We are pleased to inform you that this week the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) granted Carey a five-year exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act. The exemption allows Carey to run separate waiting lists for girls and boys so that we can maintain a balance of girls and boys in each year level across the school. This helps us provide the best and equal opportunities for both girls and boys, and reflects the real world which is co-educational.

Carey has been granted an exemption since 1997, and exemptions are common amongst many co-educational schools across Melbourne – including Wesley, Caulfield Grammar, Geelong Grammar, and Ivanhoe Grammar. The temporary nature of theexemption allows VCAT to review new applications in the context of the circumstances in which the application is made, allowing for potential changes in these circumstances over time which may impact the need for an exemption.

On this occasion, and for the first time, we had three competitor schools put in a joint objection to our application via a legal representative. These parties were also represented at the VCAT hearing for Carey’s application.

We and many schools are in this position because in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne there are far fewer places for boys and far more places available for girls – i.e. there are lots of girls’ schools, many co-educational schools, and very few boys’ schools. This means the demand for boy places in schools is so much higher. Without an exemption, the enrolment mix would be heavily swayed towards boys and this would make the educational experience less positive for both boys and girls – academically, socially and emotionally.

VCAT has found these circumstances still apply and thus have granted a new exemption order. VCAT took four weeks to deliberate the application and found in favour of Carey’s application, granting a five-year exemption with no restrictions. Further to that, the Senior Member at VCAT made the comment that in seeking exemption, Carey would be applying this to a lesser extent than single sex schools do in maintaining one gender in enrolment.

You may be aware of some media that has reported on this finding this week, and unsurprisingly have described the situation as ‘elite schools’ that are discriminating or showing bias in favour of girls. These articles do not reflect the complexity of the matter, or the sound educational and social reasons behind why it is important and appropriate to have the exemption in place.

The decision by VCAT is a great outcome for Carey, and similar schools who value and promote the benefits of co-education.

Should you have any questions about the exemption, please do not hesitate to contact the Director of Community Engagement, Julianne Brandon, or me.

Philip Grutzner