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Ian Thorpe joins campaign for LGBTQ+ protections in schools

Olympic legend and high-profile community member Ian Thorpe has joined a new national campaign calling for urgent federal reform to protect women and LGBTQ+ students and staff in religious schools.

The campaign is led by national advocacy group Equality Australia, in light of a recent report from the organisation which found that LGBTQ+ discrimination is endemic in religious schools and organisations around the nation.

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“This is about treating people fairly,” Thorpe said.

“Everyone should be protected under the law and no one should be granted permission to discriminate, especially if being funded by our tax dollars.”

Dismissed, Denied and Demeaned

As highlighted in the Dismissed, Denied and Demeaned report, there are still federal exemptions that allow religious organisations to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people as well as pregnant or divorced women.

“They can fire staff and expel students. They can also deny care, like access to crisis support, shelter for the homeless and other services,” Thorpe added.

“Children shouldn’t be punished by their school for being gay, people shouldn’t be fired for falling in love and family members shouldn’t be denied the chance to adopt a relative because they are in a same-sex relationship.”

The report found that Australia is out of step with international law and best practice, while LGBTQ+ students are more likely to attend an independent school that discriminates against them, rather than supports them.

The findings also show that one in three students and almost two in five staff are enrolled or employed in private schools, most of which are religiously affiliated.

More than 70,000 students and 10,000 staff in non-government schools are estimated to be members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown notes these schools and faith-based services “rely on billions of dollars of public funding but are not required to comply with the same laws when it comes to employment, education and service delivery.”

“The law in Australia is out of step with 21st century community expectations and it urgently needs to change.”

Brown shared her gratitude to Ian Thorpe for lending his voice to this campaign.

“We need the support of our community to back our campaign for federal protections because every day the government delays is another day more harm is being done.”

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