By Peter James
CEO, Scripture Union Queensland
The Australian recently reported that the Turnbull government has axed the school chaplaincy program and that chaplains have lost taxpayer funding.
It is very important that we let our local politicians know about our strong support for school chaplaincy - and the vital work they perform. I will be writing to the Prime Minister and Treasurer about this today, as well as speaking with other politicians, but also I ask that you make a phone call to express your concern about the announcement.
There are some important points to make about this news report:
1. Most importantly, it is very clear that school chaplaincy funding continues for the rest of this year, and for the full school years of 2017 and 2018.
2. The Budget clearly show the current year's funding continuing, and the future budgeted amounts remaining unchanged for the next 2.5 years of the program - i.e. for the government's fiscal years of 2016/17 and 2017/18.
3. This will mean the federal government will make its last payment to state and territory governments under the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) in 2018, to carry to the end of that school year. At that point, the NSCP will be completed according to its terms - it was a four-year program and, from its outset was slated to conclude at the end of 2018.
The current four-year chaplaincy program was put in place in the May 2014 federal budget, to commence from 2015, when the previous chaplaincy and welfare worker program ended.
In the same way, we hope that a new chaplaincy funding program will be put in place in the May 2018 budget, to commence early in 2019. But we need your help to make that happen.
Even though the news article is misleading, if there is no reaction from people who highly value school chaplains, the federal government might interpret that as a lack of support for school chaplaincy. We need to send the message that our schools and children need their chaplains to continue in 2019 and beyond.
That's why I am asking that you make two phone calls - TODAY.
* Please call your local federal member in your electorate. You can search for your MP's phone number here, using your postcode or electorate name.
* Please also call the Prime Minister's office to register your concern. The number is (02) 6277 7700.
* Alternatively, you can email your concern to the Prime Minister using this link.
You won't need to speak to the PM - just explain how concerned you are about the announcement that school chaplaincy funding is ending. You might like to explain what a vital service our chaplains perform for school students and how we can't afford to lose them.
School chaplaincy has been supported by both the Coalition and Labor parties since 2006. Chaplains do such important and vital work in supporting children and young people in schools across Australia. More than 1 million school students and their families depend on their chaplain for social, emotional and spiritual support.
School chaplaincy is building hope and resilience in future generations to come.
You can see some of the highlights of school chaplaincy in the attached 2016 snapshot of the National School Chaplaincy Association, just released.
Please stand with us at this important moment in our history.
God bless you.