Folau v Rugby Australia Ltd
Folau v Rugby Australia Ltd

Folau makes shock claim in $10m legal battle over sacking

DUMPED Wallabies star Israel Folau has sensationally accused one of the tribunal members who found against him of bias because of her human rights work which advocated for the lesbian, gay and transgender community.

The born-again Christian fullback claims Kate Eastman SC should never have sat on the tribunal which found he had breached his contract when he posted a warning on Instagram that "drunks, ­homosexuals and adulterers" were destined for hell if they did not repent.

In documents filed on Thursday in his Fair Work Commission fight with Rugby Australia and the Warratahs, Folau claims Sydney barrister Ms Eastman had acted for Rugby Australia in the past and had failed to disclose that she had sat on various committees and associations "that advocated for the LGBTI community".

Israel Folau is claiming around $10 million in damages. Picture: Adam Yip
Israel Folau is claiming around $10 million in damages. Picture: Adam Yip

Folau is claiming around $10 million in damages after being sacked for breaching his contract over his views and has argued his sacking breached Section 772 of the Fair Work Act, a clause that deems it unlawful to terminate employment on the grounds of ­religion.

In his latest documents, Folau also claims that RA boss Raelene Castle had supported him when he first came out quoting the Bible in August last year after he replied to a question of what God's plan is for gay people in the Player's Voice magazine.

He had quoted Corinthians 6: 9-10: "Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

He said Ms Castle emailed him the day after that article appeared.

Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle. Picture: Adam Yip
Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle. Picture: Adam Yip

She told him that RA would not be sanctioning him and "Rugby Australia believed the Player's Voice article gave clarity to the situation and was delivered in a respectful manner", according to his court documents.

After his sacking, Folau faced a three-day hearing before an "independent" tribunal which included Ms Eastman who Folau claims should have recused herself.

The dual international claims that instead, Ms Eastman heard the application by his lawyers to stand down and decided herself that she should remain. Rugby Australia had opposed Folau's application.

Folau said she was the co-founder and member of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights which advocates for the LGBTI community, was the chair of the Law Council of Australia's Equal Opportunity Committee, the NSW Bar Association's Diversity and Equality Committee and the Australian Bar Association's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, all of whom advocate for the LGBTI community.

Israel Folau accused Kate Eastman of bias. Picture: Adam Yip
Israel Folau accused Kate Eastman of bias. Picture: Adam Yip

He claims that he made it clear to Ms Eastman and the tribunal that he did not intent to "cause pain and confusion to any group of people and to the extent that he had done so, he was sorry and apologised" and that he "could continue to work with the Wallabies and the Waratahs in the future with no animosity or ill feelings"

Despite that, the tribunal did not try to conciliate to help the dispute to be resolved in a " non-confrontational mutually acceptable way (as was clearly being offered by Mr Folau), which conclusion would have been in the best interests of the game as a whole, considering the World Cup was imminent and Mr Folau was Australia's best player".

In its defence to Folau's claim, RA and the Warratahs have filed documents with the Federal Circuit Court saying that the tribunal was composed of three respected individuals, two of whom are senior barristers - Ms Eastman and John West QC - and the third was experienced sports administrator John Boultbee.

In asking the Fair Work Commission to dismiss Folau's application, they said he had a "full opportunity to present his arguments to the tribunal" and had conceded that he had breached the Code of Conduct but nonetheless refused to take down the posts.

They said he was bound contractually by the tribunal's decision.

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