I'm an educator and atheist living in Florida (United States). I will be visiting various cities in Australia over a two-month period from June 13 until August 10, 2017, as part of an exploratory relocation trip. I was hoping to gain a better understand of the religious and political climate of Australia, especially as it relates to employment discrimination due to religious morality and its connection, if any, with government politics.
While most of my common questions about Australia can easily be answered with a quick Google search, the following questions are something that only a local with a deep understanding of Australian society would know, so here goes:
As you likely are aware, the United States of America has a strange relationship with sexuality, most likely due to the close association of religion and politics in American culture. For example, unlike the Netherlands and most of Western Europe, the majority of schools in the United States use an abstinence-only model to educate our kids about sex, despite ample scientific research that shows abstinence-only models do not work and are much less effective compared to the science-based comprehensive models.
That said, I'm trying to understand what the cultural and political relationships are with regard to lawful sexual conduct/expression and employment discrimination, especially with regard to teachers and other public employees, in Australia. Please understand that my questions pertain exclusively to LAWFUL sexual conduct (e.g, patronizing a brothel or strip club, working in a brothel or strip club, attending a sex/swinger club, engaging in gay, bisexual, or straight sexual acts, etc.). It is quite obvious that any UNLAWFUL conduct or expression would lead to adverse employment action.
For example, in Australia, would a licensed, experienced, and competent teacher, with absolutely no criminal background, be fired or have their teaching license revoked upon discovery of his or her prior (or current) lawful, off-duty sexual conduct?
In Queensland, for example, prostitution is legal and regulated. Suppose a girl worked in a brothel for many years and ultimately became a teacher, would she be at risk of losing her job if the school later discovered about her prior work? Or, if she had disclosed it during a job interview, would that prior (or current) lawful employment be sufficient grounds not to hire her?
Or, in a current context, what if she were a teacher during the day while moonlighting at night or on the weekend in a brothel (or dancing in a strip club) to earn additional money … would that be grounds for the school to dismiss her?
I'm trying to understand whether Australian culture, specifically Queensland, considers the lawful sex industry to be unethical or immoral and therefore sufficient grounds for adverse employment action against teachers (or other public employees) who have or had an association with the lawful sex industry, or engaged in lawful sexual expression, more generally.
Turning outside of sex work, what about lawful sexual practices? -- would the analysis change if a teacher were openly gay, transgender, or non-monogamous (e.g., swinger, polyamorous, or in an open relationship with his or her partner)? To illustrate, modify the situation above to where the teacher’s role moves from sex industry employee to consumer. Suppose a male teacher, for example, were a customer at a lawful brothel, strip club, or swingers club, would the school's discovery of that lawful sexual conduct be sufficient grounds to dismiss the teacher?
Some detailed example(s):
1. A male (or female) teacher is seen by a parent frequenting a local lawful brothel or strip club on his or her own time. The parent is offended that their kid's teacher is going to such a place, so the parent complains to the principal. Can that teacher be dismissed?
2. A couple is at a lawful local swinger (sex) club. They noticed that another couple at the sex club is their kid's teacher with his or her partner. They complain to the principle that a teacher should not be in such a club (even though the complaining parents, themselves, were there). They argue to the principal that teachers should be "held to a higher moral standard." Is the teacher at risk of losing his or her job?
3. A female (or male) teacher needs extra money and decides to work part-time, on the weekends, in a lawful brother or strip club. A parent comes in on the weekend and notices that their kid's teacher is working there. The parent complains to the principal. Would that teacher be dismissed?
In America, the answer to these questions is undoubtedly ‘Yes,’ but I’m wondering if Australia has the same schizophrenic relationship with sexuality that America does. Or, does Australia have a more progressive, sexually-open/tolerant society, like the Netherlands, Germany, etc.?
As a point of reference, the following stories are examples of what happens to teachers (or other public employees e.g., police officers, firefighters, city/town managers, etc.) in America. Would this happen in Australia, too?
Ashley Payne (teacher):
Kaity Pearson (teacher's asssitant):
Olivia Sprauer (teacher):
Erica Chevillar (teacher):
Tonya Whyte (teacher):
Shawn Loftis (teacher):
Scott Janke (city manager):
David Mech (my story):
Mike Verdugo (police officer):
...and there are many more stories where those came from, unfortunately.
Would these teachers (and other public employees) have retained their employment had they lived in Australia?
As you can see, before I invest significant time and resources moving to the other side of the world, I want to make sure I don't run into the same political issues that exist here in the United States with regard to prior (or even current) lawful sexual conduct.
Therefore, are any members of this forum able to shine some light on this topic? Detailed, thoughtful comments on this topic are very much appreciated.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to read and, hopefully, develop this thread into a robust and meaningful discussion! :)
Sadly, Australia is very similar to the US. Queensland in particular is Australia's bible belt. Regardless of whether the law prohibits this kind of discrimination, it's easy enough to dismiss an employee for other reasons.
I hope you will be checking out Adelaide. It's known as the city of churches, but it's more liberal than some other major cities.
Thanks, Matt. I will not be visiting Adelaide because it gets cold there. I’m only looking at tropical or subtropical climates, namely Queensland and the Northern Territory. I understand that Sydney and Melbourne are the most progressive areas of Australia, but if I’m going to be cold then I’ll just move straight to the Netherlands ;) lol
Thanks again for your input :)
I live in Australia (Perth) and have spent a fair amount of time in the US (Texas mostly). Australia is a much more secular society than the US. Being an Atheist here is fine, if anything it is considered strange to express strong religious beliefs. As an atheist here I feel I fit right in with everyday society.
Australia has strong unfair dismissal laws, and anti discrimination laws. I don't think it would be legal to dismiss the people in the articles you linked to if they worked in Australia.
None of the government schools that I have had anything to do with have any official organized religion affiliations, apart from religious education lessons once a week provided by an external organization that most students opt out of anyway. A few of the parents may be religious but they keep their views to themselves. There are religious private schools, but the a lot of students and parents at these schools are not religious themselves, they just go there because they are perceived (not necessarily correctly) as providing better education.
Australia generally is more like the Netherlands and Germany than the US in the attitude to sexuality, there is some conservatism in some demographics, but not the general population. What you do in your home is your own concern only. Teaching sex ed in schools is not controversial here, though the programs may not be the most modern. Abortion is legal and not usually protested. Most people think that young people should have easy access to contraception. As you mentioned brothels are legal in Most states in Australia (though it is illegal to sell sex on the streets, the extra traffic upsets the local residents :) ). Even in Perth where prostitution is not strictly legal, brothels operate openly.
The Gay marriage issue is a bit embarrassing, the overwhelming majority of Australians support it, but it is being blocked by some strange politics. The right wing Liberal party government wants to have a referendum, but that is being blocked by the left wing as they don't think we need one and the matter should be decided by a conscience vote in parliament.
Some parts of country Queensland may be a bit more conservative than the major cities, though you are likely to run into more of the alternative crowd in certain country towns. Brisbane is a modern large city. Darwin is just a small town really so may be a bit more conservative though there are quite a few alternative types there. There is quite a cultural difference between the cities and the country. Country Australia is really really empty compared to anywhere in the US its hard to comprehend until you experience it. A large country town may be a few hundred people and hours away from another town.
In reply to some of your specific questions:
"For example, in Australia, would a licensed, experienced, and competent teacher, with absolutely no criminal background, be fired or have their teaching license revoked upon discovery of his or her prior (or current) lawful, off-duty sexual conduct?"
You couldn't legally be fired in Australia for this
"I'm trying to understand whether Australian culture, specifically Queensland, considers the lawful sex industry to be unethical or immoral and therefore sufficient grounds for adverse employment action against teachers (or other public employees) who have or had an association with the lawful sex industry, or engaged in lawful sexual expression, more generally."
Some people may find it immoral, it may be hard to get a job if you disclose these things in an interview, but I believe that legally in Australia none of these things are sufficient grounds for dismissal. You may get dismissed for some made up reason if these things came to light, but this would be grounds for you to take legal action providing of course you can prove it, which may be hard.
"Turning outside of sex work, what about lawful sexual practices? -- would the analysis change if a teacher were openly gay, transgender, or non-monogamous (e.g., swinger, polyamorous, or in an open relationship with his or her partner)? To illustrate, modify the situation above to where the teacher’s role moves from sex industry employee to consumer. Suppose a male teacher, for example, were a customer at a lawful brothel, strip club, or swingers club, would the school's discovery of that lawful sexual conduct be sufficient grounds to dismiss the teacher?"
None of these things would be legal grounds for dismissal in Australia. Not hiring someone because they were Gay or transgender would be grounds for legal action under anti discrimination laws, again of course providing you can prove it.
There are codes of conduct for teachers in Australia eg http://www.dec.nsw.gov.au/about-us/careers-centre/why-choose-us/cod.... It appears in NSW at least you need permission to undertake other work while employed as a teach in case it interferes with your teaching.