Youth Pride Network & YACWA oppose Religious Discrimination Bill

Two major organisations representing young people in Western Australia have outlined their opposition to the Morrison Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill, joining their voices with a number of groups and individuals standing against the legislation.

Youth Pride Network (YPN) and the Youth Affairs Council of WA (YACWA) have tabled submissions to the current parliamentary committee examination of the proposed legislation which began this week.

YPN highlight that many LGBTQIA+ young people are also people of faith, and welcome religious discrimination law to protect them, though the advocacy group strongly opposes the Bill in its current form.

The legislation, which would essentially allow many religious organisations to discriminate as per their individual ‘Statements of Belief’, could see young LGBTQIA+ folks turned away from accessing a variety of services including doctors, psychologists, education and accommodation.

“LGBTIQA+ young people are important members of our community and deserve the full protection of our anti-discrimination laws,” YPN Project and Policy Officer Charlotte Glance told OUTinPerth.

“We know that many young people still experience discrimination when accessing faith-based services. We are worried that by specifically exempting ‘Statements of Belief’ from discrimination law that this will disempower services to address discrimination.”

YPN are particularly concerned about accessibility and safety in accommodation, spotlighting their recent State of Play report analysing LGBTQIA+ young people’s experiences in WA’s youth accommodation system.

The report revealed 20% of young people had been rejected from accommodation services because of their LGBTQIA+ identity, while as many as 60% of online survey respondents felt they had to hide their LGBTQIA+ identity while using an accommodation service. More than half of those questioned also say they had experienced homophobia, transphobia or queerphobia in these settings.

The Bill in its current form could also see LGBTQIA+ young people targeted in, or expelled from, schools both public and private, with Attorney-General Michaelia Cash delaying proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act to protect against this until at least 2023.

“We know LGBTQIA+ young people face enormous amounts of discrimination in school, both in public and private schools,” Glance adds.

“We are incredibly concerned that allowing ‘Statements of Belief’ will make our public schools unsafe, and the expanded allowances for hiring and ‘conduct’ will allow our private schools more scope to discriminate.”

YPN also raised issue with the Morrison Government’s timing on the introduction of the Bill and the subsequent inquiry.

“We are deeply concerned by the short timeframe of these inquiries which has limited the capacity of organisations and individuals to submit, particularly close to Christmas,” Glance continues.

“Our communities of faith don’t deserve to be used as political footballs for conservative discrimination.”

“We encourage LGBTIQA+ people who are concerned about this Bill to write to their local member and let them know how they feel. LGBTIQA+ young people should know there are many strong voices advocating for them.”

Among those voices are the Youth Affairs Council of WA, who represent approximately 100 youth service organisations from around the state.

YACWA’s submission includes support from 25 peak bodies of Western Australia, including Ethnic Communities Council of WA, Noongar Family Safety Council, People With Disabilities WA, Shelter WA, WA Association for Mental Health and WA Council of Social Service.

“Discrimination has no place in our community, and YACWA believes every young person n Western Australia deserves to feel safe and protected, regardless of their gender, sexuality, race faith or background,” YACWA Policy and Advocacy Manager Mason Rothwell told OUTinPerth.

“Young people are uniquely affected by discrimination, which can create hostile environments in their education, and in the vital community services they access, impacting their mental health and wellbeing.”

YACWA’s submission highlights the omission of input from young people and community members who would be most impacted by the legislation in its current form. With this exclusion, YACWA believes the Bill fails to protect the rights of young people to be free from discrimination in education and community settings.

“Young people deserve better than this – they deserve legislation that affirms their rights to safe environments, and guarantees them safe and inclusive education and care like all Australians.”

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights is set to continue public hearings on January 13 & 14 2022.

Leigh Andrew Hill

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