More cash proposed for seminaries
Australian taxpayers would subsidise the training of priests and other religious workers at private colleges for the first time under the Abbott Government’s proposed higher education reforms.
But, according to this report, Labor Higher Education spokesman Kim Carr, above, has slammed the proposal, saying:
This raises serious questions about relationship between Church and State. The Church has traditionally funded the training of its own personnel.
As well as deregulating university fees and cutting university funding by 20 per cent, religious teaching, training and vocational institutes would be eligible for a share of $820 million in new Commonwealth funding over three years.
Earlier this year the government controversially announced it would provide $244 million for a new school chaplaincy scheme but would remove the option for schools to hire secular welfare workers.
In correspondence with voters, Family First Senator Bob Day, above, singled out funding for faith-based training institutes to explain his support for the government’s reforms.
Eleven theological colleges are currently accredited by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) to provide courses designed to prepare students to enter religious ministries.
Institutes such as the Sydney College of Divinity, Brisbane’s Christian Heritage College and the Perth Bible College, which currently charge students full fees, would be eligible for an estimated $4214 funding a year each student under the reforms.
The John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, which offers course units including “Theology and Practice of Natural Family Planning” and “Marriage in the Catholic Tradition”, would also be eligible for federal support.
The institute says on its website that its mission is to:
Promote marriage and the family for the good of the whole Church and the wider community.
The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne requires all trainee priests to receive theological training at Ridley College or the Trinity College Theological School, both of which would likely be eligible to offer Commonwealth Supported Places under the government’s changes.
Kim Carr said there was a difference between federal funding for theoretically-focused religious studies courses and courses designed to prepare graduates for the priesthood.
Greens higher education spokeswoman Lee Rhiannon said that Education Minister Christopher Pyne has gone one step further than robbing Peter to pay Paul:
He is attempting to rob Australia’s public and secular university system to pay private, religious colleges. Courses that Mr Pyne wants to extend funding to include those teaching prescriptive Christian ideology on sexuality and marriage – is this really the best use of the higher education budget?
On its core values page on its website the Perth Bible College say:
We believe in the urgent need to reach our broken world with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to train men and women to be effective servants for God.
Senator Day said in a letter to a member of the general public that it was “unfair” that public universities receive federal funding but religious colleges and other private providers do not.
The government’s reforms were voted down by the Senate this week but will return to Parliament, with some amendments, next year.