Statement on the Religious Discrimination Bill

12 December 2021
Street graffiti that says welcome

Updated 10 February 2022:

Sacred Heart Mission welcomes the proposed amendments to the Religious Discrimination Bill, however it’s now up to Parliament to ensure these protections go even further. Any legislation should serve to enhance the diverse and inclusive society we wish to live in, if the Bill cannot achieve this goal it should be voted down.

Since 1982, Sacred Heart Mission as a Catholic Social Service organisation has aspired to be the church in action by serving the marginalized and vulnerable members of our community with love, respect, justice, hope and joy.

Our vision is of a fair and compassionate community in which people can realise their potential. We do this by respecting the dignity of every individual, by sharing our hope, and by encouraging people to regain control of their lives.

Our values require us to question and challenge unjust social structures which may cause harm and disadvantage, and to advocate for those who do not have a voice in these conversations.

In February 2020, Sacred Heart Mission joined with several prominent faith-based and religious community service organisations not to implement the Religious Discrimination Bill, and the associated package of legislation that was proposed at that time.

Anglicare Victoria, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, Jewish Care Victoria, McAuley Community Services for Women, Sacred Heart Mission and Uniting Vic. Tas joined together to voice their concerns about Religious Discrimination Bill and its potential to allow people and organisations to use faith as a means to cause harm to clients, customers, staff and volunteers.

You can read this joint statement here.

In late 2021, the proposed legislation was revised again, and referred to two separate Parliamentary Committees – the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Sacred Heart Mission continues to hold significant concerns with the third iteration of the package of legislation including the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021, will facilitate discrimination within our community. We believe it will exclude people from accessing essential services, such as health care and social services; and cause harm and distress to people who are already vulnerable within our society.

Religious freedom must be balanced against the rights of all people. However, we do not believe the legislative package proposed will achieve this.

As such, Sacred Heart Mission contributed to both Parliamentary Committees expressing our concerns and endorsed the submission by Equality Australia to Committees. Equality Australia highlighted concerns we share, that the proposed legislative package will undermine existing rights and protections, including for women, people with a disability, sex and gender diverse people and people of minority faiths. Therefore, Sacred Heart Mission cannot support these bills.

Faith-aligned institutions, such as ours have demonstrated that it is possible to uphold the religious faith on which our work is founded, providing services to anyone who needs them, while at the same time respecting the diverse faith of our workforce, volunteers, clients and residents.

Sacred Heart Mission engages a diverse range of people, staff and volunteers, to work across a wide range of services and in our opportunity shops, we do not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, disability, gender or sexual orientation. We have no intention to do so in the future, regardless of changes in legislation.

Our organisation, services and shops are places of welcome.

We call on the government to deliver fair and equal anti-discrimination laws that protect all people from discrimination, regardless of who we are, what we believe, or who we love. Any legislation should serve to enhance the diverse and inclusive society we wish to live in.

As CEO of Sacred Heart Mission, I reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that our services and workplaces are safe and welcoming for all people, regardless of their sexuality, gender orientation, marital status, ability or beliefs.

Cathy Humphrey, CEO