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PETER RIDD TO CONTINUE THE WAR AFTER HIGH COURT RULING OVER SACKING

By Australian Newsletter

Peter Ridd says he has “lost the battle but will continue the war” after the High Court found James Cook University (JCU) was justified in sacking the physicist despite the fact he was entitled to make the criticisms of climate research that led to his dismissal. But Education Minister Alan Tudge said the outcome, bringing to an end a 5 year legal battle, was concerning and he had requested “further advice about the implications” of the matter. “There are few things more important for the advancement of truth and knowledge than having open, robust debate at our universities,” Mr Tudge said. “We need a culture in our universities of welcoming open robust debate, even if some feel offended in the process. I am concerned that, in some places, there is a culture of closing down perceived ’unwelcome thoughts’ rather than debating them,” he said.

The unanimous decision upheld the former professor’s “intellectual freedom” to question the quality of research on the Great Barrier Reef in terms that were deemed by JCU to have breached its code of conduct for academic staff. But in dismissing his appeal, the High Court judges found Dr Ridd’s firing was justified on 18 grounds that did not impinge on his prerogative to break with the scientific consensus on climate change, attack fellow academics and take issue with the impact of warming on the reef. Dr Ridd said: “We’ve lost the battle but this is not the end. A loss is more likely to get government action on the academic freedom of speech battle. You will note that in the judgment the justices actually supported my right to be able to say some of the things about science which the university censured me for.”

The High Court found that the intellectual freedom Dr Ridd had sought under the workplace enterprise agreement covering his employment was not a general freedom of speech, and he was bound by the university’s code of conduct. While he was not required to exercise intellectual freedom respectfully or courteously, as stipulated in the code,  Dr Ridd had to follow university rules when dissenting from JCU decisions and maintain confidentiality. The decision ends a saga that began when Dr Ridd, 60, then head of physics at JCU’s home campus in Townsville, attacked the work on climate-related coral loss of leading reef scientists and the trustworthiness of research centres such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

He was sacked in 2018 after being censured for breaching JCU code of conduct requirements that he air criticism of colleagues or the university in a collegial and respectful manner, but then won $1.2m in damages against the university in the Federal Court. This was in turn overturned on appeal by the Full Court of the Federal Court, a decision Dr Ridd challenged in the High Court.  Ridd says Commonwealth government “intervention” is the “only way” to ensure the free speech of academics is protected. In a complex decision, the panel headed by Chief Justice Susan Kiefel found that neither the position of the primary trial judge nor the Full Court could be entirely accepted. With both sides conducting the case on an “all-or-nothing basis”, Dr Ridd had failed to prove that none of the university’s actions against him was justified.

Dr Ridd said: “I am not going to argue whether the High Court is right or wrong, but what I would say is that everything I said should have been OK, and the fact that it wasn’t means there was a problem with the JCU work contract, and we have got to make sure that other work contracts in Australian universities allow for freedom of expression.” In a statement, JCU said the case was about employment law, turning on wording of the superseded 2013 enterprise agreement. “James Cook University at all times has made it clear that it strongly supports the pursuit of intellectual enquiry and the freedom of staff to engage in academic and intellectual freedom,” a spokesman said. Former JCU Professor Peter Ridd lost his job for “speaking out against the zeitgeist,” according to Sky News host Chris Kenny.

Constitutional law expert George Williams backed Dr Ridd’s call for more action by the federal government. “In its decision I think there is a very strong affirmation by the High Court of intellectual freedom, with clear recognition of the value and importance of that freedom” Professor Williams said. “They also recognised that academics within their field of expertise can exercise this freedom in disrespectful and discourteous ways. I welcome that decision and see it as a strong affirmation of that value.” Professor Ridd confirmed that the Institute of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, had tipped in $8000 to fund his $1.8m bill. $300,000 had come out of his own pocket with the remaining $1.5m raised by GoFundMe drives that attracted 10,000 individual contributions.

Asked whether the expense was worth the result, he said: “I often wonder whether if I knew what was going to happen, would I have made those fateful comments. I hope I would, because this is a battle that had to be had and, in retrospect, lost. “It demonstrates the huge problem we have with universities and I really am quite confident that the government will act more to do something about this.” Professor Williams, of UNSW, recommended the “clear cut-through” of legislation to enshrine freedom of speech for academics and the community, along the lines of anti-discrimination and sexual privacy laws. Dr Ridd said while his academic career was over, he would continue to perform unpaid work with the IPA and other organisations to promote freedom of speech and academic freedom.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

CONFERENCE TO ALLOW TALIBAN TO ADDRESS AUSTRALIAN MUSLIMS CALLED OFF

By Australian Newsletter

Prior to a public outcry which resulted in its cancellation, Australia’s peak Islamic body had invited two members of the Taliban to appear in a live webinar to Australian Muslims. The move to do so was condemned by Afghan refugees and Australian military veterans. The invitees had included longtime Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who failed to rule out a return to stonings and public executions under Afghanistan’s new leadership, and senior Taliban figure Sayed Abdul Basir Sabiri. The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) said it had brought together a “stellar panel of speakers” for the event to discuss “the future of Afghanistan and our role, regardless of whether we are in favour or against recent developments”.

Refugee advocate Sitarah Mohammadi, a member of Afghanistan’s long-persecuted Hazara minority, said she found it “horrifying” the Taliban figures were to be given a platform by Australia’s Islamic community to spread the regime’s propaganda. “It was completely inappropriate,” she said. “As part of the Hazara community, my family and I fled the rule of the Taliban in the late 1990s. To have seen faces like these on a prominent event like this would have been really traumatising. “Our people have suffered so horrifically at their hands, and continue to do so to this day.” Ms Mohammadi said the event would have allowed the Taliban to advance its push for global legitimacy so it could unlock international funds to strengthen its oppressive rule over the country.

“If anything, it would have legitimised them to have those members on the panel,” she said. Liberal Member for Herbert Phil Thompson, who was seriously wounded by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan as an army private, said the decision to invite the Taliban was a “misstep” by the council that would have outraged veterans. “Those two people from the Taliban should not have been invited and given a platform. The Taliban is an illegitimate government,” he said. “We have seen young girls unable to attend school. We see girls and women treated as property. “They are vile and barbaric. They rule with an iron fist and murder, and this organisation should never be given a platform in Australia.”

The chair of the federal parliament’s intelligence and security committee, James Paterson, also warned against giving the Taliban an opportunity “to support their claims of legitimacy”. “We should instead be doing everything we can to advance the cause of freedom for millions of Afghan girls and women who are now living under the control of a regime with a proven history of violence and brutality,” he said. AFIC president Rateb Jneid and National Grand Mufti of Australia Imam Abdul Quddoos Al Azhari were also to be among the speakers, along with Islamic legal scholar Mohammad Naqib Jan. Dr Jneid said many Australian Muslims were concerned about what was happening in Afghanistan. “We have many Afghan families who are worried about their loved ones in Afghanistan and they want to hear about the intentions of the government there.

Source:  Compiled by APN from media reports

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WHERE THE RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION BILL FALLS SHORT

By Australian Newsletter

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash’s decision to bring a religious discrimination Bill to parliament by the end of the year has refocused minds on issues not ventilated since the pandemic outbreak. The approximately 7000 submissions on the two prior versions of the Bill trace deep and emerging divisions within modern Australia. However, as illustrated by the following four examples, there are many areas highlighted by religious leaders where the reform could be improved. In recommending the Bill, the Expert Panel on Religious Freedom emphasised the “unique” considerations that arise in legislating to protect against religious discrimination, factors largely irrelevant to existing Commonwealth discrimination protections. Chief among these are the difficulties associated with courts interpreting religious beliefs.

The current Bill requires judges to determine doctrinal disputes in a way that leading jurists around the world have overwhelmingly cautioned against. In order to gain protection, an applicant or respondent must satisfy a judge that “a person of the same religion could reasonably consider their conduct to be in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of that religion”. The test runs contrary to the consensus among higher Anglophone courts, including the Australian High Court, which has settled on a “sincerity” test for the evidencing of belief. We do well in recalling that the historical notion of separation of church and state was as much about keeping the state out of the dealings of the church as it was about ensuring the state’s neutrality in matters religious.

As the first clause of the Magna Carta, that pivotal document in the formation of Western freedom, so helpfully witnesses: “The English Church shall be free”. In its context, this meant “free” from the King’s fiats as to acceptable doctrine. The second “unique” consideration is the propensity of religious belief to inspire humanity to congregate. That a large proportion of religious activity occurs in collaboration with fellow believers gives distinct impetus to the need to protect religious associations, as the collective effort of individuals. The most recent draft Bill recognised this, replicating provisions within existing discrimination law to permit protection to a corporate body as an “associate” of a religious believer. Such a proposal is not without substantive merit.

The European Court of Human Rights has recognised that a body denied authorisation by the state to perform Jewish kosher rituals has standing to initiate a discrimination complaint on behalf of its members. In the United States faith-based entities are also protected from religious discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. There is, however, a deficiency in the drafting deployed in the Bill, which requires a court to treat the corporate associate “in the same way” it would treat the associated believer. The concern is best illustrated by example. Lottery West recently declared it would not offer funding to Margaret Court’s faith-based charity, reportedly expressly clarifying this refusal was on the ground of her religious beliefs.

In this instance, it is the charity, one of the largest privately funded charities in Western Australia, that has suffered differential treatment, not Margaret Court. If the Bill requires that the charity be dealt with “in the same way” as Court, the charity has not experienced discrimination. Interpreting equivalent provisions in 2018, Federal Court judge Mark Moshinsky said they are “not free from doubt” and suggested alternative drafting that would remove this uncertainty. Given the centrality of the associate provision to the protection of religious institutions, and the fact that such provisions are largely untested in anti-discrimination law, Moshinsky’s formulation should be preferred.

The third outstanding issue is the reforms also fail to adequately protect religious bodies that hold a traditional view of marriage from the loss of their charity status. The Expert Panel recommended that the Charities Act be amended to avoid the loss of an entity’s charitable status on the basis that it contravenes the “public policy” requirement. However, charities overseas have lost their status on the basis of the separate requirement in the Act that they exist for the “public benefit”. The prior Acting Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner had recommended that both conditions should be amended to address these concerns. This has been given added weight after the New Zealand High Court concluded, in a matter now under appeal, that an entity’s “promotion of the traditional family unit” was not for the “public benefit”.

The final area in which further consideration is required is the limitation of the Bill’s protections to only “lawful” acts. There is an important reason why all of the states and territories that have legislated to protect religious activity from discrimination, apart from Victoria and Queensland, have resiled from imposing this limitation: if a religious believer infringes the law, the consequence should not include the licensing of discriminatory acts by private vigilantes. An illustration is found in the recent prohibitions on “conversion therapy”. While religious leaders have called for the Bill to address the Victorian ban, it has scarcely been noted that in Queensland, the directors of a “Christian charity”, which includes a church, or a “pastor or school chaplain” can be imprisoned where they provide “counselling” (including marriage counselling) that encourages a person to follow traditional religious teaching on sexuality or gender.

By protecting only “lawful” acts the Bill effectively doubles the penalty, enabling discriminatory statements against offenders, or the refusal of goods or services. The Religious Discrimination Act may well prove to be a definitive feature of the contemporary fault-lines of church-state relations within Australia. The Magna Carta is but one among a constellation of illustrations demonstrating that the freedoms won in the development of the West cannot be understood without consideration of the independent religious voice. Against the seeming tide of calls seeking to marginalise or silence religious expression, the government’s proposal for a Religious Discrimination Act is a welcome recognition of the important and ongoing contribution of religion to our national life and debate. Despite the complexity, it’s important that we get it right.

Source:  Article is written by Mark Fowler, Principal of Fowler Charity Law, an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Law School of the University of Notre Dame Australia, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Law at the University of New England.

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MORE WOMEN DRINKING AS PANDEMIC TAKES TOLL

By Australian Newsletter

The number of Victorian women abusing alcohol has skyrocketed over the pandemic as the pressure of rolling lockdowns and social isolation prompts more to reach for the bottle, with services reporting a surge in demand for treatment. About seven out of 10 agencies surveyed by the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association reported increases in the number and severity of presentations for alcohol since March 2020. Community health service Cohealth reported the number of clients seeking help for alcohol jumped by 85 per cent since 2019, with women now making up 36 per cent of its clients, compared with 29 per cent in 2019.

Clinician Jo Pioro said she was treating women from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds, and Covid-19 had created a perfect storm for alcohol abuse. “Women have lost their identity, their daily structure, they no longer need to hide their drinking, nor drive to school or work,” she said. “One client told me ‘Once I’ve got through one bottle, I’ve suddenly drank three and I don’t remember how’.” In addition to the pressures of Covid-19, Ms Pioro said alcohol was an accessible, relatively cheap and socially acceptable coping strategy that delivered instantaneous relief. “Alcohol has been normalised among the mums’ clubs, and talk of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc is everyday language at the school gates, play dates and birthday parties,” she said.

The Alfred’s women’s mental health clinic head Jayashri Kulkarni said the number of women drinking had risen alongside increasing rates of mental health issues including stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders. Professor Kulkarni said women were more likely to have lost work or have had their hours reduced and be burdened by home-schooling, while at the same time be struggling without the support of family and friends in lockdown. “Things that were a bit of a crack beforehand have now become a chasm,” Professor Kulkarni said. “That‘s the same for a lot of situations and systems, but certainly is described by many women that you know they just can’t handle all of it anymore.”

As well, Professor Kulkarni said more women had found themselves shut inside with violent or unsatisfactory partners in lockdown, which was contributing to increasing rates of alcohol abuse. The Covid-19-driven jump in women seeking help for alcohol follows sustained increases over the past decade, with ambulance attendances increasing 73 per cent since 2012-13. From 2010 to 2018, hospitalisations of women for alcohol increased by 14 per cent, rising from 12,217 to 13,970. In the past year, the waiting list for help has blown out by 50 per cent, according to the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, with 3599 people waiting for treatment in July compared with 2385 in September last year. VAADA chief executive Sam Biondo said Covid had created a “compound effect” for the already stretched treatment system.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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EXTREMISTS FAIL TO CANCEL FORUM ON BIOLOGICAL SEX RIGHTS

By Australian Newsletter

A forum in favour of biological sex rights is to go ahead in Tasmania despite backlash from trans activists. Women Speak Tasmania has invited guests and speakers to the event at the Hobart Town Hall on November 27. Sociologist Geoff Holloway, who describes transgenderism as a social contagion, is one of the speakers. He is openly critical of self-identification laws. “It’s ridiculous. It’s a complete denial of sex as binary. The trans lobby are using this to assert their right for trans men to become recognised as trans women.” Hobart Councillor Jac Fox called for the event to be cancelled and labelled those defending sex-based rights as “TERFS”, which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminists.

Both the former Tasmanian anti-discrimination commissioner Robin Banks and Equality Tasmania spokesman Matty Wright said that while they disagreed with the group, the forum should be allowed to go ahead. The public forum will also host a man who transitioned to female, before returning to living as a male, known as de-transitioning. One of the speakers will be de-transitioned trans woman Pauley Johnson, who has reverted back to male pronouns after coming out as trans. Mr Johnson still presents as female on occasion, but no longer identifies as such. “I have a desire within me to be a woman, but that doesn’t make me a woman,” Mr Johnson said. “At the moment, gender is being pushed as this pseudo-religious inner soul of a person which is unchangeable. I don’t go along with that anymore.”

Binary spokeswoman, Kirralie Smith, said the forum should go ahead. “Sex-based rights and realities must be championed in the public sphere,” she said. “Extremists, disguised as activists, have successfully cancelled or silenced too many conversations that need to be had. The number of children presenting as gender confused is increasing. “The best way forward is to engage in education, rigorous debate and thorough academic study. “Our kids deserve the best care available, which cannot happen if extremists continually silence any opposition.”

Source: Binary

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MAJORITY SUPPORT RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS

By Australian Newsletter

Nearly two-thirds of Australians support legal protections for religious institutions and protections for workers making statements of faith outside office hours, as Scott Morrison faces pressure to deliver a promised religious discrimination act before the next election. A poll of 1003 people commissioned by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) also showed majority support for religious hospitals having the right to refuse to perform abortions and euthanasia, and backing for religious schools to hire only staff who adhere to their beliefs. The ACL is pushing the polling to federal MPs in the lead-up to Attorney-General Michaelia Cash’s planned final draft of a religious discrimination act at the end of the year, as she signals a narrow final bill acceptable to the majority of parliament.

Polling by consumer research firm PureProfile in August and early September found 65 per cent of respondents wanted legal protections for people of faith, with ACL managing director Martyn Iles saying religious freedoms would be an election issue unless the major parties made significant changes. “For all the noise, for the genuine and contrived complexity, there are some fundamental truths. First, a promise was made. Both the Coalition and the Labor Party are committed to providing protections for Australians of faith,” he said. “Second, the Australian public are onside. “They share the aspirations of faith-based Australians to express their faith, on their own time, without fear of discipline at work. For many, this is an issue that will inform their vote at the next election.”

The PureProfile poll found 71 per cent of respondents supported curtailing the power of employers to discipline workers who made statements of faith outside work hours.The ACL will use this result to push Senator Cash to keep the so-called “Folau clause” in the final religious discrimination bill, despite strong opposition from both moderate Liberal MPs and LGBTI rights groups. Under the clause, named after rugby player Israel Folau, who was dismissed by Rugby Australia in 2019 for saying gay people go to hell in an Instagram post, businesses making more than $50m have to prove a person’s religious statement would cause financial harm to the company before taking action against the individual.

The ACL poll found 60 per cent of respondents supported schools’ rights to not employ staff “in conflict” with their religious beliefs. Recently the Andrews Labor government in Victoria unveiled new laws to stop religious schools from firing teachers for being gay. The poll also reported 55 per cent of respondents supported religious hospitals refusing to carry out operations that went against their faith, in the wake of the passage of assisted dying laws through Queensland’s parliament.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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IS THIS CHILD ABUSE?

By Australian Newsletter

Referrals to Victorian gender clinics jumped from 300 in 2019 to 450 in 2020. Children as young as three are being referred for treatment at the Royal Children’s Hospital. A study of 359 patients from the hospital’s gender service from 2007 to 2016 show just over half were females who presented at an average age of 14. The others were males who came in at an average age of 12. One Australian study found 2.3 per cent of Australian students in years 10 to 12 identified as transgender or gender diverse. The current study, led by Dr Michelle Tollit, found 29 per cent of patients over 10 years old received puberty blockers and 38 per cent of teens were given gender-affirming hormones. More than 90 per cent were transgender or non-binary.

Alarmingly, these medical professionals are including very young children in their experimental treatments. Co-author Associate Professor Ken Pang from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute said some concerned parents brought children in from the age of three. “Children this young might be saying things like, ‘I’m not a boy, I’m a girl,’” he said. “Their parents seek assistance in how to navigate this. The earlier we can help people, the more improved their later lives are likely to be.” There is no long-term data from studies to support this, as most academics and researchers have been cancelled or cannot receive funding. At this stage, all evidence points to the fact that children who are left to go through puberty without puberty blockers or hormones will accept their biological sex as adults.

Binary spokeswoman, Kirralie Smith, said it is unacceptable to experiment on these children. “Three-year-old children have a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy,” she said. “They play and make-believe, it is a normal stage of development. How on earth did we reach a stage in society where we are even considering drastic intervention in a child’s natural development?” “This is tantamount to child abuse.”

Source: Binary

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CHRISTIAN LOBBYISTS CALL FOR FOLAU CLAUSE IN RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION BILL

By Australian Newsletter

The power of employers to punish people who make potentially offensive religious statements outside work hours is emerging as a deal-breaker for Christian conservatives in the lead-up to the Morrison government unveiling the final version of a religious discrimination bill. Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles is calling on Attorney-General Michaelia Cash to retain protections for religious employees, known as the “Folau clause”, after she signalled that the final bill will be a traditional, limited piece of anti-discrimination legislation. But LGBTI rights advocates are opposed to the proposal, which they call a “no consequences for conduct” clause, and want the Attorney-General to ensure employers will be allowed to ensure homophobia will not be tolerated in workplaces.

Mr Iles said that keeping protections for workers outside employment hours was an issue for religious leaders. He warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Senator Cash not to backtrack in the final draft.  “The faith leaders are agreed that the Religious Discrimination Bill must provide meaningful protection for people of faith. In particular, that employers will not be able to police the religious speech of employees on the employees’ own time,” he said. “Christian Porter’s first two drafts contained this protection. We expect that the Prime Minister and Attorney-General will not walk back from this”. The right of employees to make religious statements outside work has been labelled the “Folau clause” after the rugby star Israel Folau, who was pushed out by Rugby Australia for an Instagram post claiming gay people go to hell.

Under the clause, businesses making more than $50m have to prove a person’s religious statement would cause financial harm to the company before taking action against the individual. The clause has earned the ire of moderate Liberal MPs who say they will not support a religious discrimination bill that veers outside traditional anti-discrimination legislation and removes rights from gay people won in the 2017 introduction of same-sex marriage. Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown, the leader of the nation’s biggest LGBTI rights group, said she hoped Senator Cash’s recent comments were a sign the Morrison government was beginning to listen to the LGBTI community’s concerns.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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KILLING OF UNBORN BABIES JUMPS 10,000 IN THREE YEARS

By Australian Newsletter

The killing of unborn children is on the rise in Australia, according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA). Researchers compared deaths from surgical and “medical” abortions from 2014-2015 with the years 2017-2018 and found they sky-rocketed by more than 10,000 babies. Surgical abortions were slightly down. However, the overall increase in killings was driven by the availability of the baby poison pills mifepristone and misoprostol. These drugs, commonly known as RU-486, were added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2013, dramatically reducing the cost. Administered up until the ninth week of pregnancy, RU-486 starves the unborn baby to death by blocking his or her supply of progesterone, causing detachment from the mother’s uterus.

The research conducted by Louise Keogh, Lyle Gurrin and Patricia Moore was approved by the University of Melbourne Human Research Ethics Committee. The research found that in 2014-15 there were 78,734 unborn babies killed by abortion. By 2017-18, the figure had jumped to 88,290. In 2014-15, 75,514 of unborn babies killed were via surgical abortions while just 3220 were by poisoning. While the overall killing increased by 10,000 by 2017-18, surgical abortions had dropped to 67,546 with poisonings jumping dramatically to 20,741. Sadly the research does not take into account the impact on mothers, an area of study hardly touched since the release of Melinda Tankard Reist’s ground-breaking book Giving Sorrow Words: Women’s Stories of Grief After Abortion.

The authors of the MJA article write: “about 5% of medical abortions are incomplete or complicated; in these cases, women may be admitted to hospital for surgical abortions”. “Incomplete” is a euphemism for the unborn baby survived poisoning and had to be finished off in hospital. Common side-effects of RU-486 for mothers are bleeding, pain and cramping. The study covers the period immediately before Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia passed their controversial abortion-to-birth laws. It will be interesting to see what impact these laws have on unborn baby killings. It is an iron law of public policy that what politicians encourage, society gets more of. Time will tell in the case of abortion liberalisation.

Source: Lyle Shelton Director of Campaigns and Communications for the Christian Democratic Party

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NEW N.S.W LAW SET TO TACKLE RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION

By Australian Newsletter

Religious discrimination will be outlawed in NSW, Attorney General Mark Speakman has announced.  “NSW is a proudly multicultural and multi-faith society. We’re pleased to be taking this critical step to protect people of faith and of no faith from discrimination and to support freedom of religion,” Mr Speakman said. “By making discrimination on the grounds of religion unlawful, we’re ensuring that our laws reflect modern community values.” The NSW Government will introduce a bill in Parliament to amend the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW), adding religion to existing protected grounds of disability, sex, race, age, marital or domestic status, homosexuality, transgender status and carer’s responsibilities. These reforms will see NSW join other states and territories in making religious discrimination unlawful.

Minister for Multiculturalism Natalie Ward said the reforms will support those facing religious discrimination to access remedies and support through Anti-Discrimination NSW. “Religious discrimination is unacceptable in our community and the NSW Government is committed to stopping this behaviour,” Mrs Ward said. “We have a harmonious multi-faith community in NSW which is grounded in respect. It deserves recognition and protection to thrive.” In June 2021, the Commonwealth Government announced its intention to introduce a Religious Discrimination Bill to protect against discrimination based on religious belief or activity in key areas of public life into Federal Parliament by the end of this year.

The NSW Government plans to await the passage of the Commonwealth Bill through Parliament before finalising the detail of NSW reforms, to enable it to consider the interaction of Commonwealth law with NSW reforms and to avoid constitutional inconsistency. This announcement responds to the central recommendation of a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry, which found that there was a strong need to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs and activities. The reform also responds to a recommendation of the Expert Panel Report: Religious Freedom Review (the “Ruddock review”) that NSW should amend its anti-discrimination law to protect against discrimination on religious grounds.

Source: Press Release from office of the NSW Attorney General

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YOUNG PEOPLE HIT HARDEST BY COVID LOCKDOWNS

By Australian Newsletter

There is little doubt that teenagers and young people have been hit hardest of all by Covid-19. Presentations to emergency departments in NSW for self-harm or suicidal ideation among 12-17-year-olds is 49 per cent higher in 2021 compared to 2019. This year is even worse for young people than last. While hospital admissions for acute mental health conditions have increased by only 2 per cent for the general population, for children and young people, admissions have spiked by 43 per cent. “This is not a normal time for any of us. I don’t think it’s over the top to equate it to a public health version of being at war,” says NSW chief psychiatrist Murray Wright on the impact of the pandemic. “Every child, from primary school onwards, is aware that they’re not living a normal life.”

Eve says when Sydney’s latest lockdown was announced in June, she was plunged into despair. While her health is significantly better than last year, a testament to her courage and resilience, the isolation at times makes her depressed. “When I heard lockdown was coming again I literally cried because I was so scared that what happened to me last year was going to happen again,” she says. “I don’t have any motivation to do any exercise, and so I’ve put on weight, and I’m not going out, which makes my depression worse. I’m not bothered to get out of bed, I’m not bothered to have a shower, I go for, like, a week without having a shower and I just lie in bed watching Netflix and TikTok all day. Not being able to see my friends is the worst thing. It just makes me feel really alone. When I can’t see my friends I feel like nobody loves me.”

The pandemic has further exposed existing critical gaps in mental health service delivery for young people. Victoria’s chief psychiatrist Dr Neil Coventry has urged residents to “reach out” to those undergoing mental health struggles, saying feelings of confusion and uncertainty are “very normal” reactions to lockdowns. “Parents are sleeping outside the doors of their kids’ bedrooms just making sure they can be safe,” says prominent psychiatrist Patrick McGorry, whose Orygen youth mental health service has 200 young people in acute distress on its waiting list. “Parents are trying really hard to access resources, but there’s blocks at every level.” NSW is attempting to fill the gap, with of $109.5m to establish child and adolescent mental health response teams that will provide intensive care and psychological support to young people in acute distress.

The Safeguards Child and Adolescent Mental Health Response Teams are being established in every local health district, made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and allied health workers. NSW has also moved to employ school nurses to manage teen wellbeing. “The impact of the pandemic is significant and I think any of us that have anything to do with young people have to be very honest about that,” says NSW Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor. “Young people are really struggling. I would also say, though, that the predictions at the beginning of the pandemic of an exponential rise in suicides, we didn’t see that. Lifeline recently recorded its largest-ever week of calls. That’s actually a really powerful thing, that people now feel they can reach out for help, and record numbers of people are reaching out.”

Claims on the Medicare Benefits Schedule for psychology sessions have increased by 20 per cent this year for children up to 17, but Ian Hickie, from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, is concerned it’s mostly teenagers from middle-class and privileged backgrounds who are accessing such services. Parents from the suburbs hardest hit by Delta in the southwest and west of Sydney were unlikely to be able to afford private psychiatric care. “Many young people are actually receiving no care, they’re being sent home from emergency departments with no care, presenting with suicidal ideation and self-harm and are being told that they don’t have a problem, meaning they don’t have a problem sufficient enough to get care,” Professor Hickie says.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says her decision to relax exercise restrictions in local government areas of concern was prompted by concerns over the mental health of locked down residents. “And parents are being told, well, if you can afford to get care, you go and buy the care. So what that means is the care tends to happen in eastern Sydney and northern Sydney and eastern Melbourne, and not in the outer suburbs, the western suburbs of our major cities, not in our rural and regional areas.”Dr Wright does not agree people are being turned away from emergency departments. “I think it’s really, really important we look at evidence. I would rather we didn’t have people getting to the point where they are in crisis and are attending our emergency departments, but we don’t turn people away from emergency departments.

“We are working really hard to meet the challenges. The Safeguard teams are a large targeted investment. At the very least it’s a substantial and meaningful step.” Victoria is also in the midst of a record investment in mental health following the royal commission in that state. Yet the demand keeps increasing. Ms Valentine hopes other parents will not have the fight to access services. “The exhaustion, the trauma of watching your child in psychosis and not being able to protect them and not being able to help them and not knowing where to go, it was harrowing and exhausting and depressing. I’ve got a lot of strength to follow it through, but a lot of people don’t.” The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is calling for the impacts of mental health to be specifically considered in any decisions about restrictions and lockdowns.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ATTORNEY GENERAL RULES OUT BROAD CONSTITUTIONALLY BARRED RELIGIOUS FREEDOM LAWS

By Australian Newsletter

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash is signalling new laws to fight discrimination against people of faith will not morph into a religious bill of rights, and warns some faith leaders their demands for wider protections for religious institutions are “constitutionally barred”. The religious discrimination act was a key promise of Scott Morrison’s at the 2019 election and is a major policy barnacle Senator Cash wants to deal with before the next federal poll. In her first wide-ranging interview as the nation’s first law officer, Senator Cash said she also wants to set up a national integrity commission before the election and is taking advice on the need for an independent complaints body to oversee judges.

After revealing in June plans to bring the religious discrimination bill to a vote by Christmas, Senator Cash was inundated with calls from religious leaders to override state government bans on gay conversion therapy and to significantly broaden the bill’s definitions of faith-based institutions to cover a wider group of institutions than places of worship and schools. But the Attorney-General said that the bill would need to stick within the confines of traditional anti-discrimination legislation. “Some people are putting forward ideas that go way beyond a religious discrimination bill and in some cases are constitutionally barred,” she said. “It is widely recognised that we do need a religious discrimination bill, it is widely recognised that we need to deliver on the Ruddock review, there will be some carve-outs due to the nature of religious beliefs.

“I am working day and night with stakeholders, looking at whether or not what they’re saying is within the confines of a religious discrimination bill.” Moderate Liberals have been vocal in opposing any bill that might reduce the rights of LGBTI Australians or roll back the gains made on same-sex marriage. Some have privately questioned why the bill is being resurrected so close to an election. The religious discrimination bill was effectively shelved by Senator Cash’s predecessor, Christian Porter, for the first 18 months of the pandemic after two unpopular drafts. An analysis of 7000 submissions sent to the Attorney-General’s Department over the draft laws found the second version of the bill was generally opposed by more than 80 per cent of stakeholders, up from 30 per cent who were against the first draft.

Religious leaders such as Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli have also appealed to the government to get Labor’s support for any bill and to ensure the final law does not become politically divisive. But some religious leaders have said in recent months the Morrison government’s failure to pass strong protections for faith groups will lead to an electoral backlash. When asked to respond to concerns from moderate Liberals that the bill could become a “religious bill of rights” and hurt gay rights, Senator Cash said: “This is a religious discrimination bill to protect people from discrimination on the basis of their religion. “What I would like to bring into parliament by the end of the year is a bill that has the support of the majority of parliament, because that will affect positive change.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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NEW CHRISTIAN RADIO STATION FOR HOBART

By Australian Newsletter

In a show of great unity, Christians from across Australia have rallied behind Vision Christian Media to secure a high power FM licence covering all of Hobart, auctioned by the Government. This ten thousand watt licence on top of Mount Wellington will soon be broadcasting Vision Christian Radio across Tasmania’s capital city and its quarter of a million souls. Establishing this FM service will be a priority project with technical planning now in full swing and a transmitter already ordered and in transit from overseas. There are many factors still to fall into place but Vision hope to have it up and running within six months.

Source: Vision Christian Media

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QUEENSLAND PASSES EUTHANASIA LAW

By Australian Newsletter

Five of Australia’s six states have put voluntary euthanasia on the statute books after a historic vote in the Queensland parliament enshrined the nation’s most far-reaching assisted dying scheme and built pressure on NSW to follow suit. Queenslanders will be able to legally end their lives with the help of medical staff from January 2023, after a three-day debate by state MPs. With laws passed in every state except the largest, NSW, two-thirds of Australians will have access to assisted dying by the time the Queensland scheme comes into operation. Queensland’s single-chamber parliament passed the legislation with support of 10 Liberal National MPs and despite opposition from three Labor politicians. The two Greens MPs and Noosa independent Sandy Bolton also supported the bill, ensuring it passed with a majority 61 to 30.

This was larger than VAD advocates predicted ahead of a vote. Premier Annastacia Palas­zczuk said there were “a few surprises”, given the support from the LNP, and praised MPs for a respectful debate. “It is very historic,” she said. “I think Queenslanders have spoken loud and clear, and we have listened.” The architect of the world’s first euthanasia laws, Marshall Perron, hailed Queensland’s scheme as the new national benchmark. Mr Perron was the former Northern Territory chief minister who oversaw the passage of Australia’s first euthanasia laws in 1995, which were overturned by the Howard government. “Nothing has changed as far as the arguments for and against are concerned,” he said. “It is just very sad that there have probably now been thousands of people who would have used such legislation who missed out.”

Queensland broadens the eligibility for VAD, allowing people with a life expectancy of 12 months to access the scheme, up from six months in other states. It backed away from a precedent in South Australia that offers an absolute right for faith-based facilities to object to the scheme. Faith-based health and aged care facilities will now be made to allow euthanasia even if it is against their conscience. Although VAD patients must be independently assessed by two doctors, they do not need to be specialists. Doctors will also be able to raise the option of assisted dying with patients. Labor MPs Linus Power, Joe Kelly and Bart Mellish voted against the bill, urging the government to focus on delivering better palliative care services before pursuing right-to-die legislation.

The Australian Medical Association and Palliative Care Queensland have said an extra $275m a year is needed to provide adequate care to all terminally ill Queenslanders. The Palaszczuk government has budgeted an additional $171m over six years. Robbie Katter, whose electorate covers remote parts of northwest Queensland, said people in regional parts of the state did not get “regular visits from surgeons in a nice palliative care unit”. “People who are facing the end of their life with a terminal illness in remote areas will invariably stare into a different looking future than if they had private health care and lived in the middle of Brisbane,” the Katter’s Australia Party leader said. Both major parties gave MPs a conscience vote that allowed 10 LNP politicians to support the government’s bill.

They were: Ray Stevens, Michael Crandon, Dale Last, Steve Minikin, Tim Nicholls, Sam O’Connor, Brent Mickelberg, Michael Hart, Rob Molhoek and Mark Boothman. All cited fundamental belief in the freedom of the individual as a driver of their support. Mr Nicholls, opposition legal affairs spokesman, said: “Voluntary assisted dying is just that: voluntary”. Former LNP leader John-Paul Langbroek missed the vote as he was in quarantine after travelling to Victoria in August for his father’s funeral. Despite parliamentary support, the scheme may face hurdles after the state’s Catholic healthcare services flagged plans to boycott assisted dying. The state’s peak medical bodies, including the Australian Medical Association, joined with faith-based providers to lobby against the scheme throughout the debate.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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HILLSONG’S BRIAN HOUSTON STEPS DOWN FROM ALL CHURCH BOARDS

By Australian Newsletter

Pastor Brian Houston, the lead pastor of Hillsong Church who was charged by Police last month with allegedly concealing sex abuse committed by his father decades earlier, has said he is stepping down from his role on various church boards so that they can continue to “function to their fullest capacity.” “I’ve made a decision to step aside from my role on the Hillsong Church boards that oversee the governance of our operations,” Houston, the senior pastor of the Sydney congregation, wrote in an email to his Church family. “I did this so these boards can function to their fullest capacity during this season. This doesn’t change my role as Global Senior Pastor. I thought it important to let you all know in the interests of transparency, and I wanted you to hear it from me directly,” Houston added.

“Police will allege in court that Houston knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police,” stated  Australian authorities. In a statement since, Houston expressed “shock” at the charges. “These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” Houston said. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.” The church also provided a statement explaining that they were “disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged, and asked that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right. He has advised us that he will defend this and looks forward to clearing his name.

Source: Christian Post

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CHRISTIAN SINGER WINS “THE VOICE AUSTRALIA”

By Australian Newsletter

Bella Taylor Smith, a member of the Hillsong Church, has been crowned the winner of “The Voice” Australia. The 23-year-old was victorious following her powerful duet performance with Guy Sebastian of Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer.” Smith, a singing teacher, was filled with emotion after hearing host Sonia Kruger announce her as the competition’s winner. Her prize includes receiving a recording contract with EMI Music and $100,000. “I really can’t believe it. I’m so thankful,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to see what incredible things are ahead for me. I’m really grateful for you Guy, for everyone who voted and for my beautiful family, who I love.” Sebastian responded “I’m so proud. There are so many deserving people out there, but you are special, Bella,” Sebastian said. “Go out there and kill it. I know you will.”

The singer, who used her time on the show to sing several faith-based songs, then performed her new single “Higher.” Smith took to Instagram to celebrate her big win. “No words other than thank you. thank you to all my friends and family, thank you to my church community. thank you to Guy Sebastian thank you to all the team at The Voice and to the public for all the kind words and encouragement, for your prayers and the love. “Thank you Jesus, I absolutely cannot wait to continue to share and celebrate with you.”In a recent television interview Smith said that she doesn’t plan to give up her teaching job even though she has secured a recording contract. “I love teaching, it’s one of my passions and I’ll definitely keep doing it,” she was quoted as saying.

Source: Christian Post

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GOVERNMENT MINISTER CALLS FOR RE-WRITE OF DRAFT NATIONAL CURRICULUM

By Australian Newsletter

Education Minister Alan Tudge says the board of the country’s schooling authority must substantially rewrite its draft national curriculum, warning he will not endorse the proposed document amid concern student outcomes would be harmed. Writing to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s (ACARA) acting chairman Norm Hart, Mr Tudge criticised the proposal for supporting “ideology over evidence” and presenting an “overly negative view” of the nation in the study of history and civics. In the letter, Mr Tudge urged the board to seriously consider recent feedback from education experts, who have flagged concerns that the proposed changes amounted to a weakening of learning standards.

“Some of these groups, such as Australia’s peak mathematics association, believe that the current draft will take Australian kids backwards,” he wrote. “If the current draft is simply tweaked, it will not be supported. It needs fundamental changes.” The warning comes as the ACARA board meets to discuss feedback to the highly anticipated update of the Australian Curriculum, an important document laying out what students are expected to learn across the mandated subject areas of English, maths, science, the arts, humanities, health and physical education and languages. The curriculum also seeks to cover general capabilities, or skills, such as critical and creative thinking, as well as ensure young people develop an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.

Its release in April, however, sparked a torrent of criticism, including from high-profile historians, academics and reading specialists. Among the most scathing criticism was from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, whose membership spans leading universities, government agencies and industry, which called for any ongoing review of the maths curriculum to be halted pending further consultation. The institute was particularly critical of a proposed push towards having students learn maths by engaging in open-ended problem-solving activities, noting that “mastery of mathematical approaches is needed before student problem-solving can be effective”. Writer Tony Thomas says education in Australia has turned into a “propaganda exercise” to convert kids.

Under way for more than a year, ACARA’s curriculum review was launched in the wake of Australia’s declining performance on the world stage, which has shown that Australian students have gone backwards in reading, maths and science over the past 20 years. According to Mr Tudge, the curriculum should seek to be ambitious on students’ learning outcomes and should prioritise evidence-based practices, particularly in reading and maths. “To my great frustration, evidence-based practices have not been consistently embedded in the current draft,” he said. “There is still too much emphasis on whole-language learning of reading and insufficient emphasis on phonics. “30 years ago, determining the best way to teach reading may have been a legitimate debate, but it is not now. The evidence is crystal clear, that the teaching of phonics is vital.”

The minister also urged the ACARA board to re-examine the history and civics curriculum to ensure that it provided a balanced teaching of Australia’s liberal democracy that has made the nation attractive to millions of migrants. Mr Tudge said “it’s deeply depressing” that these sort of views “infect” our universities amid calls by an influential university academic to scrap the word ‘English’ from the national curriculum. The Courier Mail reports a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne, Dr Melitta Hogarth called for the subject ‘English’ to be renamed because it “asserts” the “besieged sovereignty of the colonial state”. Mr Tudge said at the conference Dr Hogarth could’ve instead talked about a range of other issues such as “how we’re going to get these kids back up to speed from months of lost learning” or focused on “indigenous education”.

“But no, we have to put up with this sort of nonsense. It has to be rejected and it’s deeply depressing these sort of views infect our leading universities.” “Your draft diminishes Australia’s western, liberal, and democratic values,” Mr Tudge said. “The overarching impression from the curriculum is that the main feature of western civilisation is slavery, imperialism and colonisation. “Important historical events are removed or reframed, such as the emphasis on invasion theory over Australia Day. Even Anzac Day is presented as a contested idea, rather than the most sacred of all days where we honour the millions of men and women who have served in war, and the 100,000 who gave their lives for our freedom. “I believe that the best way to serve the interests of our young people is to seize every opportunity to lift educational standards,” he said. “The draft of the Australian Curriculum is such an opportunity.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS ROCKING 18-24 YEAR OLDS

By Australian Newsletter

Surging numbers of mental health emergencies are striking young Victorian adults due to the 18-month pandemic and the state’s multiple lockdowns, confidential Andrews government data has revealed. More than 340 teenagers a week have been admitted to hospital suffering mental health issues, according to a confidential Andrews government report that reveals Victoria’s pandemic and lockdown-fuelled youth crisis is worse than previously feared. The 16-page report also reveals an average of 156 teens a week were rushed to hospital for emergency treatment after self-harming and suffering suicidal ideation, an 88 per cent increase on last year. The most serious cases, where teens required resuscitation and emergency treatment, surged to a six-weekly average of 37.3 cases to the end of May.

In addition the Victorian Agency for Health Information reveals an average 342 children, aged up to 17, presented to emergency departments each week. “These numbers are unequivocally awful,” a leading child psychiatrist said. “They show increased demand and they show no increase in services because services were already at capacity. Our units are completely over run. “This surge is even bigger than I would have guessed. To see it measured so starkly and compare that to the policy and the response from the department overall, it is pretty shocking. “It’s one thing if the right people don’t know about this stuff, but there has been a month-on-month demonstration about how much worse things have got over 18 months.”

“The number of intentional self-harm and suicidal ideation (emergency department) presentations is statistically significant,” one senior child and adolescent psychiatrist said. “Young and emerging adults as well as teenagers are under major pressure.” The Andrews government has acknowledged the mental health crisis, saying it was committing $220m in extra funding to boost frontline services. The government said it was constantly monitoring the mental health data so it could respond quickly to increased demand with additional resources, including a $2m boost for eating disorder treatments, $2.24m to deliver a headspace waiting list blitz for young people and $3.13m in support packages for community organisations.

The full extent of the youth mental health crisis linked to the pandemic and the lockdowns has been exposed in four confidential government reports tracking case numbers. The data exposing the problems among those aged 18 to 24 is particularly concerning to mental health experts as it points to a loss of hope about the future. “Last year, these young adults bunkered down for the greater cause,” one frontline mental health expert said. “But in the past six months, with these new lockdowns, they’re thinking ‘This wasn’t just last year. What’s with my future? Why would I bother looking for a job outside a government pay cheque? I’m not going to be able to travel’. “It’s dawning on them that this is not over.”

Senior child psychiatrist Paul Robertson said there had been a surge in demand for teenage mental health services across Australia. “There is a huge escalation in demand for mental health services in child and adolescent populations, nationally,” Dr Robertson said. “There’s a surge in demand around presentations to emergency departments with self-harm and suicidality in adolescents. “It is particularly evident in the Education Department presentations around suicide risk and then that flows on to the service and what it needs to do and how much it is struggling to do that. The other presentation is really the increase in eating disorders which is as large or even bigger.” Teenage eating disorders, which mainly strike young women, have continued to spike with figures covering 6 weeks to April 25, showing an average of 332 cases recorded, 14% up on 2020.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ONE IN FOUR AUSTRALIAN WOMEN VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

By Australian Newsletter

Almost one in four Australian women, more than 2.2 million, have experienced sexual violence either through an assault or being sexually abused as a child. More than 10% of  women experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by a known perpetrator who was not a family member, the Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS) reports. And for the 17% of women who have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15, an intimate partner was the most common perpetrator. The new ABS study, Sexual Violence – Victimisation, examines data from personal surveys and recorded crime statistics to reveal a disturbing, and escalating, picture of sexual violence across Australia. It finds 23% of women, and 8% of men, had experienced sexual violence in the form of assault or abuse during their lifetime. The vast majority of perpetrators against men were male.

Sixty per cent of women and 51% of men who had experienced a sexual assault had been assaulted multiple times, the study finds. And it shows that the prevalence of sexual assaults against women had increased between 2012 and 2016, the two most recent data points, while for men it had remained constant. “Both women and men were more likely to experience sexual assault by a known person than by a stranger,” if finds. “For women the most common perpetrator was an intimate partner.” “11% of women and 4.6% of men experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by a known person who was not a family member,” it says. Despite the prevalence, the vast majority of incidents of sexual assault are not reported to police. Of the 144,797 victims of sexual assault recorded by police between 2014 and 2019, 83% were female and 63% were under the age of 18.

Younger women, those experiencing financial hardship and women living with disability experienced higher prevalence of sexual assault. And those of both gender who had been sexually abused before the age of 15 were more likely to experience sexual assault as adults, the study found. “We know that sexual violence is incredibly widespread, and growing, and the reporting and conviction rate is low,” said Professor Nicole Moulding, director of the Safe Relationships and Communities Research Group at University of South Australia. “There is a lot of stigma and taboo around the reporting of this in society, and a lot of issues around achieving justice through the criminal justice system because of sexist lenses that are still applied, issues such as victim blaming and so on,” Professor Moulding said.

Professor Moulding said the rise in recent decades of pornography that is violent and degrading towards women is one factor in the continuing high rates of sexual violence in Australia. When adult women were the victim of a sexual assault by a male perpetrator, the report said, a recurring factor was alcohol, with 50 per cent believing alcohol or another substance contributed. And worryingly, only 26 per cent of women considered the sexual assault incident was a crime at the time it was being committed, with only 13 per cent reporting their most recent incident of assault by a male perpetrator to police. Almost half (48 per cent) of the women who were sexually abused as children experienced that abuse for the first time between 5 and 9 years of age. For men, almost half were between 10 and 14.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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CATHOLIC HOSPITALS REVOLT ON EUTHANASIA IN QUEENSLAND

By Australian Newsletter

Catholic hospitals will defy Queensland euthanasia laws that force them to allow doctors to administer end-of-life drugs in their facilities. Health provider Mater has issued a statement saying it would not accede to the laws signed off by a parliamentary committee and due to go to a vote later this month. “We will not tolerate non­credentialed doctors coming on site, nor will we assist in the provision of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in any of our facilities,” said Francis Sullivan, chair of the Mater group. “There is a practical solution and it will work for all sides of this debate.” The proposed laws introduced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk would give individual health workers and institutions the right to opt out of the assisted dying scheme, except in cases when it would cause “unnecessary suffering” to transfer the patient to another facility.

Catholic facilities provide one in five hospital and aged-care beds in Queensland, and want the right to oppose VAD at their facilities, as is the case with South Australian laws.St Vincent’s Health Australia accepts the legislation is all but certain to pass but remains opposed. “Allowing unaccredited doctors to enter hospital rooms, with no notice or permission needed, to assist in a medical procedure to help a patient die is a radical and dangerous undermining of patient safety and should be rejected,” said chief executive Toby Hall. “It’s partly why the Queensland Australian Medical Association is so strongly against the lack of protection for faith-based hospital providers. Mr Hall said St Vincent’s had not run into “any issues” in the two years since euthanasia was legalised in Victoria because its legislation does not attempt to regulate institutional objection.

“It’s also about fairness. The Queensland government is forcing Catholic hospitals, against our values and beliefs, to open our facilities to assisted dying. That’s unsettling and shocking to us” Hall said. Deputy Premier Steven Miles said cases where VAD doctors would offer services at faith-run facilities would be “very rare”. “It is only where it would cause unnecessary suffering to transfer the patient to a provider where those services could be provided,” he said. Institutions that block people’s access to the assisted dying scheme would not be fined, but doctors and providers could be referred to the medical accreditation watchdog. “The law reform commission considered whether there should be penalties and determined there did not need to be,” Mr Miles said. “I expect all of our healthcare providers and aged-care providers will comply with the law.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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