Good news from Australia: schools given permission to appoint secular chaplains

SCHOOLS in Australia which would rather have a secular welfare officer rather than a religious chaplain can now do so, following changes made to the country’s controversial national school chaplaincy programme.

Schools Minister Peter Garrett

The amendment was announced by Schools Minister Peter Garrett – and, according to this report, among the first to applaud the move was Essendon Keilor College in Melbourne’s north-west.

Principal David Adamson said he would be applying for a secular chaplain:

As soon as the forms arrive. We decided as a secular school we didn’t want to have a religious person come into the school because we have a very multicultural background in our students, so I think this is an excellent idea.

Previously schools were able to hire a secular welfare worker only if they showed efforts to find an ordained chaplain had failed.

Garrett said the decision to add secular ”student welfare” workers was a reflection of community concerns over the religious nature of the existing system.

It was an issue that had been raised in the consultation process … and it’s an issue which we’ve always known is one which some parents and some school groups and organisations have raised previously.

Christian whingeing began immediately after the announcement. The Australian Christian Lobby’s Managing Director Jim Wallace said that widening the programme broke a promise made by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in the lead-up to the 2010 election.

The government’s commitment before the election was that the chaplaincy programme would retain its unique faith-based pastoral care emphasis.

Almost 2,700 schools take part in the programme, which gives them up to $20,000 a year in grants for chaplains, and Labor plans to extend it to another 1,000 schools.

A poll in The Age shows enormous support for the change:


19 responses to “Good news from Australia: schools given permission to appoint secular chaplains”

  1. barriejohn says:

    That link doesn’t appear to be working, Barry.

    I posted this yesterday – so predictable!

  2. Barry Duke says:

    Working now, BarrieJohn. Thanks.

  3. AgentCormac says:

    Is it just me, or is Peter Garrett also Monsignor David Cappo from the last article?!

  4. Cliff Knoetz says:

    I prefer him in a tie.

  5. The Woggler says:

    “Changes to the school chaplaincy program will rob some students of the chance to engage in faith-based discussions, an ACT religious group says.”

    Are such students banned from going to church, then? Does the local vicar//priest/rabbi/iman refuse to meet with them outside of school?

    Surely school is where you go to learn; church is where you go to have faith-based discussions.

  6. AngieRS says:

    Well, at least someone has got their head screwed on right over there. I was beginning to wonder.

  7. Angela_K says:

    What ACT are really moaning about is that they have lost a vulnerable and captive audience to indoctrinate.

  8. Bill Murray says:

    The interesting thing is that Peter Garrett is a serious god-botherer himself (Anglican I understand). I suppose I should acknowledge his ability to separate church and state.

    Peter Garrett isn’t the monsignor, but before entering politics he was the lead singer of Midnight Oil.

    Sort of related, my branch of the Australian Labor Party (currently in government federally)sent a motion to him, which I happened to move, opposing the chaplaincy program. Who knows, we may have had some impact. (Our secretary has kept his response letter though as it has his signature on it – the Oils were pretty big, at least down here. :o)

    (AngieRS, I don’t blame you, I wonder all the time – 2 steps forward and one and a half steps back most of the time I think.)

  9. barriejohn says:

    I, too, am surprised by some of the news that we receive from Australia. I though that it was a much more progressive society!

  10. Stonyground says:

    “Previously schools were able to hire a secular welfare worker only if they showed efforts to find an ordained chaplain had failed.”

    There is still a fair way to go when the default position is for a proffessional godidiot to do this kind of work. The 88% figure in the poll is encouraging, although it is best to take such polls with a pinch of salt.

  11. Dean Roberts says:

    Well surely this defeats the whole point of a chaplain.
    Sure. Let’s have counselors. But chaplains are there to discuss, predominantly, spiritual matters. Of course, other help can come out of those discussions. But seriously. Why not have both.

    And these secular counselors should not be called chaplains at all. That confuses the whole thing.

  12. Anon says:

    Why don’t we just get the chaplains the fuck away from the kids? What the fuck does spirituality have to do with education? Kids should be getting introduced to reality, not trained to think it is negotiable.

    Keep your delusions to yourself. That you can co-opt vulnerable naive kids into propping them up for you doesn’t mean you’re not being exploitative. This is about you wanting a steady supply of people to sing from your hymn sheet so you can keep kidding each other.

    Grow a pair, stand alone and look life in the face. Those doubts you have are there for a good reason.

  13. Robster says:

    Another loss for the religiots! Even with their almighty, all powerful magic friend on their side, they’ve lost! What use is this god fantasy? It seems to do or achieve nothing. I’m sure they would have prayed…endlessly…nothing. I’m sure they’d be putting money in the plate, even then…nothing. Seems god’s about as useful as a fart in a phone booth.

  14. Mick says:

    This still stops short of what is actually required. Chaplains can still be allowed to operate in areas where the community tolerates them – but they can still promote sectarian values through a state school system.

    Professional counselors yes, religious chaplains no and never!

  15. Jim Boomba says:

    @Dean Roberts
    No not arrogance it’s anger.Some of us can see the folly of our kids being counselled by people who cant deal with life on it’s own terms and have to invent an imaginary friend to hold their hand.
    If anyone wants a good laugh check out this bollocks from his Blog.

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  17. James says:

    Guys don’t hate on the Chaplains. Yes you can get some right wing religious nutters, but the runners of the Chaplain program typically stop these from entering schools. I myself have worked with low socio economic schools as a Youth worker, typically along side Chaplains, and they don’t push religion at all. I’ve found them to be amazing individuals, who yes, do belong to a faith based religion. But this doesn’t mean they cant also be their just to help. Completely removing the Chaplaincy program would be detrimental to the development of our youth. Oh and im completely nonreligious by the way.

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