Religious Freedom Review

On 22 November 2017, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.

The Prime Minister announced the Terms of Reference for the Review on 14 December 2017. In undertaking its Review, the Prime Minister has instructed the Panel to:

  • consider the intersections between the enjoyment of the freedom of religion and other human rights
  • have regard to any previous or ongoing reviews or inquiries that it considers relevant
  • consult as widely as it considers necessary

The Expert Panel comprises:

  • the Hon Philip Ruddock (chair)
  • Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM
  • the Hon Dr Annabelle Bennett AO SC
  • Father Frank Brennan SJ AO
  • Professor Nicholas Aroney

A full copy of the Terms of Reference is available online.

The Panel is being supported by a Secretariat within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Extension to reporting deadline

The Panel received more than 16,000 submissions from individuals and organisations between 14 December 2017 and 14 February 2018. In recognition of the significant public interest in this important topic and following a request from the Expert Panel, on 20 March 2018, the Prime Minister announced an extension to the Panel’s reporting date until 18 May 2018. The original reporting date was 31 March 2018.

Submissions

The Panel accepted submissions on the matters contained in its Terms of Reference from 14 December 2017 to 14 February 2018. Submissions to the Panel are now closed.

The Panel is grateful to the large number of people who took the time to make a submission on this important issue. The Panel has received well over 16,000 submissions.

The Panel has agreed that submissions will be published online, provided the author of the submission consented to its publication and provided there is no other reason not to publish the submission (for example, if publication could raise legal issues).

In addition, the Department has reserved the right not to publish submissions which are irrelevant or do not meaningfully respond to the Terms of Reference, as well as anonymous submissions. The Department has, however, published some submissions where the author was identified but requested their submission be published without their name.

The Department received a number of submissions which were substantially similar to, or variations of, other submissions. Each variation has been published once, along with the names of those who supported the submission, in whole or in part.

Given the large number of submissions received, the Panel has directed the Secretariat to publish as many submissions as possible by 31 March 2018. Those submissions can be accessed on this website. The remaining submissions will be published by 18 May 2018.

Consultations

The consultation phase of the Review has now concluded. The Panel held face-to-face consultations with a wide range of stakeholders with different viewpoints on the topic of religious freedom. The meetings occurred during February and March 2018 as follows:

  • 5 & 6 February, 26 March: Canberra
  • 12 & 13 February: Perth
  • 14 & 15 February, 8-9 March, 23 March: Sydney
  • 19 February: Hobart
  • 20 & 21 February: Melbourne
  • 23 February, 2 March: Western Sydney
  • 26 February: Brisbane
  • 27 February: Adelaide
  • 5 & 6 March: Darwin

Rather than holding open public meetings, the Panel chose to hold meetings with individual stakeholders or small groups to give people an opportunity to share their views openly and honestly with the Panel in a respectful and safe environment.

Contacting the Panel

If you would like to contact the Panel, you can do so by emailing: ReligiousFreedom@pmc.gov.au.

Please note that the Panel is unable to respond to every enquiry.

Media enquiries should be sent to the PM&C media team via email: media@pmc.gov.au

Resources