The Victorian Government recently made changes to the Equal Opportunity Act (2010). These changes came into effect on 14 June 2022.
Under the changes, religious bodies and schools are prohibited from discriminating (except in limited circumstances where the discrimination is reasonable and proportionate) against people based on:
- sexual orientation
- lawful sexual activity
- marital status
- parental status
- gender identity.
These changes ensure a fairer balance between the right to religious freedom and the right to be free from discrimination.
Discrimination by religious bodies and schools in relation to employment
From 14 June 2022, religious bodies and schools can only discriminate against employees or potential employees where:
- conformity with religious beliefs is an inherent (i.e. core, essential or important) requirement of the job
- the other person cannot meet that inherent requirement because of their religious belief or activity
- the discrimination is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.
Discrimination by religious bodies and schools in other circumstances
From 14 June 2022, schools can only discriminate based on a student, or prospective student’s, religious beliefs or activities. However, the discrimination must be reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances and:
- to do so would conform with the school’s doctrines, beliefs or principles of the religion, or
- the discrimination is reasonably necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of the school’s religion.
Further changes will on occur on 14 December 2022 for religious bodies that provide goods or services funded by the Victorian Government. From this date, when providing goods and services funded by the Victorian Government, religious bodies will only be able to discriminate on the basis of a person’s religious belief. They will not be able to discriminate based on other personal characteristics.
Discrimination by individuals
There is no longer an exception for individuals. This means an individual will not be able to discriminate against another person in the circumstances covered by the Equal Opportunity Act in order to comply with their religious beliefs.
What will not change
The government has not changed the law that allows religious bodies and schools to discriminate in relation to:
- ordaining or appointing priests, ministers of religion or members of a religious order
- training or educating people seeking ordination or appointment as priests, ministers of religion or members of a religious order
- selecting or appointing people to perform functions relating to, or participating in, any religious observance or practice.
More information on what this means for you is at humanrights.vic.gov.au .
Information in other languages
If you would like information about these reforms, including in your own language, call the VEOHRC’s Enquiry Line on 1300 292 153 , open 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
If you need an interpreter, call 1300 152 494 .
Where to get help
In an emergency, always call Triple Zero (000):
- Victoria Police
For immediate assistance, including where you are a victim of a serious incident of racial and religious vilification or abuse, call Triple Zero (000). Find out more about how Victoria Police manage prejudice motivated crime at police.vic.gov.au/prejudice-and-racial-and-religious-vilification
If you are seeking legal advice you can contact:
- Victorian Legal Aid
Provides free information and help about the law. Call 1300 792 387 or visit legalaid.vic.gov.au .
If you are LGBTIQ+ you can contact:
- Rainbow Door
A free specialist LGBTIQA+ helpline. It provides support and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their family and friends. Call 1800 729 367, email firstname.lastname@example.org or SMS 0480 017 246.
Provides Australia-wide LGBTQIA+ peer support and referrals for people wanting to talk about a range of issues, including sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings, or relationships. Call 1800 184 527 or visit qlife.org.au .
If you are a young person you can contact:
- Kids Helpline
Provides 24-hour counselling service for young people aged five to 25 years. Call 1800 551 800 or email@example.com link .
Provides support about mental health issues for people under 25 years.
If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person you can contact:
- Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service
Provides legal advice and information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Victoria. Call 1800 064 865 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org .
Provides online resources made by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a focus on social and emotional wellbeing. This includes websites, apps, podcasts, videos, social media, and online counselling . Call (08) 9370 6336.
- Yarning SafeNStrong
Provides a state-wide social and emotional wellbeing helpline for Aboriginal Victorians. Call 1800 95 95 63, email email@example.com or visit vahs.org.au/yarning-safenstrong/ .
- Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)
Provides advice and further information on specific resources and contacts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Call 03 9411 9411 or visit vaccho.org.au .
For other mental health support you can contact:
Provides parents and carers with counselling and support from a qualified counsellor from 8am to midnight, 7 days a week including public holidays. Call 13 22 89.
Provides 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14.
- MensLine Australia
Provides 24-hour help , support, referrals and counselling services for men. Call 1300 789 978.
- Suicide Call Back Service
Provides 24-hour counselling for suicide prevention and mental health. Support is via telephone, online and video for anyone affected by suicidal thoughts. Call 1300 659 467.
- Beyond Blue
Provides 24-hour support for people affected by anxiety, depression and suicide. Call 1300 224 636. Beyond Blue also have dedicated resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people .
Provides information and support about mental health and wellbeing. Call 1800 650 890.
Headspace also provides early intervention mental health services to 12 to 25-year-olds. Headspace also provides resources specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people .