Person chalking Rainbow flag on footpathEquality Australia has issued a call to action, urging Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to take immediate steps to protect students and staff in religious schools.

The organization warns that more individuals will face discrimination and hardship without swift action, much like a music teacher recently dismissed from her position.

Charlotte, who prefers to remain anonymous, had been employed as a music teacher at a religious school in Western Sydney for two years. However, she lost her job when it was discovered that she was in a same-sex relationship, according to media reports.

“This is not an isolated incident,” said Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director of Equality Australia. “Every day, teachers are being fired from their jobs or denied promotions, and students are being forced out of school simply because of who they are.”

Kassisieh emphasized that for every individual who bravely speaks out about their experiences, countless others have been discriminated against or hide their identities for fear of repercussions.

Private schools, many of which are religiously affiliated, enrol one in three students and employ almost two in five staff members. Despite relying on millions of dollars in public funding, these schools are legally permitted to dismiss or deny promotions to gay or trans teachers. LGBTQ students can also be denied enrollment or prevented from taking on leadership roles.

“Labor promised Australians before the last election to remove these exemptions if they formed government,” Kassisieh said. “We know the Bills are ready, and it’s time the prime minister let the parliament do its job.”

Kassisieh argued that Charlotte’s case should serve as a wake-up call. He called for an end to legal carve-outs that allow religious schools to act without regard for justice or fairness and without considering the harm done to those they discriminate against.

“As a country, we believe in fairness and equality and that we should all have an equal right to be free from discrimination,” Kassisieh concluded. “It’s time for our laws to reflect those values.”