Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Deadline extended for religion and belief project

The Australian Human Rights Commission has extended the deadline for submissions to its Freedom of religion and belief in the 21st century Discussion Paper until 28 February 2009.

Released in September, the discussion paper sets out to examine and report on the extent to which the right of freedom of religion and belief can be enjoyed in Australia today by drawing from practical everyday experiences and observations.

The Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tom Calma, said the discussion paper had already generated a lot of initial interest from individuals and organisations.

“We have been open to receiving submissions for some time but given the Christmas and New Year period, we want to give more organisations and individuals – including secular and religious minorities - further opportunities to contribute,” Commissioner Calma said.

“In particular, we encourage responses that represent a diversity of views in order to ensure a comprehensive foundation from which the research team can develop the final report.”

Commissioner Calma said the Discussion Paper asked a series of thought provoking questions but pointed out that it was not necessary for submissions to address all the questions.

“The fundamental human right of freedom of religion and belief is protected by a number of international treaties and declarations,” Mr Calma said.

“It encompasses freedom of thought on all matters and the freedom to demonstrate and express our religion and belief individually, with others, in private or in public, including the right not to believe.”

Commissioner Calma emphasised that gaining a comprehensive understanding of these issues could not be achieved merely by consultation with academics, religious institutions or government.

“We need to hear from as many people as possible, from all walks of life and I encourage everyone with an interest in this issue to take advantage of this extension and make a submission,” Mr Calma said.

Submissions can be informal and include letters or emails. Electronic submissions are encouraged by visiting or emailing

Submissions can also be made by post to the Race Discrimination Unit:
Education and Partnerships Section,
Australian Human Rights Commission,
GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001.
For enquiries, call (02) 9284 9600 or 1800 620 241.

The Freedom of religion and belief in the 21st century project is being run in partnership with the Australian Multicultural Foundation, in association with RMIT University and Monash University.

Media contact: Louise McDermott 0419 258 597