Action Alert November 2009

This is an archived edition of Action Alert.

Government Funding for School Chaplaincy Under Threat

In 2006, the then Federal Government approved a scheme to fund the provision of chaplaincy services in schools.  In announcing the plan, then Prime Minister John Howard said, “My assessment of the Australian community is that, whatever its view about formal religious adherence may be, it does hunger for additional ways of looking at the spiritual and pastoral side of life.”  The then PM indicated that there was a yearning for greater spiritual guidance and a desire for promoting values, and he believed that the scheme would be warmly welcomed.  The then Federal Government committed $90,000,000 to the scheme, to be spent over the three-year period from 2007 to 2010.

While there was an initial delay in schools ‘signing on’ to the scheme because of the administrative framework that had to be put in place in each State, a huge number of schools (both primary and secondary) have now employed a chaplain on at least a part-time basis.  In Queensland, for example, the National School Chaplaincy Program funding has resulted in a 150% increase in chaplaincy services in the last two years, bringing the total number of chaplains to over five hundred.  A survey of school principals whose schools have chaplaincy services in place found that 98% of those principals want to retain the funding to ensure a continuation of their school’s chaplaincy services.

However, as reported in “Action Alert: February 2008”, a spokesperson for the new Federal Minister for Education announced in January 2008 that the scheme would be overhauled and expanded to include provisions for schools to employ any suitably qualified counsellor (rather than just ‘religious’ chaplains).  The term “expanded” did not refer to an expansion in the levels of funding, but to a widening of the scheme to fund secular counsellors.  The new Federal Minister for Education – Hon Julia Gillard – had committed to delivering the funds that had been pledged by the previous Government, but intended to ‘review’ the funding once the three-year round had been completed.

Recently, Senator Kim Carr, representing the Minister for Education in the Senate, was questioned by Senator Brett Mason during an Estimates Committee hearing about the continuation of funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program.  Senator Carr refused to guarantee that the funding for the chaplaincy program would continue beyond the end of the current financial year (30 June 2010).  If, in fact, the funding is discontinued, many chaplaincy services will have to cease and thousands of students will no longer have access to a trusted, independent-from-the-school-administration friend to help them navigate through the difficult issues of life.

It is vitally important for the continuation of chaplaincy services that we contact the Federal Minister for Education and our local Federal parliamentarian to urge that the National School Chaplaincy Program be continued.  Contact Hon Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister; Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations; Minister for Education; and Minister for Social Inclusion.  Her postal address is PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, 2600.  Her telephone number is (02) 62777320, and her email address is Julia.Gillard.MP@aph.gov.au.  Politely ask the Minister to retain the funding arrangements for chaplaincy when the current round of funding expires in mid-2010, and ask that the scheme not be ‘expanded’ to include funding for secular counsellors (and thereby dilute the spiritual nature of the program).  Point out that the Prime Minister presented himself as a Christian prior to the last Federal election in an attempt to gain support from the churchgoing section of the community, and that it would now be inappropriate to discontinue funding for a program that has the overwhelming support of the Christian community.

It would probably also be appropriate to contact Hon Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister [same postal address, or telephone (02) 62777700, or email by going to the PM’s website at http://pm.gov.au/PM_Connect/Email_your_PM] to make similar points.

Likewise, we ought to contact our local Federal parliamentarian to urge him / her to support the continuation of the funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program.

Scripture Union Queensland – the major employing agency for school chaplains in Queensland – has set up a website that allows Queenslanders to quickly make contact with their Federal MPs.  Go to http://support.schoolchaplaincy.org.au and follow the instructions.

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Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?
Psalm 94:16

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This monthly release is prepared by Pastor Brian Robertson (P O Box 2367, Bundaberg, 4670) to inform Christian people about issues within our society.  “Action Alert” does not promote any one political party, but encourages its readers to be “salt and light” by speaking out on some of these matters.  The views expressed in “Action Alert” are those of the author and are not necessarily those of a local church or a denominational organisation.  To the extent permissible by law, no church or denomination accepts liability for anything contained in this publication and any use made of it.