Parents question anti-same sex marriage recruitment policy in NSW Anglican schools

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

A controversial demand that their new principal and board members sign a statement of faith that opposes gay marriage is motivating parents at one Anglican school in regional New South Wales (NSW) to fight back.

The rule will impact all Sydney Anglican dicoese-run schools, by forcing incoming heads to sign a document that states they oppose same sex marriage.

But for concerned parents at Illawarra Grammar School, clause is causing concern.

When the current head, Judi Nealy, steps down at the end of the year, the school’s next principal will be made to sign the document.

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The Wollongong school is run by the Sydney Anglican diocese, which updated its statement of faith in 2019. It now reads that “faith produces obedience in accordance with God’s word, including sexual faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman, and abstinence in all other circumstances”.

The statement must be signed by incoming principals and council members at the 30 schools overseen by the diocese, Abbotsleigh, Barker College, Danebank, The King’s School, Shore, Tara Anglican School for Girls, Nowra Anglican College and Roseville College.

The Illawarra Mercury reported that the chair of The Illawarra Grammar School’s council, Anthony Okely, contacted parents to acknowledge parental concerns about the clause.

It followed a Parents & Friends Association meeting at the school last month when parents flagged concerns, with one parent outlining their view that the statement failed to align “with the values of mainstream Australia or the community [the school] seeks to serve” in a letter to school council.

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Last year, more than 100 parents at St Catherine’s, Australia’s oldest private girls’ school, lobbied its council to scrap the rule after it was revealed its next principal could only accept the job if they agreed to the clause.

St Catherine’s appointed an interim head, Judith Poole, but, as a temporary leader, she was not required to sign the statement. A new head is set to be appointed in 2025.

In May last year, a newspaper report revealed that principals of some of Sydney’s Anglican schools had expressed worry about the new clause, with concerns about singling out same-sex marriage in a general statement of Christian faith.

A Sydney Anglican diocese spokesperson said that, if someone signed the statement before 2019, they were acknowledging scripture as the supreme authority in matters of faith and conduct.

“As a rule, the statement is required for council members and the CEOs and principals of diocesan organisations and schools. To the best of our knowledge, those required to assent to the Statement of Personal Faith have done so,” the spokesperson said.

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At Illawarra Grammar School, though, some parents see the directive as something that will reduce the pool of quality candidates in the recruitment process and promote discrimination.

“We have been clear with candidates that the school cares for and protects every student and does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment,” Mr Okely wrote.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]