Chaplains Now A School ‘Option’

Tony Davenport | vision.org.au
Tuesday, June 21st, 2022
Photo Supplied by SU Australia

Some Christians and politicians claim the National School Chaplaincy Program is doomed after a major change, but others say it’s essentially going back to the future.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare has confirmed that the Albanese government will now give schools the option to choose either a chaplain or a professionally qualified student welfare officer.

It returns the chaplaincy program to how the last Labor government ran it while retaining its $60-million annual budget.

Mr. Clare said the change was aimed at giving schools greater choice around pastoral care.

“We believe that principals and school communities are best placed to understand their students’ needs, so we will give schools a choice about the services they need and the staff they hire.”

The voluntary scheme was introduced under the Howard government and its Christian ethos has been a point of contention ever since.

Australian Education Union boss Correna Haythorpe welcomed the news saying: “Public schools are no place for religious proselytising and instruction.”

The Anglican Bishop of Tasmania Richard Condie maintains the program is working very well and he does not understand why the government wants to diminish its religious operation.

Opposition education spokesman Alan Tudge believes the change spells the end of school chaplains.

“Schools will come under pressure from activists not to employ chaplains, regardless of how effective they have been.”

“The chaplains employed by the schools are typically loved by the school community and work well beyond the two days per week of salary.”

Eternity News reports National School Chaplaincy Association (NSCA) spokesperson Peter James is far more optimistic.

He explains: “This is not new and was the policy of the previous federal Labor government. At that time, approximately 3,000 schools chose to continue employing trusted and trained school chaplains to support their school communities. We expect the majority of schools to do the same this time.”

“Chaplains are well trained and are required to hold a Certificate IV in youth work, community work or equivalent. However, 74% of NSCA chaplains exceed this minimum qualification and hold diplomas, bachelor’s degrees or higher in related fields, such as human services, education, social science and pastoral care.”

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