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Freedom of Religion

On 22 November 2017, the Australian Government appointed an Expert Panel into Religious Freedom, chaired by the Hon Philip Ruddock, to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.

The Expert Panel provided its report, 'Religious Freedom Review', to the former Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull, on 18 May 2018.

The full report is available to download below:

The Expert Panel concluded that there is an opportunity to further protect, and better promote the right to freedom of religion under Australian law and in the public sphere. The report made 20 recommendations to enhance the protection of the right to freedom of religion in Australia, both through legislative amendments to Commonwealth, state and territory legislation, and through non-legislative measures.

Government response to the Religious Freedom Review

On 13 December 2018, the government released its response to the report. It accepts either directly or in principle, 15 of the 20 recommendations of the Religious Freedom Review. While noting and agreeing with the principle underpinning the remaining 5 recommendations (1, 5, 6, 7 and 8), the government considers that further review is needed to address the complexities associated with these recommendations.

The government has determined that all Australian jurisdictions need to be involved in progressing the remaining 5 recommendations. As such, on 8 April 2019, the government referred an inquiry to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) on the framework of religious exceptions in anti-discrimination law.

The ALRC's reporting deadline is 12 months from the date the Religious Discrimination Bill passes through the Parliament.

Download the Australian Government response to all 20 recommendations:

Religious Freedom Bills consultation

First exposure drafts

From 29 August 2019 to 2 October 2019, the Attorney-General invited submissions on the first exposure drafts of 3 draft bills, which together form a legislative package on religious freedom.

Find out more about the first consultation process, including copies of some submissions, on the Religious Freedom Bills – first exposure drafts page.

Second exposure drafts

From 10 December 2019 to 31 January 2020 the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General invited comments on the second exposure draft of these 3 bills, which addressed feedback following the first consultation process.

Find out more about the second consultation process on the Religious Freedom Bills – second exposure drafts page.