Barker College: Rescind your support of discrimination

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Barker is a co-educational Anglican school on Sydney’s North Shore established in 1895. It was one of the first private schools to pioneer a co-educational curriculum and one of the first independent schools to have a proactive approach to Aboriginal education. I consider myself privileged to have the opportunities Barker afforded me to learn about equality, tolerance and loyalty. Above all my education at Barker taught me to respect the rule of law and to have a social conscience. 

Accordingly it was with profound sadness that I learned that the current Headmaster Phillip Heath has signed an “Open Letter to all Members of Parliament of Australia” advocating for the right of Barker and other Anglican schools to discriminate against LGBTIQA+ students and members of staff.

The Headmaster’s letter of 26 October 2018 explaining his position and undertaking not to exercise the right to discriminate has done nothing to alleviate the hurt and anger his public endorsement of discrimination has caused for me and many of my ’87 classmates. Advocating for the right to discriminate is not the same as upholding the right to religious freedom and in good faith, freedom cannot be achieved by trampling upon the rights and mental health of others.

 As a Christian school which receives a large amount of public funding and which upholds the values of honour, equality and respect, Barker has a duty to uphold the law and to provide a safe learning environment for all students and staff. The Anti-Discrimination Act is a key piece of legislation that provides protection for the most vulnerable members of our community. Within the Barker community are LGBTIQA+ young people who may not be ready to share their identity. The Headmaster’s endorsement of legislation which allows discrimination against LGBTIQA+ students and staff sends a message that those young people are not welcome at Barker and their safety will not be guaranteed.

Other Anglican schools such as Kambala and Cranbrook have chosen not to endorse this position. We implore Barker to rescind its public support for the ‘religious exemptions’ and reaffirm it’s commitment to providing a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students and staff and to uphold Barker’s traditional values of honour, respect and equality.