Weekend Wrap for 3 March 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 3 March 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

Videos from the Secularism Australia Conference 2023 are now available. The NSL was a proud co-organiser and co-sponsor of this event.

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At the National Level

Australians with diverse sexualities and gender identities are two to four times more likely to experience a mental disorder, suicidal thoughts and self-harm than the broader population, according to the first set of national data that compares their wellbeing to that of heterosexual and cisgender people. A debate over religious discrimination legislation, due later this year, also threatens to inflame rhetoric about including trans children in religious schools. LGBTIQ+ Health Australia chief executive Nicky Bath said those events were often flash points for increased anxiety and distress. (27 Feb 2024)
Read more at The Age

Over 40% of students who attend Catholic high schools aren’t Catholic. In fact, many aren’t even Christian. That’s just one of findings of a major study involving 1,200 parishes across Australia, says Dr Trudy Dantis, director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research. (28 Feb 2024)
Listen to the full item at ABC Radio National

Around the Country

TAS: Unfulfilled commitments to ban conversion therapy practices is emerging as an important issue in the Tasmania election with local advocacy group Equality Tasmania calling on all political parties to make a commitment to bring in effective legislation to tackle the practice. Tasmanian will head to the polls on 23rd March after Premier Jeremy Rockliff called an early election. His government had previously announced legislation to ban conversion therapy but it was widely criticised by LGBTIQA+ rights advocates as being weak and ineffective legislation that had been watered down to appease conservative groups. (25 Feb 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

WA: Local and national LGBTIQA+ advocacy groups have responded to the Cook Government’s commitment to fund WA’s first whole-of-government LGBTIQA+ Inclusion Strategy. Announced on Friday, $900,000 in funding will be shared between local support organisations TransFolk of WA, GRAI and Living Proud WA to develop and implement the Strategy. These organisations and LGBTIQA+ advocates have largely welcomed the funding, while urging the WA Government to follow through on long-promised law reform on a laundry list of items including restricting conversion practices, access to surrogacy, protections for teachers in faith-based schools and the abolition of the Gender Reassignment Board. (25 Feb 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

NSW: Liberal NSW Legislative Council member Jacqui Munro has called for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to be stripped of its funding after they asked the New South Wales police not to march in the Saturday’s parade. The request to the police force to sit out this year’s event comes after the arrest of serving officer Beaumont Lamarre-Condon over the alleged double murder of a missing Sydney gay couple. Munro says if frontline police officers are not allowed to participate in uniform on Saturday Mardi Gras should be stripped of all of their funding. Munro said the request to police from the Mardi Gras board was “detestable”. (Note: the Mardi Gras organisers later reversed their decision and allowed police to march in plain clothes.) (26 Feb 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

VIC: The premier's annual dinner with Muslim leaders has been cancelled after more than 110 mosques and community groups announced they would boycott the event due to Victorian Labor’s stance on Israel. Premier Jacinta Allan confirmed this week that this year’s event would not go ahead, two days after her office insisted it would proceed, albeit as a smaller and more intimate dinner in light of the ongoing events in the Middle East. (29 Feb 2024)
Read more at The Age

ACT: The ACT government has been urged to amend its voluntary assisted dying legislation to clarify the requirement for a patient to be suffering from an “advanced” illness and in the “last stages of their life”, amid concerns the terms are vague and could include old age.
A committee review of the proposed legislation, which will be the nation’s most liberal assisted suicide framework if it becomes law, has recommended the Labor-Greens government review the phrasing of its eligibility requirements to avoid being “vague and open to interpretation”. (29 Feb 2024)
Read more at The Australian

Commentary and Analysis

Ross Gittins: Two-class school system a great way to entrench low productivity.
"In 2011, the Gonski report recommended that government funding of schools be needs-based and sector-blind. More than 12 years later, it still hasn’t happened. And it’s by no means certain it will happen any time soon. The idea of sector-blind schooling – funding all students according to their needs, rather than their religion – fell at the first hurdle. Sectarianism has bedevilled attempts to ensure all our kids get a decent education since the introduction of compulsory schooling in 1880. And so fearful of the religious vote are both major parties that this time’s been no different. Providing adequate funding for the more disadvantaged kids congregated in public schools could have been a simple matter of redistributing money from privileged private schools, but no." (26 Feb 2024)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Sheila Ngọc Phạm: How my daughter has taught me the importance of public education for non-religious and religious children alike.
"I know many people — non-religious and religious alike — who would be afraid to send their child into the public school situation we have. Perhaps because they do not want their child to be a minority, and perhaps they are even fearful or overwhelmed by the majority — in this case, a religious majority. It’s important not to deny this is how some people feel. Grappling with such a reality is the only way to ensure our pluralism remains robust. After all, many of our social institutions are struggling with questions of “diversity”, so there is considerable value in clearly understanding how everyday multiculturalism in Australia is experienced. There’s a good deal of tension Australian public life at present, due in part to the increasing segregation of different groups in our society. Because of this, the fact that only 64 per cent of Australian children attend a public school should be a cause for concern — not only because of what that entails for widening inequality, but also because it signifies the erosion of a common life, as people retreat from opportunities to peacefully co-exist with others from different class, cultural, and religious backgrounds." (27 Feb 2024)
Read more at ABC Religion & Ethics

Bernard Keane: Scott Morrison maintains his God delusion to the last.
"That belief in divine selection — revealed by David Hardaker in a brilliant Crikey investigative series in 2021 — was always the key to understanding Morrison. According to his supporters and New Corp’s culture warriors, critics attacked Morrison’s faith. But the problem was never his religion. Australia has had prime ministers of strong, mediocre and no faith at all. The problem was how Morrison saw himself through his own strange composite of a faith, and his belief he was above the basic standards of accountability and behaviour of the secular world. It wasn’t until after he was ejected from the Lodge that the full scope of his belief in his own divine exceptionalism became clear to his colleagues." (27 Feb 2024)
Read more at Crikey

Tony Wright: Scotty from Sunday school lays it on thick in final sermon
"And he’d gone on quite a bit about the “unique Judaeo-Christian values” that were “the very basis for our modern understanding of human rights”, and he’d warned against “diminishing the influence and the voice of Judaeo-Christian faith in our Western society, as doing so risks our society drifting into a valueless void”. “In that world, there is nothing to stand on,” he lectured. “There is nothing to hold on to. And the authoritarians and autocrats win.” Authoritarians and autocrats? Were those distant, disbelieving sobs from victims of robo-debt, that most authoritarian of policies delivered by none other than Scott Morrison, the scheme that a royal commissioner found was a denial of human rights to the most vulnerable?" (27 Feb 2024)
Read more at The Age

David Hardaker: ‘Nobody quite understood’: What role did religion play in Scott Morrison’s ‘bulldozer’ moves?
"Throughout Morrison’s time in office the question of the influence of religion on his politics has been largely off the table: not a question to be asked in polite company. Morrison himself has always rejected the idea, even though it was Morrison who blurred the lines by inviting the media inside his local Pentecostal church to capture him, flanked by wife, Jenny, in an ecstatic moment with hand-raised to receive the Holy Spirit. This week Morrison repeatedly referenced and gave his thanks to God in his valedictory speech to parliament. Australia’s political media has largely abided by the convention that religion is personal, that it has nothing to do with politics and that it is not to be pried into. Yet Morrison – as the evidence now shows – has been anything but a conventional politician and, despite his protestations, there is a growing trail of breadcrumbs to demonstrate that he may have made policy decisions that reflected his personal religious commitment." (2 Mar 2024)
Read more at The Age

Events and Campaigns

Equality Australia is running a petition asking NSW politicians to ban gay conversion laws.
View the petition at EA's website

Residents of NSW, there is a petition running that calls on the state parliament to run scripture (SRE) and ethics (SEE) lessons outside class time in NSW public schools.
View the petition at the NSW Parliament House website

The Australia Institute are calling on federal parliament to pass truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech.
View the petition at The Australia Institute

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

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 30,000 signatures.
View the petition at change.org

Reason Australia are encouraging Victorians to email the state government asking to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read more at the Reason Australia website

Have you faced discrimination at a religious school or organisation? Equality Australia wants to know!

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.

That's it for another week!

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