Media releases

In Our Statement, released by Eminent Australians with Disability, we wish to collectively 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, even with the amendments agreed to in the early hours of Thursday morning at a marathon sitting of Parliament.

We want to convey our complete support for protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion and of religious freedom by all of us, both those of faith and those not. 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, which this amended Bill still allows.

The Bill has the potential to divide the Australian community and to impact negatively on so many people’s lives, including people with disability. We still see significant issues for those from intersectional communities, including LGBQTI+, ethnic communities and new arrivals, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders, women and girls, and young people.

Of particular concern are the remaining provisions in the Religious Discrimination Bill permitting “statements of belief” that would override existing legal and policy protections for all people with disability from humiliating, insulting, ridiculing, and demeaning behaviour. 

As a person with a Christian faith, the passage of this Religious Discrimination Bill thus far, really scares me! Cruel sentiments in the name of ‘religion’ will become legal! Whilst comments linking my disability to religion are hurtful for me – I am at the age and have the capacity to articulate my disapproval. Many Australians with disability are far more vulnerable than I.

I fear for students with disability who wrestle against their family beliefs, the education system and their community supports in a bid to establish their own sexual identity.  I’m frightened for the mums of a new-born with disability who are told their past sins caused their child’s disability. This Bill won’t protect them! I worry for people with mental health disabilities who are swayed from their medical regime in favour of attending a church to be healed. This Bill won’t protect them! 

This Bill prioritises religion over people, it has the power to divide and must not be allowed.” Mary Henley-Collopy, Eminent Person with Disability.

We state our concern that this unnecessary Bill will override all existing legislation and protections for religious freedoms and against other forms of discrimination at a Federal, State, and Territory level. It will allow for a “statement of faith” to provide protection for those perpetrating what would currently be covered under existing law as discrimination against people with disability – put simply, this is unacceptable.

This Bill, even as currently amended, will negatively impact and undermine Australia’s commitments to the equality, and equal dignity and rights for people with disability under the UN 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 that Australian disability communities continue to fight for.

This Bill is not supported by the Eminent Australians with Disability as listed below, it is not supported by our Sector Representative Organisations, and is unwelcome legislation. We urge all Senators to VOTE NO when it appears in the Senate.

The Statement of Concern is available to view here.

Media Contacts:

Mary Henley-Collopy
NDIS Expert Consultant

Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)
P: (03) 9379 4745

Ross Joyce
Chief Executive Officer

Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)

M: 0402 842 040 (please text for urgent response)

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