Australians with Disability who have signed this Statement, wish to bring to the attention of Parliament our deep concerns regarding the impact on People with Disability that will result from the passing of the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill.  

Australians with Disability who have signed this Statement want to convey our support for protection against discrimination on the ground of religion and of religious freedom.  Whilst religious freedom is essential to any thriving democracy, this must not be allowed to occur at the expense of the rights and dignity of others.

We believe that the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill has the potential to divide the Australian community, and impact negatively on so many people’s lives, including people with disability. Of particular concern are the provisions in the Religious Discrimination Bill permitting ‘statements of belief’ that would override existing legal and policy protections for people with disability from humiliating, insulting, ridiculing, and demeaning behaviour. 

Discrimination protections seek to ensure that people are not treated less favourably, yet the statement of belief provision will allow people to be treated in ways that demean or humiliate them because of their disability. This is clearly less favourable treatment and will be expressly permitted by this new legislation – overriding the provisions of the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and equivalent provisions in all State and Territory laws.

We worry for people with disability who have intersectional identities specifically those from communities who are LGBTQAI+, Cultural & Linguistically Diverse, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who already face intersecting discrimination, along with women and girls with disability as well as children and young people with disability as they grow and form their own identity. We see discrimination of all people with disability not only exacerbated but openly permitted by this Bill.

We believe people with disability should expect disability services, education, employment, health care and communities will be free of prejudice, stigma, denigration, and discrimination. The proposed Religious Discrimination Bill will encourage prejudice, stigma, denigration, division, and discrimination against people with disability, and undermine all efforts to build and sustain an inclusive Australia.

There are people with disability living in our community who are already very vulnerable to negative community attitudes and stereotyping.  We know vulnerable people with disability already struggle with how to respond to negative comments from community which undermines their self-worth.  We worry that the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill will only make it harder for people with disability to endure negative community commentary.  We worry that it will be harder for vulnerable people with disability to know what action they can take when people using the ‘statement of belief’ provisions make negative comments about them.

These are impacts that undermine Australia’s commitments to the equality, including equal dignity and rights for people with disability under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, the vision of Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031, the purpose of the Disability Royal Commission, and the principles of dignity and equity which Australians with Disability continue to fight for.

Those who have signed this statement believe the limits in the Bill [on very extreme statements] are insufficient to protect people with disability from personal, hurtful, and demeaning statements that undermine our dignity and humanity.

We are all strongly opposed to this legislation and urge you to speak and vote against the Bill, particularly if Part 2 is proposed to be retained in any format.

Yours sincerely,

Eminent Australians with Disability (as shown below)

Colin Allen, AM Digby Webster
Alistair Baldwin Jody Barney
Prof. Jo Barraket Dean Barton-Smith, AM
Uncle John Baxter Emma Bennison
Dr Sharon Boyce Jake Briggs
Jax Jacki Brown, OAM Jane Wardlaw
Kevin Cocks, AM Samantha Connor
Robert Zoa Manga Prof. Simon Darcy
Maryanne Diamond, AO El Gibbs
Carly Findlay AO Associate Prof. Lorna Hallahan
Frank Hall Bentick, AM Douglas (Dougie) Herd
Mary Henley-Collopy Graeme Innes, AM
Des Ryan OAM Prof. Anne Kavanagh
Rosemary Kayess Aunty Di Kerr, OAM
Jackie Leach Scully Dr John McPherson AM
Tricia Malowney, OAM Prof. Emeritus Ron McCallum
John Moxon Lisa McManus
Liz Reid, AM Gary Newton
John Simpson, AM Dr Dinesh Palipana, OAM
Robert Strike, AM Lisa Cox
Justen Thomas Senator Jordon Steele-John
Craig Wallace Dr George Taleporos
Natalie Wade   Geoff Trappett, OAM





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