Israel Folau to sue Rugby Australia over dismissal
Former Wallabies star says ‘no Australian of any faith should be fired for practising religion’
Former Australia player Israel Folau has taken legal action against Rugby Australia. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
Sacked former Wallabies star Israel Folau has taken his case to the Fair Work Commission, saying his employment was terminated because of his religion.
On Thursday Folau’s lawyers confirmed they had filed applications against Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs for breach of contract.
They said the termination of the player’s employment was unlawful on the basis of religion under Section 772 of the Fair Work Act. He is seeking “substantial remedies” from his former employers.
In a statement, Folau said: “No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion.”
Folau, whose contract was ripped up after he posted on social media that all homosexuals are destined for hell, said he felt his treatment by Rugby Australia and the Waratahs had left him no choice but to stand up for his beliefs.
“I will forever be grateful and proud to have played the sport I love for our nation,” he said. “Ours is an amazing country built on important principles, including freedom of religion.
“A nation made up of so many different faiths and cultural backgrounds will never be truly rich unless this freedom applies to all of us.
“The messages of support we have received over these difficult few weeks have made me realise there are many Australians who feel their fundamental rights are being steadily eroded.”
The applications submitted to the Fair Work Commission claim the termination of Folau’s contract prevented him from playing at the peak of his career – and in a World Cup year which would have generated even greater exposure and opportunities.
Folau lost his $4m four-year contract after he was sacked last month following an independent panel hearing into the social media posts that found he had breached RA’s code of conduct at a high level.
At the time he opted not to appeal against the decision but said he would consider his options and potentially pursue the matter through the courts.
Rugby Australia’s firm stance and Folau’s loss of faith in the governing body’s ability to treat him fairly makes a return to Australian rugby fields highly unlikely, regardless of the outcome of any legal action.
On Wednesday the chairman of the ARL Commission, Peter Beattie, reaffirmed the NRL’s position that it would not allow Folau back into the game under any circumstances, as rugby league is “an inclusive game with respect for all”.
Folau’s brother quit the Waratahs over the issue on Thursday.
John Folau, who had not made an appearance for the Super Rugby side but was named on the bench earlier this season, had been grappling with “divided loyalties”, according to his coach Daryl Gibson. – Guardian