Religious Freedom and Religious Schools

Page topper image panel 2018 Governors Symposium

On 22nd November 2017, the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion. 

The review panel, chaired by the Hon Philip Ruddock, has since finalised its review of Religious Freedom Protection in Australia and has delivered its report to the Prime Minister and Government. At the time of this event we were awaiting its public release.

In anticipation of the release of the 'Ruddock Review' it was prudent for the Heads and Governors of faith-based schools to consider the potential implication of the report, consider its potential findings and recommendations, and look at the ramifications and implications for faith-based education in Australia.

Speaker: Assoc Prof Neil Foster

Master of Laws, University of Newcastle; Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Laws, University of New South Wales; Bachelor of Theology, Australian College of Theology; Diploma of Arts in Theology, Moore Theological College, Sydney

Neil Foster is an Associate Professor in Newcastle Law School at the University of Newcastle, Australia. His main research and teaching interests are Torts, Workplace Health and Safety Law, and Law and Religion.

Associate Professor Foster's primary research interests include Torts (civil liability for wrongs) and Occupational (Workplace) Health and Safety Law. He has also published in the areas of Property and Intellectual Property. Most recently he has been developing a research interest in Law and Religion issues.

Together with a colleague, Lucy Wilk, he has been examining a number of recent cases where two fundamental human rights seem to be in conflict. They have analysed how the courts approach the "balancing" process in such conflicts, particularly in controversial areas such as same sex couples and religion.

In 2012 Associate Professor Foster published a book which provides an introduction to the Australian Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) law for use by those who need to know how to manage safety in a workplace following the development of a new harmonised law in 2012-2013*. It covers not only the new WHS Act 2011, but also a range of related issues connected to safety: the contract of employment, common law tort actions, workers' compensation law and anti-discrimination legislation.

*Workplace Health & Safety Law in Australia, LexisNexis Butterworths, Chatswood (2012).

Event Recording

Additional Resources

Associate Professor Foster made mention of two other important resources during the evening.
1. The first was a reference to the submission made by Freedom4Faith to the Ruddock Review into Religious Freedom. Click here to be taken to the relevant page at the Freedom4Faith website. On that page you will find a link to download the full transcript of their submission along with a short introductory video by Michael Kellahan, Executive Director of Freedom4Faith.

2. Associate Professor Foster made mention of his blog site. He regularly writes on issues pertaining to law and religion and it is a helpful resource for anyone with an interest in how these two areas intersect in our society. You can subscribe and receive a regular update from Associate Professor Foster by clicking here.