to a child’s academic performance.
"Secondary private schools receive 80-90% of the government funding public schools receive. They should enrol a similar percentage of the disadvantaged students that nearby public schools enrol. Government regulation of enrolment and exclusion procedures should also remove discrimination against poverty, religion, disability, gender, and sexuality. Some of the highest performing education systems in the world are also the most equitable. No education system has achieved excellence for all students by separating them by family backgrounds. Australia’s schooling system requires substantial structural reforms if it is going to lift the achievement of disadvantaged students." (15 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Conversation
Raihan Ismail: The federal government’s ban of the Islamic State flag risks outlawing the very Islamic symbols the terrorist group has co-opted.
"The federal government this week introduced into the Parliament new legislation to outlaw the public display of 'prohibited symbols'. ... In seeking to ban the Islamic State flag, the government has unwittingly landed on a good example of the dangers of outlawing symbols based on religion, culture or history. The Islamic State terrorist group deliberately designed its flag to co-opt long-existing Islamic symbology. ... This is where the government’s legislation trespasses into gravely dangerous territory. The legislation does not stop at the Islamic State flag itself. It also seeks to ban the display of 'something that so nearly resembles' the Islamic State flag 'that it is likely to be confused with, or mistaken for' the flag. What this means is that the legislation risks outlawing the very Islamic symbols that the Islamic State has co-opted. That co-optation has been to the dismay of the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Australia and beyond." (16 Jun 2023)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics
Events and Campaigns
If you are a Labor party member, a member of a union or a representative of a relevant organisation, you can make a submission concerning Labor's removal of 'secular' from chapter 2 of their draft National Platform's statement on public education. Submissions close 23 June 2023.
Read the Platform document and make a submission at the ALP's website.
Until 5pm on Tuesday 20 June 2023, Boroondara City Council is accepting public feedback on rule 18A of its Governance Rules – which relate to the council’s prayer ritual at the opening of meetings.
Complete the survey or make your written submission at the Boroondara Council.
Equality Australia are running a petition calling on the Federal Government and all remaining states and territories to remove unnecessary legal carve-outs for religious schools and organisations and ensure laws protect everyone equally.
Read and sign the petition at Equality Australia
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. It's currently up to 28,000 signatures.
View the petition at change.org
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.
The Human Rights for NSW alliance has launched a campaign calling for NSW to pass a Human Rights Act.