Suzanne Eastwood

Submission number: 
16115
Date of submission: 
15th February 2018

Freedom of Religion Review Submission from Suzanne Eastwood Lesbian Activist.

Recommendations

1. Reduce the tax we pay. If LGBTIQ individuals and communities, defacto, divorced, remarried, and single parents are excluded from forty billion dollars of government funded services and employment. Surely there is an argument to reduce the tax we pay accordingly so we can afford to purchase nondiscriminatory services

2. If discrimination is being perpetrated it should have to be clearly stated and not concealed. It is very difficult to find out what type of discrimination is being actively perpetrated by individual religious organisations running government funded services. It is not clear on websites, employment information, or brochures promoting services. I believe this is deliberate concealment from the public. If the Australian public knew the true extent of discrimination and the number of people excluded from employment and access to services they would be outraged.

3. Child Safe Standards: Coming out of the Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse. Since 1984 to 2018 not one of the allowable discriminations has protected children. There is no proven relationship between LGBTIQ individuals and communities and the divorced, defacto, single parents and remarried and high levels of child sexual abuse. The focus for discrimination was on the moral failings of non-abusing individuals and communities. The focus on LGBTIQ individuals and communities and the divorced, defacto and single parents allowed the abusing religious, the abusing married heterosexual men employed by the institution and other abusers to be ignored and protected within the institutions.

Having the wrong high moral standards allowed religious institutions to ignore the true centre of danger and abuse within religious institutions. How can discrimination on the innocent community members be allowed to continue? How does continuing allowable discrimination contribute to the Child Safe Standards recommended by the Royal Commission? No negative findings or recommendations were made against LGBTIQ individuals and communities or the divorced, defacto, single parents and remarried individuals as people of concern.

Discussion

I believe this Review into Religious Freedom can be a mechanism to blow the lid on the concealment and secrecy used by religious organisation to discriminate. Allowable discrimination excludes over 50% of the Australian workforce from billions of dollars of government funded employment. In a wide range of industries including education, health and community services, aged care, children and youth services, and employment services.

In 1984[1] when the wide-ranging discriminations were introduced. Religious organisations were much smaller and employed more religious staff and a limited number of non-religious employees and used many more volunteers.

Changes to government policy and the move toward outsourcing and competitive tendering have meant religious organisations now administer $40 billion dollars of government money to deliver contracted health and community services. I do not believe the 1984 act was meant to exclude over half of the Australian working population from employment opportunities provided with Australian Government and taxpayers money.

Under current legislation allowable discrimination can take place by a religious institution in accordance with their religious beliefs.[2] Existing staff members employed by religious organisations are at risk of being dismissed with no recourse. LGBT job applicants risk not being employed or never able to get off short term contracts into a permanent position.

Religious institutions are increasingly working in partnership with governments as providers of government funded services. They get at least 40 billion dollars of government funding every year to run schools, health services, housing, homeless services, refuges, Alcohol & Other Drug services, youth services, community services, aged care, employment services and many other community and health services and have the right to exclude over 50% of the Australian population from accessing government funded services. Religious organisations employ hundreds of thousands of Australians with government funding.

Religious organisations have been legally allowed to discriminate since the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 by not employing and being able to dismiss existing staff who are from LGBT communities. This allowable discrimination does not just affect LGBTI people. It can also exclude staff or applicants for jobs who are divorced, remarried, living in a de facto relationship, remarried, single and pregnant or are single parents.[3] That’s about half of the Australian population of working age who can be lawfully excluded from working in services run by religious organisations.

The impact of currently permitted discrimination that limits the employment opportunities for LGBTIQ individuals, divorced, defacto, single parents, single and pregnant, remarried, pregnant and breast feeding.

Religious organisations are now very large employers and service providers.

In some community services and health sectors such as the aged care sector 75% of government funded services are run by religious organisations. If discriminatory employment practices are to continue it will severely limit the employment options for over 50% of the Australian population.

Currently religious based employers can choose to discriminate against Australians who are

* Divorced- over the last 10 years about 50,000 divorces have been granted each year and about 1,000,000 people have been granted a divorce. Most people are of working age when granted a divorce.

* Defacto relationships- about 15% of Australians live in a defacto relationship mostly during their working lives.

* Single parents - about 15% of Australian families are single parent families.

* Single and pregnant.

* Remarried- at least 1/3 of all current marriages involve one partner previously married.

* Pregnant

* Breastfeeding

* LGBTIQ individuals and communities Lesbian · Gay · Bisexual · Transgender · Queer · Polyamorous · Gender non-conforming · Gender queer

Not one of the allowable attributes of discrimination impact on a person ability to function in the workplace. The training, the professionalism, the experience of the person is completely overshadowed by one or more of the above attributes. We would ask why discrimination is allowed to continue when a person has met all Australian lawful and allowable requirements.

Considering all the possible ‘excluded categories’ of the Australian community, I have estimated that over 50% of Australians of working age could be excluded from employment in services provided with almost 100% government funding for schools, healthcare, aged care, community services, employment services, youth services, homelessness services and in any other employment offered by a religious organisation.

To be employed for a permanent position by a religious organisation practising allowable discrimination you must be either single, not single and pregnant, currently married and not previously divorced or remarried, not living in a defacto relationship, not a single parent and not from the LGBTIQ communities. If religious based organisations use their full ability to discriminate there will be fewer and fewer Australians who fit the bill of being able to be employed by this very large employment sector. If we read Harry Potter we might be looking for the “pure bloods”.

It is not clear what happens to existing permanent employees who become divorced, or move into a defacto relationship or fall in love with a same sex partner. Anecdotally employees seem to be asked to leave quietly. Most seem to comply rather than risk dismissal that would limit their ability to get future employment. We know what happens to Transgender employees- they are sacked.

Some religious based employers have chosen not to use their ability to discriminate and do offer inclusive employment opportunities to all Australians. Apparently at no detriment to their service delivery, values or the ethos of the organisation. I applaud religious institutions that choose fairness and equality over narrow minded and old fashioned value judgements.

Other religious based employers use the ability to discriminate selectively: allowing divorced and defacto but not single parents; some gay and lesbian employees but not transgender. Some agencies decisions are based on the beliefs and practices of a current CEO that can change to be more inclusive or more discriminatory depending on a new appointment.

I want to highlight the adhoc nature of Discriminatory Employment practices within government funded religious based service providers: I believe the current adhoc nature of the practise of employment discrimination within religious based organisations undermines arguments to maintain the ability to discriminate.

I believe it is completely unacceptable given the organisations receive the vast proportion of their operating budgets from government money to only employ a diminishing group of acceptable Australians.

I would also ask how does being divorced, remarried, in a defacto relationship or single and pregnant or a single parent or from the LGBTQ community affect a person’s ability to do their job- Any employment role from the top to the bottom of the organisation Specialists, Doctors, Nurses, Cleaners, Gardeners, Teachers, Aged Care Workers, Disability Carers, toilet cleaners can all be affected by this discrimination. The current allowable discrimination for religious organisations allows good workers to be sacked for reasons not related to how well someone is doing their job

Individuals can be dismissed without recourse merely for being identified as recently divorced or outed as a member of the LGBTIQ communities; this can occur even if the individual had kept this information private and always interacted with clients, patients or students in ways that accord with the beliefs of the religious organisation employing them and were performing well in their positions. This ability to discriminate and dismiss employees is completely unrelated to an individual work performance. It also allows qualified applicants to never be appointed. This is not fair or equitable treatment and cannot be allowed to continue.

This Review could make it easier to discriminate against and more difficult to be appointed to a job in services run by religious institutions. Religious institutions can also choose to discriminate against LGBTI people as clients and students[4] and can refuse access to services such as schools and healthcare. This unequal treatment cannot be allowed to continue.

Currently an existing employee of a religious institution like a school or hospital could be outed because their wedding photos were in a local paper. A nurse or a teacher or cleaner who is performing well in their job could be sacked because they were recently legally married and the proof is in the pictures of the happy couple. How does becoming legally married to a same sex partner affect your ability to do your job and justify the threat of dismissal?

The risk of being outed generates fear amongst existing employees who are performing their job well but could still be dismissed. This does not feel like a fair or reasonable situation.

Transgender community members already face high levels of unemployment and discrimination. The further entrenchment of allowable discrimination will cut off even more employment opportunities and create a climate of fear for existing employees.

The Intersex community needs to be alarmed because they were generally left out of the allowed discriminations in 1984. So, could not be sacked or not employed by religious organisations. But in the recent changes to the Marriage Act Ministers of Religion can refuse to marry Intersex people. Unexpected negative changes can still happen to people’s rights.

On the other hand, Australians who hold religious beliefs are protected from employment discrimination and cannot be excluded from employment based on their religious beliefs.

I believe it is essential LGBTIQ people and people who are divorced, or remarried, in a defacto relationship or single and pregnant or a single parent can be employed in government funded jobs in services run by religious organisations and must be able to freely access services without fear of discrimination. This type of allowable discrimination has no place in a fair go country.

[1] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s 5 – 7A. Religious bodies can lawfully discriminate against another person on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding or family responsibilities.

[2] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s 37(1)(d). This exemption for religious bodies applies in employment, education, the provision of facilities, goods and services (except the provision of Commonwealth-funded aged care services), accommodation, land and clubs.

[3] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s 5 – 7A. Religious bodies can lawfully discriminate against another person on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding or family responsibilities.

[4] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s 38. Religious educational institutions can lawfully discriminate against another person on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status or pregnancy.

The Australian government recognizes marriage, same sex relationships, gender transition, divorce and defacto relationships and single parents as lawful and legal for all other areas of government business between the individual, their family structure and the Commonwealth. Such as the Australian Tax Office, Medicare, PBS, Centrelink; for income support, Border Protection; for the issuing of passports and Immigration requirements and Births, Deaths and Marriages. All parts of the Australian Government recognize these as lawful and legal relationships or gender status. It does not seem logical that religious organizations can discriminate against the same categories of person or relationships for employment or service delivery using government provided funding.

Members of the LGBTIQ community and other individuals and families facing discrimination by religious organizations are taxpayers, contributing equally to the national accounts so should expect to be treated equally with equal access to employment and services funded by the Australian government. If LGBTIQ individuals and communities, defacto, divorced, remarried, and single parents are excluded from forty billion dollars of government funded services. Surely there is an argument to reduce the tax we pay accordingly so we can afford to purchase nondiscriminatory services

[1] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s 5 – 7A. Religious bodies can lawfully discriminate against another person on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding or family responsibilities.

[2] Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s 5 – 7A. Religious bodies can lawfully discriminate against another person on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding or family responsibilities.

Case study

1. Danny a transgender child in Grade 5 in 2011. His story looks at risk points for allowable discrimination into his possible future.

This year and in future years we will have the first generation of Transgender children who have transitioned during primary and high school years. Their school careers, higher education and their lives will have been lived as their affirmed gender.

The ACT Government in a forward-thinking move allows children to have their birth certificate gender designation changed, when supported by a medical professional, and allows names to be changed on official documents. The new birth certificate says on the back of the document in accordance with section 21 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 the name e.g. Shirley has been changed to Matthew on a certain date.

We want to posit a scenario 5 to 10 years into the future, about Danny, now a transgender child becoming a young adult. This case study was developed in discussion with the parents of Transgender children concerned about future discrimination and possible limited employment options because of allowable discrimination.

Danny transitioned in grade five in 2011 and completed primary and will complete high school as his affirmed gender in 2018. Danny will complete his professional studies in 2021 Danny changed his birth certificate and changed his legal name to reflect his affirmed gender in the ACT in 2016.

Danny at 22 in 2021 will complete his professional studies as a teacher, nurse or allied health professional. He is thrilled to have been offered an interview for a position in a service run by a religious organisation. Employment opportunities are tight for all graduates in 2021.

Danny could be asked to bring copies of his important certificates to HR before his pre-employment medical exam. There are at least two risks to his employment at this point.

· His birth certificate, which reveals his name change, could mean that he is excluded from consideration for employment.

· The medical exam may pick up his transgender history. Employment could be refused if discrimination is extended to a person who has lived as his affirmed gender for the past 12 years. From childhood to young adult hood.

Risk Point One. Danny does a great interview and is selected for the position for which he is well qualified. But because of allowable discriminatory practises and a vigilant HR manager he is identified as transgender by the information on the back of his birth certificate. Danny could be denied this employment opportunity. Danny may not be told the reason for his failure to gain the position.

Risk Point Two. Danny makes it through HR and medical to employment. Danny is not sure if his transgender status has been noted because for him that was history 10 years ago. He is just pleased to have a job he has studied hard to qualify for. He enjoys work. Danny has had good feedback from clients and other team members

Risk Point Three. In 2023 Danny at 24 has been successfully performing in his position for the last two years with excellent reports from his managers and great feedback from his clients. Danny is a valued team member and colleague.

A new person joins the team. The person goes to Danny’s manager and says. I was at primary school with that person that is not Danny but uses dead name. I don’t want to work with someone like that.

How does the employing religious organisation handle that allegation of fact? How is Danny supported? Could Danny lose his job? Has the religious organisation kept the ability to discriminate just in case- even though they may not use it very often?

The parents who assisted building this current and future case study are concerned for their children and the future working adults they will become in their affirmed gender. Their children may have to face allowable discrimination from a very significant number of potential Employers. Currently about 75% of Employers in the Aged care sector, about 40% of schools have the right to discriminate.

It is my belief that religious organisations who choose to use their right to discriminate have not considered the implications for this generation of children who could have lived as their affirmed gender for perhaps 15 years by the time they are 20 years old and seeking employment.

To be clear, Danny is a lawful Australian, he and his family have complied with all Australian and Territory laws concerning his gender identity and transition. How can a lawful process be the cause of on-going allowable discrimination for the rest of Danny’s working life?

Danny’s story can be repeated for all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer young people and their future employment opportunities. Will their future working lives be limited by ongoing discrimination or enhanced by Inclusive and welcoming employment policies?

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