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Fighting for our faith-based schools

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Parents Svitlana Shcheglova and Volodymyr Shcheglov. Photo: Supplied
Parents Svitlana Shcheglova and Volodymyr Shcheglov. Photo: Supplied

Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with parents and teachers declaring his anticipated changes to religious discrimination laws an attack on faith-based schools.

A capacity crowd of more than 650 school leaders, staff, parents and students attended the Faith in Our Future event held at Regents Park Christian School on 6 May, following a 800-strong attendance in Brisbane the previous week.

Shadow Attorney-General Senator Michelia Cash, Shadow Minister for Education Senator Sarah Henderson and Member for Berowra Julian Leeser attended the Sydney meeting, but Minister for Education Jason Clare and political representatives from other parties declined invitations to attend.

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Registrations are filling fast for further rallies planned for Perth, Launceston and Melbourne.

The events are organised by the Australian Association of Christian Schools, Associated Christian Schools and Christian Schools Australia in response to the Australian Law Reform Commission report tabled in parliament by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on 21 March.

Its key recommendation that the government repeal an important exemption for religious schools in the Sex Discrimination Act would restrict the ability of schools to preference the employment of staff who hold the same beliefs.

It also recommends an amendment to the Fair Work Act to narrow the circumstances in which schools could give preference to staff of the same faith unless deemed “reasonably necessary to build or maintain a community of faith.”

Faith-based school - the Catholic weekly.
Packed-out town hall. Photo: Supplied.

National Catholic Education Commission director Jacinta Collins has previously said of the report that it is an attack on religious freedom and parental rights, and would place severe restrictions on schools’ ability to operate as faith-based schools.

Prime Minister Albanese wants prior bipartisan support for two as-yet unreleased draft pieces of religious freedom legislation.

But Senator Cash, who has seen the draft bills, explained that while she is not permitted to share them, they reflect the recommendations made by the commission and form part of a larger attack on religious schools across a number of different legislative fronts.

“Please do not underestimate that this is a fight,” she told the crowd.

“Faith in this country is under attack, it is as simple as that, and when we are under attack we must stand up and be counted,” she said.

“No government in Australia should deny you the right to choose the education you want for your children.”

More than 8000 people have sent messages to the Prime Minister or their local member of parliament through a grassroots campaign at the website mychristianschool.au.

Shadow Attorney-General Senator Michaelia Cash. Photo: AAP, Mick Tsikas

“This is a good opportunity to testify to people in power and to glorify God,” said Volodymyr Shcheglov, a father of three children at Regents Park Christian School, where his wife, Svitlana also works as a teacher’s aide.

“After we migrated from Ukraine and settled here in 2014 it was a blessing for us to enrol our children in this school.”

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