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Chaplaincies in Schools – The Game Continues

By 20 June 2014 3

Last May, I wrote about chaplaincy services in government schools and many rioters joined in the debate, on both sides of the equation and for the most part it was a healthy discussion.

On 19 June, and for the second time, the High Court has ruled legislation to enable the payments to the Scripture Union Queensland by the Commonwealth for the express aim to fund chaplaincy services was invalid.

The reference is http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-19/highcourt-delivers-verdict-on-school-chaplaincy-program/553456.

Did you know that the federal Government defunded school for counsellor services in this year’s budget. So let’s not pretend that schools can get the so-called best of both worlds. The federal Government justified this position by saying that the States could fund those services themselves if they wanted to.

The previous Labor Government allowed secular welfare workers to be funded under the scheme but the Coalition reversed the decision and will pay only for chaplains. Pretty clear to me what they intended to happen.

Let us remind ourselves where this started. The program was initiated under the Howard Government in 2006, and later extended by the Rudd Government. Schools received up to $20,000 each under the program to employ chaplains. Under this program chaplains were to provide counselling support but were banned from proselytising their faith. [yeah right!]

The new ruling by the High Court is interesting in that it upheld the case from Mr Ron Williams, a parent in Queensland. But the national body for school chaplains says that it believes that the program will survive despite the Court’s ruling, saying that payments can continue as state grants. They are right! The High Court did not rule this out.

The ruling declared invalid payments directly to bodies other than the states for these purposes and said that the legislation, intended to address the original rejection by the High Court, as invalid. It ruled that the payments made under the Financial Management Act, were unconstitutional within the meaning of s51 (xxiiiA) of the Constitution.
But here’s the rub. The legislation to enable payments to bodies other than the states was the invalid bit, not the program itself. This means that the Commonwealth can make payments to the states, under whatever provisos it likes, to enable the program to go ahead.

Let us see what the PM said about the ruling. He said “We particularly want the chaplaincy program to continue. It’s one we invented. It’s one we supported. It’s one we took to the election.” [I don’t remember that but hey, would he tell a porky?]

It is clear that he will find the way to force chaplaincies on schools, having defunded the counsellor programs, previously funded through the states. So, here’s my prediction.

The Commonwealth will provide the $250 million to the states for the program as designed by the Coalition, but with the sting that if the states don’t implement the program, there will be funding detriments applied to their grants in other areas. In other words, fiscal pressure will be applied to the states to comply. It won’t be that hard though because Labor, to their shame, have said they are supportive of the program but so far have been silent on the defunding of counsellors.

On the one side are parents like Ron Williams, backed by the states, saying they agree with the AEU and want “expert trained school counsellors, psychologists and welfare workers” and on the other are proselytising pollies, the National School Chaplaincy Association and the Scripture Union of Queensland (SUQ). Doesn’t the name SUQ give it away actually?
Yeah, well I’m on Ron Williams’ side but have seen this bullying stuff before. This is not the beginning of the end of the matter; it is the end of the beginning.

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3 Responses to Chaplaincies in Schools – The Game Continues
#1
bd849:20 am, 20 Jun 14

Such challenges are really a waste of money as it really rules on a legal technicality or interpretation. As noted, it won’t stop the program as it will just be funded a different way. The Commonwealth can just provide it to the states as a grant for a specific purpose with a clause that they must use it for that purpose.

My experience with chaplains (even though I’m an atheist) is that they are nothing like priests or similar and will not preach religion at you, unless you want to discuss it with them. There seems to be a lot of commentary stating that they preach religion without witnessing how such programs work.

I think there needs to be a balance between the professional councellors and people to talk to. I suspect the lack of professionals councellors could leave schools with nobody because there isn’t sufficient numbers. I would prefer to see a system of both using an assessment of the needs of the school. But having someone is better than nobody…

#2
Maya12310:54 am, 20 Jun 14

bd84 said :

Such challenges are really a waste of money as it really rules on a legal technicality or interpretation. As noted, it won’t stop the program as it will just be funded a different way. The Commonwealth can just provide it to the states as a grant for a specific purpose with a clause that they must use it for that purpose.

My experience with chaplains (even though I’m an atheist) is that they are nothing like priests or similar and will not preach religion at you, unless you want to discuss it with them. There seems to be a lot of commentary stating that they preach religion without witnessing how such programs work.

I think there needs to be a balance between the professional councellors and people to talk to. I suspect the lack of professionals councellors could leave schools with nobody because there isn’t sufficient numbers. I would prefer to see a system of both using an assessment of the needs of the school. But having someone is better than nobody…

Some schools have councillors who under the chaplaincy program will lose their jobs, so it wasn’t as though those schools didn’t have someone doing the job and needed a chaplain to fill a void. There was no void.

#3
TheBusDriver6:31 pm, 20 Jun 14

If you want your kids taught religion, send them to a religious school. If you don’t want them taught religion send your kids…. oh, home school them.
We had a chaplain in my high school. He was a creepy guy. He used to come watch the girls swimming lessons. I later found out he was a kiddy fiddler. I know all religious staff aren’t, but seriously, the record with religious figures and kids is not a good one. Will we be having a royal commission into this 20 years from now? We need trained professionals, not religious armatures.

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