The Australian Law Reform Commission is seeking feedback on faith-based schooling as part of its consideration of changes to anti-discrimination laws which currently provide some exemptions for faith-based schools.

The proposed changes would remove or severely restrict the ability of Catholic schools to prioritise the employment of staff and enrolment of students from our faith background, or to operate and teach in accordance with our Catholic ethos.

A recent survey on school perceptions showed 63% of the general population, 82% of Catholics and 79% of Catholic school parents believe religious schools should be ‘entitled to require employees to act in their roles that uphold the ethos and values of that faith’ and the school should be free to favour hiring employees who share these values. (Utting, 2021)

Over 200 years, millions of students have been educated at Catholic schools and our families and staff highly value the Catholic ethos, education and pastoral care of their school communities

As the largest provider of faith-based schooling in Australia, our continued growth shows the great importance Catholic school families place on choosing a school that meets the needs of their child and reflects their values and beliefs.

As the first and foremost educators of their children, the right of parents to choose a school based on their religious beliefs is recognised in international human rights law, including Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Australia has signed.

However, there is currently no Religious Freedom Legislation in Australia to uphold the rights of parents to ensure the religious and moral education of their children.

Make your views known

The ALRC is asking for feedback via submissions or the online survey by 24 February 2023.

Your feedback is important and will help to shape laws that enable Catholic schools to continue to offer high quality, faith-based education as we have for over 200 years.

In a survey or short submission, we encourage you to tell your story about your experiences of Catholic education’s inclusive, welcoming and pastoral approach, and the importance of faith-based schooling.

Some of the following messages may be helpful in making your views known.

  • Catholic education is highly valued and respected in Australia and has educated millions of students over 200 years
  • Catholic schools should be free to be Catholic, and operate and teach according to their ethos
  • Religious freedom needs the same protection as other rights in Australia
  • A parent’s right to choose a school that reflects their values and beliefs must be protected and respected
  • Changes to current anti-discrimination laws must go hand-in-hand with the introduction of laws to protect religious freedom
  • The creation of a community of faith in Catholic schools goes beyond the teaching of religious education. For example, a community of faith supports students in their spiritual and moral development, it benefits mental and emotional health, provides longer-term happiness and fosters a contribution to society
  • The ability of faith-based schools to operate, employ and teach according to their faith needs to be consistent in every state and territory to meet the needs of all Australian students.

Take the ALRC survey by clicking here or find out more via the Australian Law Reform Commission’s website.

Image: Brisbane Catholic Education