The Howard Government provided $165,000,000 for the National School Chaplaincy Program.1 The current government has extended the life of the Howard program to 2011 pouring an extra $42,800,000 into it.2. This is the state funding religion directly into the schools, offering the chance for mostly Christian churches to place their chaplains directly into the schools to offer “spiritual guidance”. Money that could surely be spent on proper counselling and support services by suitably qualified practitioners.
The National School Chaplaincy Association in their research findings 3 found that 95% of chaplains reported dealing with behaviour management issues such as anger, 92% with bully and harassment, 91% with student family relationship issues, there were also self esteem issues, grief and loss and 44% dealt with self harm and suicide. The report then goes on to indicate that few of the chaplains have training as psychologists or counsellors. In fact, most of them have qualifications in theology, pastoral care or children’s/youth work4
In their submission to the consultation process for the National School Chaplaincy Program, the Australian Psychological Society raises serious doubts about the skill level of the chaplains, and their abilities to deal with very complex personal matters. They say that the government is supporting a scheme that allows unregistered and unqualified school chaplains to work outside their boundaries of spirituality and religion. They also say in the report that their is clear evidence that school chaplains are engaging in duties for which they are not qualified.5
I also note that the NSCA lists the church backgrounds of the chaplains, and they all appear Christian.
Chaplains come from a wide range of church backgrounds, from the mainstream Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox and Uniting denominations through to the congregationally-oriented Baptists and Churches of Christ to some of the newer Pentecostal and charismatic denominations. No one denomination was dominant in this mix.6
There doesn’t appear to be much outside the mainstream Christian church,which must be a worry for other denominations.
The Secular Party of Australia policy is that the National School Chaplaincy Program be replaced with a program supporting qualified counsellors in schools.
The electors of Melbourne Ports should ask what Michael Danby has done to ensure that all his constituents are treated fairly, that no single religion is treated differently.
A vote for the Secular Party of Australia is a vote to remove the special privileges that Christianity has in our political system. Removing religion from state allows all to follow their personal beliefs without government funding or favouritism. Our schools need properly trained counsellors and psychologists, not chaplains.
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- Under the Program $165 million over three years has been made available for government and non-government schools to establish school chaplaincy services Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations FAQ ↩
- The Australian Government will provide an additional $42.8 million to extend the NSCP for all participating schools until December 2011. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations ↩
- The Effectiveness of Chaplaincy Research findings, “Chaplains Activities National School Chaplaincy Association ↩
- The Effectiveness of Chaplaincy Research findings, The Background of Chaplains – full report, p.14 National School Chaplaincy Association ↩
- Submission to the Consultation Process for the National School Chaplaincy Program – Concerns about the NSCP – page 3 The Australian Psychological Society Ltd. ↩
- The Effectiveness of Chaplaincy Research findings, The Background of Chaplains – full report, p.15 National School Chaplaincy Association ↩