Campaign to keep Christian chaplains in schoolsRead more
The Australian Christian Lobby has urged the South Australian government to retain chaplains in up to 45 public schools after The Advertiser reported today that the number of public primary and high schools with chaplains has been cut from 347 to 302 for the next three years.Read more
The Coalition has upheld its election promise by extending funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program, a decision welcomed by the Australian Christian Lobby.
The Coalition pledged before the election to continue the National School Chaplaincy Program in Schools to support the emotional wellbeing of students.
This month's federal budget revealed that a total of $243.8 million will be allocated to the program over the next four years. Under the program, Australian schools can apply for $20,000 grants from the government to hire a school chaplain. Many school communities raise extra funds so their chaplains can work more than two days per week.
Along with other groups, ACL has advocated for government support of the chaplaincy program, citing widespread community support for chaplains and the important pastoral care role they provide students.
In an interview on ABC News last week, Cabinet Minister Senator Eric Abetz commended the school chaplaincy program, saying:
‘The chaplaincy program is a wonderful investment in national building because if you talk to any school chaplain or indeed, any school principal that has a chaplain in their school, they will tell you what a wonderful investment it is in the spiritual wellbeing of young Australians.’
Scripture Union Queensland (SU QLD) - the largest provider of school chaplains in Australia - recently appeared before the High Court a second time to defend the chaplaincy program after an attempt by a Toowoomba resident to prevent funding of the program.
During the first High Court challenge, 85,000 Australians showed their support for school chaplains by signing a statement of support organised by SU QLD. They hope to present over 100,000 signatures to key members of parliament to show that school chaplaincy is important to thousands of families. ACL encouraged its supporters to get on board with the campaign earlier this year.
A move to provide additional funding for chaplaincy in schools is being considered by the Queensland government.
The Courier-Mail recently reported that the move would give independent public school principals the ability to increase the hours of chaplains and other staff including guidance counsellors and psychologists.
Currently, the Queensland government provides up to $11,000 a year for school chaplains in addition to federal government funding of the chaplaincy program.
The move has come out of a discussion between Scripture Union’s Queensland (SU QLD) CEO Peter James and John-Paul Langbroek’s advisor in regards to additional funds being required around occasions of natural disaster and tragedy in school communities.
SU, which employs most chaplains in state schools, said it’s found additional support from school chaplains is vital around these times and previously there had been no allowance for this.
In recent months, SU QLD has been called to appear before the High Court to defend its national school chaplaincy program.
It first appeared in the High Court two years ago when a Toowoomba resident claimed the chaplaincy program violated religious freedom under the Constitution. The High Court found it did not violate religious freedom as chaplains were not employed or appointed by the government.
A second challenge to the Court’s decision was launched against the program this year.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has highlighted the valuable role school chaplains play in helping young people at risk in a submission to a Senate inquiry into Suicide in Australia made today.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said that research has underlined the important contribution the school chaplaincy program is making in addressing many of the ‘vulnerability factors’ which increase the risk of suicide among young people.
He urged the inquiry to reinforce the need for funding of the school chaplaincy program to be continued and extended (it is currently under review by the Federal Government) and to consider whether there would be merit in developing a chaplaincy program to assist groups at high-risk of suicide in the wider community.
“Recently-released research into the chaplaincy program by Dr Phillip Hughes of Edith Cowan University and Professor Margaret Sims of the University of New England has highlighted the success of the chaplaincy program. On a scale of 1 to 10, chaplains were rated at 8.6 for providing an opportunity for students to talk through issues and offering support to significant problems. They were also rated at 8.5 for offering support to students in special risk categories,” Mr Wallace said.
“The report on the chaplaincy program indicated that in the two weeks prior to the survey undertaken by the researchers, 44 per cent of chaplains reported dealing with issues related to self-harm or suicide. One principal advised that, ‘The chaplain has averted student suicide on more than one occasion’.
“Chaplains are obviously doing a great job in providing support, guidance and pastoral care for young people and it is vital that they are given the funding needed to continue this role. There could also be great benefit in developing a framework whereby chaplains could be employed to help high-risk groups such as indigenous youth and rural communities.”
Mr Wallace said that suicide is a terrible trauma that visits far too many Australian families every year. He welcomed the Senate inquiry as an important opportunity for concerned individuals and organisations to highlight the measures that Governments and community organisations can undertake to prevent suicide, and to advocate for greater assistance in providing targeted programs and services, especially for those at high risk of suicide.