Youth Affairs Council Victoria believes that all people should be protected from discrimination. Discrimination based on a person’s faith, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age is wrong.
The Religious Freedom Bills create serious risks of negative outcomes for young people, especially those who already face marginalisation, impeding their rights to pursue a healthy, productive life.
This is why YACVic does not support the introduction of the Religious Discrimination Bill 2019. The Bill aims to protect people from discrimination based on their religious beliefs. It does this by protecting the right for people to people to express their opinion in accordance with their religion.
YACVic believes that people of faith deserve protection from discrimination. However, the Bill will also allow people to discriminate against others. The Bill will prioritise freedom of religious expression above other well-recognised human rights, specifically the right to be free from discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, and the right to access healthcare.
YACVic is concerned that the introduction of the Bill will:
- enable discrimination against young people, negatively affecting their job opportunities, housing security, and mental health;
- reduce access to healthcare for young people, including mental health support services; and
- permit organisations, including charities, schools, universities and service providers, to refuse service to young people.
YACVic does not support the Bill and is calling on the Commonwealth Government to develop a consistent and equal Human Rights Act that provides protection against discrimination for all persons. The government should consult with all young people to better understand their experiences to implement legislation that protects all young Australians equally.
If the government insists on pushing through this Bill, we have identified several sections which need to go.
Section 42 of the Bill overrides existing state and federal discrimination protections and will mean that ‘statements of belief’ do not amount to discrimination. It explicitly permits discrimination against all young people, including LGBTIQA+ young people, disabled young people, young women, those with mental ill-health and young people of minority faith. Being allowed to discriminate against other people is not required to protect people of faith. Section 42 must be removed.
Access to Healthcare
Sections 8 and 32 of the Bill permits health services to refuse treatment or refuse to refer young people to an alternative provider. This has the potential to substantially impair access to healthcare for young people across Australia, especially in rural and regional locations where accessing healthcare is already difficult. The personal views of health providers should not be prioritised over young people’s right to access health services. Section 8(6–7) and 32(7) must be removed.
Sections 11, 32 and 33 of the Bill permit organisations, including charities, schools, universities and other service providers, to refuse service to young people. Young people should have equal access to services, education and support regardless of their religious beliefs, background, identity or life circumstances. Section 11, 32 and 33 must be removed.
YACVic expresses our support and solidarity with young people of faith and others who are leading the response to this dangerous Bill.
If you would like to advocate against the introduction of the Bill are urged to contact the Attorney-General with their concerns and personal examples of how the Bill will negatively impact their lives. Consult Equality Australia’s comprehensive toolkit to prepare your submission or contact us for support and more information.