School chaplains and religious groups have been given $222 million (AUS/USA) in extra funding to the National School Chaplaincy Program. This, on the surface, sounds promising. At present 2,700 schools across Australia partake in the Chaplain Program and with this addition money another 1,000 will be able to participate. This is great news.
Here is the question . . . what is the role of the chaplains in schools?
Did anyone mention religious activities, prayer groups etc...?
I hope not. According to the Federal Department of Education: "they are allow to provide support and guidance about ethics, values, relationships, spirituality and religious issues, the provision of pastoral care". But without "pushing religion" onto the students. Therefore any spirituality and religious issues discussed must be done without really talking about religion. NO discussion of God or the Bible. No sharing of ones faith and no offering of prayers together.
Those chaplains that do provide "faith based" guidance are running into hot water. According to Helen Walton, the president of the Federation of Parents and Citizens in New South Wales "We will continue to push for schools to have the right to choose someone that is going to provide the welfare they want for their school, with no faith-based aspect... and no religious aspect to any service that they provide."
My son, when he was having issues at school, went to chat with the school chaplain. He found the chaplain much easier to talk to compared to the counsellor, someone who was interested and cared about him.
Even though many in the community want this service stopped and the money spent on funding school counselors (arguing that school based chaplains are not qualified counselors), it is positive that the current government still supports and funds the programme. Especially in this day and age when this sort of programme is cut to "save money". The National Greens have called for chaplaincy funds to be scrapped to be re-allocated to provide government schools with "properly trained and desperately needed welfare staff". I wonder how long it will last?