At the end of May, Members of the Legislative Council in Tasmania voted in support of an amendment to the 1998 Anti-Discrimination Act to allow faith-based schools to give preference to families seeking enrolment on the basis of their religious beliefs.
Under current legislation, faith-based schools that are oversubscribed must apply for an exemption to grant enrolments to students based on their particular faith. The amendment will permit these schools to take into account the religious affiliation of the child in the admissions process without requiring them to apply for an exemption. This change to the Act also brings Tasmanian legislation into line with current legislation in other states.
The Tasmanian Catholic system of schools and colleges have welcomed the move solely in that it will allow Catholic schools greater flexibility and discretion in their admissions process, so that they can make such decisions that preserve the Catholicity of the school community and are in the best interest of families seeking admission.
The amendment will promote diversity and choice within the community and will safeguard a most basic human right, the right to religious freedom.
Members of the Legislative Council have assured the community that the amendment will not allow for discrimination based on anything other than religious affiliation, allaying the concerns of some community groups that this will open the door to further discrimination.
Though Tasmanian Catholic schools remain committed to welcoming students from all backgrounds, this amendment will ensure that they are able to give full expression to the beliefs that have made these schools what they are. The amendment will promote diversity and choice within the community and will safeguard a most basic human right, the right to religious freedom.
For Tasmanian Catholic families, the amendment to the Act will provide reassurance that there will be places available in the future to allow their child access to an education in a school environment rich in Catholic tradition, values and beliefs.