Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 2 July 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
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At the National Level
One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts has praised people who protest events where drag performers read stories to young children, saying they should be commended for their goal of protecting young children. Speaking to parliament on Wednesday 21st June, Senator Roberts said he believed people were right to take a stance against the events, offering a biblical passage that calls for death to people who interfere in the development of children’s lives. The politician was quick to stress that his quoting of a biblical passage calling for people to be put to death was not an incitement to violence. (25 Jun 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
Private insurers are refusing to cover Anglican schools in southern Queensland for child abuse claims, leaving individual schools and dioceses financially exposed. The increasing rate of refusal comes after reforms made it easier for survivors to bring child abuse claims. Guardian Australia revealed earlier this year that multiple state governments had been forced to step in and indemnify church-run out-of-home care and homelessness services for child abuse claims, fearing they would close shop without taxpayer-funded protection. Private insurers have abandoned a significant number of schools owned and operated by the Anglican church in southern Queensland, refusing to cover them for new claims of child sexual abuse. The schools are not indemnified by the government and are now individually exposed to the full financial consequences of new abuse claims. (25 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Dr Philip Saj, a visiting scholar at the Business School at University of Adelaide, has stated that removing the financial reporting exemption for Basic Religious Charities (BRCs) would enhance public trust and confidence in the charities system – which was one of the key objectives of setting up the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). BRCs are the only type of charities exempt from reporting financial information to the ACNC. (30 Jun 2023)
Read more (and watch the associated webinar) at the Rationalist Society of Australia
Around the Country
TAS: The ACT's move to provide greater protections for intersex people is going to support a lot of children and is needed in Tasmania, an advocate says. This year the ACT introduced a law to improve support for intersex people and their families, including safe-guards to protect from "inappropriate", "cosmetic" surgeries. Tasmanian representative for Intersex Peer Support Australia Simon-lisa Anderson said Tasmania needed similar laws as soon as possible to stop these types of procedures before a child can give consent. (25 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Examiner
ACT: Calvary Health has made the decision to "step away" from running the ACT’s only inpatient palliative care service, Clare Holland House, when Canberra Health Service takes over Calvary Public Hospital on 3 July. In a statement published 26 June National Chief Executive Martin Bowles said Calvary and the ACT Government have, "jointly agreed it was in the best interests of patients and employees to ensure an integrated model is preserved." (26 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Catholic Weekly
NSW: City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has moved to facilitate and endorse a Statewide LGBTQI Local Government Safety Summit. In collaboration with ACON and Local Government NSW, the one-day, in-person Summit will bring Councils, NSW Government agencies, and law enforcement together with LGBTQI community organisations and researchers. The Summit will aim to raise awareness of anti-LGBTQI threats, facilitate collaboration among local government and the community. It will also work to and “develop a coordinated response plan to mitigate risks and improve safety.” (26 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Star Observer
TAS: Catholic Education Tasmania is reviewing plans to introduce a new religious education course for year 11 and 12 students that includes "the more conservative elements of religious thinking" on topics such as marriage and sexuality. The course outline says it would teach the "complementarity" of male and female genders and would require teachers to be "unambiguous in the clarity of their articulation of Catholic teaching" on marriage and sexuality. The Independent Education Union (IEU) said it would make the study of religious education mandatory in both years 11 and 12. The IEU's deputy general secretary for Victoria and Tasmania, Kylie Busk, said there had been a lack of consultation during the development of the course, and teachers were concerned about some of its content, such as the role of gender. (28 Jun 2023)
Read more at ABC News
NSW: The NSW Labor government has introduced a bill to ban vilification on the grounds of religious belief or affiliation. The proposed changes to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 have been criticised as convoluted and vague and for failing to adequately protect vulnerable communities. Law groups including the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) have questioned the vagueness of terms in the bill which could mean organisations – and not just individuals – are protected from religious vilification. Josh Pallas, President of NSWCCL, said that the Bill could “create a situation in which severe ridicule or vilification of institutions such as, for example, the Catholic Church, Hillsong, the Church of Scientology or the Anglican Church may be taken to constitute severe ridicule or vilification of persons who belong to those organisations, and thus made unlawful.” (28 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Star Observer
TAS: Tasmanians who display a Nazi symbol or perform a Nazi salute face the prospect of three months in jail or fines of more than $3500. Legislation to outlaw Nazi symbols and salutes has passed the second reading stage at the Legislative Council, locking in the changes. The laws clearly state displaying the swastika in the context of the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain communities is not an offence. They also allow for other legitimate displays of the swastika such as for other religious, cultural, academic and educational purposes, the government said. (29 Jun 2023)
Read more at The New Daily
VIC: Victoria's 60 highest-fee non-government schools will lose their exemption to payroll tax as part of a state budget measure — roughly half the number foreshadowed in the May budget. Victoria's budget will be $100 million worse off after the Andrews government backed down on its a plan to hit fee-paying schools with payroll tax, following pressure from private schools and parents. The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria executive director Jim Miles welcomed the increase in the tax-free threshold but said no Catholic school should have to pay the tax. (29 Jun 2023)
Read more at ABC News
VIC: In the course of casting the deciding vote on Tuesday to remove prayers from Nillumbik Shire Council meetings, Mayor Ben Ramcharan labelled the recitation of Christian prayers at the opening of government meetings exclusionary, arguing that non-religious people should not be forced to take part in religious worship. In supporting the changes to the Governance Rules, councillors pointed to the latest Census figures showing that 50 per cent of residents in the Nillumbik council area identified as not religious. The Nillumbik Shire Council’s decision to remove prayer from meetings adds to the growing momentum across the country for prayer rituals in parliaments and local councils to be replaced with more inclusive and secular practices. (29 Jun 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia
ACT: Teenagers as young as 14 could access euthanasia in the ACT as the Labor-Greens government considers the most liberal voluntary assisted dying framework in Australia. The ACT government next Thursday will release its community consultation report on an assisted-suicide framework, with a final model to be ready by the end of the year. Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne told The Australian she was considering allowing minors as young as 14 to be eligible for assisted suicide, with the ACT for the first time able to legalise euthanasia after being given the green light by federal parliament. Ms Cheyne rejected a requirement by other Australian jurisdictions that assisted-suicide could only be accessed by people with an “arbitrary” expected death timeline of between six and 12 months. The government has also committed to investigate how it can allow people with dementia to access euthanasia. (29 Jun 2023)
Read more at The Australian
Commentary and Analysis
MSI Australia (media release): From America to Australia: The impact of Roe v Wade on abortion rights down under.
"Today marks the one year anniversary of the overturning of Roe v Wade in the USA. The shock decision spurred public conversations and rallies in Australia, with a renewed focus on abortion access issues down under. MSI Australia Head of Policy and Research Bonney Corbin said while there are some striking similarities between the U.S and Australia in terms of access and barriers to abortion care, Australia was now one of the few countries making progress towards universal access to abortion care. “In Australia, abortion law operates under a federated model, resulting in confusing and contradictory regulations between states to territories. Inconsistencies within Australian healthcare system leads to a disparity of experiences, with some of those seeking abortion care needing to travel long distances which causes financial and emotional distress. ... This surge of Australian public interest in reproductive rights resulted in a Senate inquiry late last year into universal access to reproductive healthcare, which offered a bipartisan examination of Australia’s abortion laws and access." (24 Jun 2023)
Read more at MSI Australia
Alastair Lawrie: The Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act has included LGBTI Australians for a decade. But it still fails to protect too many LGBTI people against mistreatment.
"Commonwealth Parliament passed the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 ten years ago today. This was historic legislation, finally offering federal anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians. And it was long overdue, more than 30 years after NSW became the first jurisdiction in Australia to prohibit discrimination on the basis of homosexuality, way back in 1982. But, even at the time of passage it was clear these Sex Discrimination Act amendments were incomplete, and their limitations have only become more apparent in the decade since." (25 Jun 2023)
Read more at alastairlawrie.net
Events and Campaigns
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.