Weekend Wrap for 28 May 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 28 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

All public hospitals should offer surgical abortions or steer patients to affordable providers and the abortion pill should be easier to prescribe, says a Senate inquiry that found reproductive healthcare is a postcode lottery for many women. The Centre of Research Excellence in Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women said 30 per cent of women in Australia, and half in remote areas, lived in regions without local GP provision of medical abortion. Professor Danielle Mazza, the chair of general practice at Monash University, said about 3000 GPs were registered to provide medical abortions but fewer actually did so, with stigma and poor support from colleagues common deterrents. (25 May 2023)
Read more at The Age

Around the Country

VIC: The governing body of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has rejected a motion calling on it to intervene in the issue of prayer recitals in local government meetings. At the State Council meeting of the MAV on Friday, just 25 per cent of delegates supported a motion that would have required the MAV to write to councils advising that it supported the removal of prayer from meetings. (23 May 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

ACT: Canberra and Goulburn Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse has warned the ACT government’s Calvary Hospital takeover could provide a template for compulsory acquisitions in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, declaring the ACT has set “a dangerous and unpredictable precedent”.
The comments follow failed talks with ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith last week, aimed at assuaging concerns from faith groups that the hospital grab was ideologically motivated. Archbishop Prowse has also taken aim at the federal government, which he says has failed to make progress on religious discrimination laws and instead allowed those of faith to become increasingly marginalised. (23 May 2023)
Read more at The Australian

VIC: More than 130 independent and Catholic schools in Victoria are expected to lose their long-held exemption to payroll tax, in an Andrews government measure to pay down the state’s debt. Premier Daniel Andrews said private schools have had “a sweetheart taxation deal” that was not affordable in the state’s current financial situation. The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria said the tax would probably apply to 25 Catholic secondary schools – potentially wiping up to $1 a million a year from their operating budgets. Jewish schools have also raised the alarm about the new tax, warning that it could put the cost of a Jewish education out of financial reach for many families. There are eight independent Jewish schools in Melbourne, most of which charge high fees. (24 May 2023)
Read more at The Age

ACT: Negotiations between Calvary Public Hospital and the ACT government remain at an impasse following a meeting between Calvary’s national CEO Martin Bowles and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith about the hospital’s compulsory acquisition planned for early July. A petition to stop the takeover of the hospital, launched by the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese’s taskforce led by Fr Tony Percy, has attracted 25,000 signatures as of 22 May. (24 May 2023)
Read more at the Catholic Weekly

TAS: The Tasmanian Government has earmarked $175,000 to support the development of the state’s LGBTQI Action Plan. LGBTQI community organisations, Equality Tasmania and Working It Out, will each receive an equal share of $87,500. In addition to the funding allocated for the Action Plan, the State Government has also increased the Tasmanian LGBTIQ+ Community Fund from $60,000 to $100,000 per year. This fund is specifically aimed at supporting community-led projects that address discrimination and stigma faced by LGBTIQA+ individuals. (26 May 2023)
Read more at the Star Observer

WA: Maylands Peninsula Primary School, whose community led the grassroots push against religious chaplaincy across the state last year, has finally been able to appoint a secular worker under the new National Student Wellbeing Program (NSWP). Under the new NSWP – the agreement for which came into effect in January this year – public schools are now able to transition to having a secular worker instead of a chaplain, who are still required to have the endorsement of religious organisations. All states and territories are supposed to publish their new guidelines and policies for the program, yet a number or jurisdictions – including Western Australia – are yet to do so. (27 May 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Commentary and Analysis

Brian Morris: A Republic? – YES; a Christian Republic? – NO
"Albanese also confirmed that, despite being a 'lifelong republican', he has sworn allegiance to the new king Charles in the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. As a Catholic, that would also sit uncomfortably with the PM, as Charles is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England – the titular head of that Church. Roadblock number three is surely Christianity, which flows smoothly from Australia’s allegiance to king Charles – via our prime minister. That makes a republican referendum problematic for the Catholic Albanese. And Christian churches here see God’s hand in the Coronation, with its opulence, pomp and pageantry – and riven through with the entire playbook of the Christian faith. Even the ABC and SBS went overboard with their obsequious coverage. This is why a 'genuine' Australian republic is tragically so far away. Religion and conservatism go hand in hand. It has always been so! So, while Christianity is in rapid decline among the populace, it is the church power brokers, the influencers, and the political manipulators that stand in the way of a republic." (20 May 2023)
Read more at the AIMN

The Saturday Paper Editorial: Lipstick on your prejudice.
"Late last year, Liberal senator Alex Antic made a calculated intervention into the panic about drag and gender identity. ... There are consequences to this. Since Antic’s statements, at least 10 drag events have been cancelled after threats of violence. This week, a primary school on the Mornington Peninsula cancelled a drag reading when police warned it was not safe. The intimidation followed coverage in the Herald Sun. The Murdoch press has been at the vanguard of queerphobia in recent years, running a particularly spiteful and virulent campaign against trans rights. Dozens of articles have been found to breach Press Council standards." (20 May 2023)
Read more at The Saturday Paper

Alastair Lawrie: Albanese Government Must Do Better, and Do More, on LGBTIQ Rights in Second Year.
"Today marks the one-year anniversary of the election of the federal Albanese Labor Government. Looking back on those first 12 months, there have been some small but important wins, and some disappointing losses. But above all, there has been plenty of unfinished – and in many cases, un-started – business." (21 May 2023)
Read more at alastairlawrie.net

Mark Chou, Rachel Busbridge, and Benjamin Moffitt: Why are far-right groups targeting local councils — and what can councils do to manage the threat?
"Last week, following the cancellation of yet another council-organised LGBTQ+ event that had been targeted by far-right groups, the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) acknowledged in an emergency meeting of mayors that local councils were facing a far-right crisis. More than ten local LGBTQ+ events across Victoria have now been cancelled, postponed, or moved online in the past six months alone due to increasingly violent threats from far-right groups engaged in an 'amplified hate' campaign. ... The first point to realise is that, in some ways, this is nothing new: far-right groups have been targeting Australian local councils and the communities they represent long before the current campaign of hate against the LGBTQ+ community. While we can cite numerous instances here — many of them either isolated or unreported in the media — the most concerted and well-publicised attacks in recent years have revolved around two key issues: Islamophobia and ethno-nationalism." (24 May 2023)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Melissa Fyfe: ‘We’ve got to have a revolution’: This Liberal MP is spoiling for a fight. Within her own party.
"In February last year, Archer crossed the floor with fellow Liberal moderates Trent Zimmerman, Fiona Martin, Katie Allen and Dave Sharma to successfully back amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act to abolish the right of religious schools to discriminate against gay and transgender students (in the end, Morrison shelved the legislation). ... 'We’ve seen an infiltration – and I think it’s been as insidious as that – of right-wing religious conservatism that’s infected the Liberal Party and turned it into something it was never conceived to be.' She stops for a moment. 'I don’t think [party founder Robert] Menzies would be particularly disappointed with my efforts.'" (27 May 2023)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Events and Campaigns

Airing on 29 May, ‘Hiding Behind Tombstones’ reported by Louise Milligan on Four Corners looks at the new legal tactics blocking justice for survivors of sexual abuse.
Read more at TVTonight

An upcoming SBS documentary sees Walkley Award-winning journalist Marc Fennell return to the world of Pentecostalism – 17 years after he ran away from the religious movement. In the show, the self-professed “dirty heathen” investigates how Australia produced one of the world’s most successful and scandal-plagued megachurches, Hillsong. The Kingdom premieres on June 8 on SBS On Demand and June 11 on SBS at 7.30pm.
Read more at the New Daily

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.
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.

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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