Concerns over the government’s Chaplaincy program growing

Concerns over the government’s Chaplaincy program growing

LAST UPDATED // Wednesday, 11 June 2014 13:32 Written by // James Findlay

The Federal Government will continue to fund religious organisations that have links to homophobia through its chaplaincy program.

The revised National Schools Chaplaincy Programme (NSCP) will give nearly $250 million to religious organisations over the next four years and will not fund secular school workers, as was the case under the previous Labor Government.

“Consistent with the Government's election commitment, the National School Chaplaincy Programme (NSCP) will only fund chaplaincy services to clearly re-focus the programme on providing for the pastoral care needs of students, schools and their communities” the Department of Education told MCV.

When questioned why the Government would fund organisations that have been involved in activities promoting homophobia, such as ACCESS Ministries, the Department of Education simply said pushing a religious agenda was forbidden.

“The purpose of the programme is to enhance students’ overall wellbeing, and not to impose any religious beliefs or persuade an individual towards a particular set of beliefs.

“Chaplains funded under the programme are prohibited from proselytising for any religion.”

Despite this, there is evidence organisations have been doing just that, with ACCESS Ministries caught distributing ‘Biblezines’ that reportedly instructed students to seek counselling if they had homosexual feelings and regarded sex before marriage as ‘sinful’.

“ACCESS Ministries is not an appropriate organisation to deliver chaplaincy in public schools,” Lara Wood from Fairness in Religion in Schools (FIRIS) told MCV.

“They are an evangelical organisation that holds fundamentalist Christian views, which includes homosexuality being a sin.”

During this week’s Senate Estimate hearings, it was revealed nearly 600 secular welfare workers will loose their positions in schools under the reconfiguration of the federal funding.

“If the Abbott Government is determined to keep funding its Chaplaincy program, then the secular option must remain,” Australian Education Union Deputy Federal President Correna Haythorpe said.

The hearings also revealed approximately 20 percent of the Chaplaincy funding went to non-religious social workers.

“The take-up of secular welfare officers clearly shows that there are many schools who do not think a religious chaplain suits their needs. Schools should have the flexibility to apply for a secular welfare officer.

“Removing funding for secular welfare officers – many of whom have already built relationships with schools and students – shows that this program is part of an ideological push to get religion into public schools.”

Mrs Haythorpe also mentioned Parliamentary Secretary for Education Scott Ryan was unable to say how a religious chaplain would perform differently to a secular welfare officer.


James Findlay

James Findlay

James Findlay is a Melbourne-based journalist and broadcaster who has worked in community media for many years. He has won awards for his work on The Naughty Rude Show on SYN, and can be heard on JOY 94.9's breakfast program, Triple Threat, and Hide and Seek - exploring sex, sexuality and self. He is currently completing his Master of Public Health specialising in Sexual Health at Melbourne University, and a tutor in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University.

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