Federal Education Minister Jason Clare yesterday announced changes to the school chaplaincy program. Labor will allow schools to hire qualified professional counsellors under the scheme. Previously, funding depended on the recruitment of chaplains with an affiliation to a recognised religion.
Introduced by the Howard government, the school chaplaincy program costs the federal budget $60 million a year. It funds the services of chaplains two days a week in more than 3000 Australian schools.
In a remarkable demonstration of contortionism, the Howard government insisted that chaplains have an affiliation with a recognised religion but not mention it.
Thou shalt not proselytise nor mention the very thing on which thy employment is conditioned.
However, critics insisted that the program offered an opportunity to recruit students to religious groups. Chaplains could also talk about religion — if asked.
In April, a former chaplain exposed that for the sham it is. Caragh Larsen told of a chaplain receiving praise for recruiting children to his church’s youth group.
Labor’s changes to the school chaplaincy program
Jason Clare announced that Labour would allow schools to hire either religious chaplains or professional counsellors.
He told the Canberra Times the change was common sense.
“I’ll work with the state and territory education ministers on these changes over the next few months so that it’s ready to go for when school starts next year.
“I don’t think this is controversial. I think this is common sense. We want qualified people to be doing this sort of work.”
Supporting LGBTIQA+ students
National LGBTIQA+ lobby group Just.Equal Australia welcomed the changes. But spokesperson Brian Greig said the government had not gone far enough.
He described chaplains with no training to support LGBTIQA+ issues as a danger to students.
“A student who confides in a chaplain about their sexuality or gender identity cannot be assured of appropriate care if the chaplain has no training in such matters.
“It is also deeply worrying that many chaplains are sourced from religious organisations which may have a long history of opposing LGBTIQA+ equality and which have condemned homosexuality and trangender identity as wrong and sinful.”
Just.Equal called on the Minister to ensure all chaplains are trained in LGBTIQA+ issues, including referring students to professional resources and counselling.
“In the past, the Tasmanian Government has made money available for the training of chaplains in LGBTIQA+ issues, and the federal government should replicate this across the nation.”
Opposition education spokesman Alan Tudge opposed the change.
Readers have potentially forgotten Tudge. He’s the former Liberal Minister who claimed that marriage equality would weaken ‘traditional marriage’ while failing to disclose his extra-marital affair with a young female advisor. Reports since suggest the advisor will receive a payout of $500,000 because of bullying while in Tudge’s employ.
After taking leave from December 2021, and lying low during the 2022 election campaign, Tudge is back.
He claimed Labor knew activists would now pressure schools not to employ religious chaplains.
“Labor has always resisted the schools chaplains program. They have an ideological objection to have religious workers in a school despite their effectiveness.”
Well, now that you mention it…
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.