While many organizations welcomed Education Minister Jason Clare’s announcement that the National School Chaplaincy Scheme will no longer be limited to staff linked to religious bodies, the Australian Education Union (AEU) has added his voice to those asking for a set of the whole program.
While staff employed under the program are not allowed to speak directly about religion, over the decades the program has been running there have been frequent concerns about how closely this requirement is monitored and enforced.
“Public schools are not a place for proselytizing and religious instruction,” said AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe.
“AEU has always said that students and families who need support should be able to access evidence-based mental health, social and wellbeing assistance from trained professionals. Furthermore, this must be supported by fully funding schools so that they have the necessary resources for teaching and learning.
“We welcome this first step by Education Minister Jason Clare and urge the federal government to go further.
The AEU has long opposed the national chaplaincy program, saying it is biased in favor of Christian organizations.
“The program was a workhorse for an ideological push to bring Christianity into public schools. This was demonstrated by Federal Government data which showed that the program almost exclusively involved the use of Christian chaplains, despite the diversity of religions and cultural practices in Australia.
“We encourage the federal government to abolish public funding for religious engagement in public schools in favor of investing in appropriate student wellness and mental health programs, professional development for teachers, and employing trained school counselors in every public school nationwide,” Haythorpe said. .
New Education Minister Jason Clare said he plans to work with his state counterparts on how the program will work going forward.
Graeme Watson, stock image.