The Australian Government released the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) final report last week which recommended the removal of current exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) that enable Catholic, and other faith-based, schools to preference the employment and enrolment of staff and students according to their faith.

The recommendations would severely limit the ability of our schools to operate and teach according to our ethos and are at odds with the Inquiry’s terms of reference, and the desire of families to choose a faith-based school for their children.

The ALRC has critically neglected the Attorney General’s third term of reference to ensure that religious schools can ‘continue to build a community of faith by giving preference, in good faith, to persons of the same religion as the educational institution in the selection of staff’.

While the ALRC’s recommendations are unsurprising given the draft report last year, it is disappointing that they overlook the concerns of religious leaders, and the high regard parents hold for the ethos and nature of their schools.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese MP has said the government will only proceed with changes to legislation with the bi-partisan support of the opposition.

The National Catholic Education Commission will continue to advocate for the rights of parents and our schools. Any path forward must include a broad community and political consensus that protects religious freedom and respects the rights of Australian families to educate their children according to their faith.

Strategic Priorities
The National Catholic Education Commission has approved our strategic priorities for the next three years.

Our strategy directly supports the delivery of our mission: to promote Christ-centred education providing excellent and inclusive schooling, and ensures we have clarity and alignment of the intent and impact of our work.

These national priorities rely on the close and collaborative working relationships with our state and territory education commissions and authorities, diocesan and RI & MPJP systems and schools, our parent and principal associations, and those representing Catholic education on our standing committees, working groups and networks.

Jacinta Collins
National Catholic education executive director