The SDAA also contains a rather significant removal of the
traditional exemption covering certain religious institutions
running aged-care accommodation.
The exemption under Section 23(3)(c) of the Act, which allowed
religious accommodation operators to refuse accommodation and
related benefits to persons on the basis of several sex and
sexuality protected attributes, is removed for religious bodies
providing Commonwealth-funded aged care. The exemption is removed
regardless of the level of Commonwealth-funding.
As noted in submissions
Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University and the
supplementary explanatory memorandum, the policy decision is aimed
at aligning these institutions with the same community standards as
already imposed on other Commonwealth funded accommodation
Importantly, the removal of the exemption does not extend to
matters of employment by the religious aged-care institution. This
is contained in SDAA Section 49B which preserves the exemption in
relation to acts or practices connected with the employment of
persons to provide aged care. As such, Commonwealth-funded
religious aged care providers will still be able to discriminate in
making employment decisions based on religious views.
As the supplementary memorandum explains, this limitation is
important in recognising and ensuring that "organisations
should be able to engage staff who share their values and
While in office, the Rudd and Gillard Governments endeavoured to
address the substantial discrimination that faces Australia's
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI)
In 2008, following the Australian Human Rights Commission's
2007 Same Sex: Same Entitlements Report, the Rudd
Government amended 84 pieces of legislation to remove any
exclusions to entitlements, such as Medicare and superannuation,
that existed for same-sex couples under Federal legislation.
The Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender
Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 (Cth) represents a
fulfillment of the Gillard Government's 2010 election
commitment to 'extending discrimination protection' for
Australia's LGBTI communities.
Beyond its legislative context however, the significance of the
reforms are more likely to be realised by the resulting practical
changes available for LGBTI people. In conjunction with the
provisions of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 LGBTI
people will now have access to the Australian Human Rights
Commission as well as the courts when they consider themselves to
be discriminated against.
The ability for LGBTI people to have their gender, or intersex
status reflected in government records will be a further
significant change of the Act. At the street level, this will mean
significant change for LGBTI people accessing services such as
Medicare and Centrelink.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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