Peter Garrett welcomes changes to school chaplaincy program

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After scamming Aussies, Scripture Union QLD continues to maintain the fallacy;

Following changes announced today to the National School Chaplaincy Program. The Australian writes;

SCHOOLS will be able to choose whether to employ chaplains or secular welfare officers under changes to the federal government’s controversial chaplaincy program.

All new chaplains or youth workers employed under the program will also have to have a minimum qualification of a Certificate IV in youth work. Existing chaplains must have at least completed the mental health and making referrals units of the course.

The changes announced by Schools Minister Peter Garrett today include renaming the scheme the national school chaplaincy and student welfare program. Previously schools were able to use the funds to hire a youth worker only if they showed efforts to find an ordained chaplain had failed. […]

The school chaplaincy program is the subject of a High Court challenge, with Queensland father Ron Williams arguing the requirement for chaplains to be ordained is unconstitutional. [….]

The program also came under fire from the commonwealth ombudsman in July.

The Australian Christian Lobby of course, wants no part of independently contributing to sound “secular” care of student welfare. The tax payer can foot the bill just as for all things biblical;

HOBART 7 September 2011. Garrett announcement welcome

The Minister for Education and Skills, Nick McKim, has welcomed today’s announcement to extend the National School Chaplaincy Program to include secular student welfare services.

Mr McKim commended the decision by Federal Minister Peter Garrett which will allow school communities to employ either a chaplain or a secular student welfare worker.
“I commend Mr Garret for his decision because these changes address much of the feedback I’ve received from school communities,” Mr McKim said.
“I am pleased the program is to be extended to ensure principals and school communities are able to choose the right person to fit the needs of their students and local communities.
“This will give schools much greater choice in deciding whether they want to employ a chaplain or secular student welfare worker.
“Growing up in today’s world has its challenges for our young people and today’s announcement will provide them with the support they need.
“There are 95 chaplains currently working in Tasmanian schools and colleges.”
“I have asked my department to ensure that all schools are made aware of these changes to ensure they are fully informed of the options now available.”

PETER GARRETT: This morning I wanted to make an announcement about some changes that the Government will be making to the National Chaplaincy Program. I want to highlight some of those changes to you but to begin by saying this has been a very popular program. It’s one that the Government fully supports, and we’ve been through an extensive consultation process to determine what changes might be applied to the program in order to strengthen it and improve it. So today I can announce that we will broaden the scope of the chaplains program to include student welfare workers or secular workers in the schools as a part of that program.

We will strengthen the requirements for qualifications for those who work as chaplains in the schools under the program. We’ll also make additional requirements for the chaplaincy service providers, that they have strengthened requirements for the delivery of the program, and we’ll make available an extra $4000 to increase the amount for chaplains or the student welfare workers in remote, regional or disadvantaged communities from $20 000 to $24 000, to take account of the additional costs that can apply in remote areas.

What today’s announcement is about is taking a popular and positive program and making it better, with stronger qualifications and more choice for parents and school communities. And I’m really pleased that we’ve had the opportunity to take a program which is both popular and successful and improve and strengthen it. Now, I should add that in relation to those chaplains who are already working under the program and who don’t have minimum qualifications, the Government recognises that there is a need for them to have some minimum qualifications in the areas of mental health and referral qualifications that already exist under equivalent Cert IV qualifications. That will be a requirement for those chaplains already in the program, but the Government will provide them with the assistance to get those qualifications.

This is a program which is all about giving schools the choice about having a chaplain or a student welfare worker in their school. Schools are in the driving seat in this program.  It is a popular program and it is one that the Government fullysupports and, additionally, has provided funding for another 1000 schools to take the opportunity to have these services in their schools. I’m extremely confident that the changes we’ve made will deliver a program which suits the school communities right around Australia. I know this is a very popular program. It’s one that the Government fully supports and I commend these changes.

QUESTION: Minister, there was a High Court challenge in which the judgement’s due by the end of the year. Did the Ron Williams challenge play a part in making the Government expand its secular welfare movements?

PETER GARRETT: The consideration as to whether or not the program should be expanded for secular workers was one which was made prior to the High Court challenge that considered the chaplains program. It was an issue that had been raised in the consultation process that the Government had undertaken, and it’s an issue which we’ve always known is one which some parents and some school groups and organisations have raised previously.

QUESTION: With these student welfare workers, what do you mean?

PETER GARRETT: We’re providing the opportunity for schools to choose somebody who has an equivalent Cert IV qualification, someone who’s in a position to provide support and advice in the school community, as chaplains do, but effectively is a secular worker.

QUESTION: When you say student though, are they still at uni? Or is it do you mean that as in counselling a student? A youth worker or something?

PETER GARRETT: What I’m saying here is that schools can either choose to have a chaplain delivering the services under the program or a welfare worker delivering those services under the program, and there’ll be minimum requirements for both of those capacities, whether chaplain or a welfare worker.

QUESTION: Minister, there was a concern earlier that some of these chaplains were pushing religious views and trying to convert people to Christianity. Do you have concerns about the particular conduct of some chaplains under the program previously?

PETER GARRETT: I can’t stress strongly enough that the guidelines in the program are absolutely crystal clear that chaplains are not there to provide religious instruction or to proselytise, and that definitely remains the case. It is not appropriate that this is delivering religious instruction – and the guidelines and the code of conduct expressly forbid that. In those small number of cases where charges of proselytisation have been made, they’ve been investigated. I’m very confident that this is a program that is delivering into school communities the kind of services they think benefits students.

Remember, this is a voluntary program. Schools choose whether they want to have a chaplain or, now, a student welfare worker and I’m very confident that schools will make that choice, taking into account the views of their school community.

QUESTION: When will that come in?

PETER GARRETT: We will process the opportunities for those schools that want to continue the chaplain program over the coming week. We’ll also then start to process the additional applications for the thousand schools that additionally the Government is committed to. I do want to place on record my thanks for all of those groups that participated in the consultation process, the chaplaincy service providers, the principals and parents associations, and other interested parties. The fact is that we are fully committed to making sure that we put schools in the driving seat to determine whether they want to have a chaplain working in the school to help students or whether they want to have a welfare worker working at the school.

QUESTION: Minister, Labor power brokers say that Julia Gillard has until the end of the year to turn things around for Labor or there will be a change of Prime Minister. Should Julia be dumped as leader if she doesn’t turn things around by Christmas?

PETER GARRETT: The Prime Minister has my full support and the support of the caucus. We’ll continue to prosecute what I think are the important issues that Australians do care about. That includes the announcement that I’m making today. That includes the reforms that we have underway with delivery of the National Broadband Network, the big education reforms that we’re rolling out, improving schools, making sure that kids get the best education they can. That’s what Australians are interested in us doing and that’s what I’m interested in talking about.

QUESTION: Why shouldn’t Kevin Rudd be given another chance as Prime Minister?

PETER GARRETT: Well, again, I’m not going to provide a whole heap of commentary around these issues. I think that everybody wants to see the Government continue to deliver the reforms that we think are in the national interest and that’s what we’re going to do.

QUESTION: So will you be hoping she gets elected for another [term]?

PETER GARRETT: There’s no question about that.

QUESTION: And how long can the party afford to wait before action needs to be taken?

PETER GARRETT: Well, again, the most important thing for us to do as a government is what we are doing – making announcements such as the announcement that I’m making today, committing ourselves to improving the educational opportunities for young Australians and making sure that we continue with the significant health reforms that are out there, ensuring that we have a focus on those Australians – say, for example, in the disability area, who have not been given the level of attention that they deserve by our coalition opposition in the past and are now getting the level of attention they deserve from this government.  These are the things that count and these are the things that we’ll focus on.

QUESTION: Minister, will you be a Labor candidate for Kingsford Smith at the next election?

PETER GARRETT: I’ve always said that I intend to stand again and, at the moment, I’m absolutely relishing the opportunity not only to serve the people of Kingsford Smith, but also to bring forward policies which I think are better for the people of Australia. If Australians care about the quality of political leadership, then the Opposition Leader today should distance himself from the actions of the Parliamentary Secretary, Cory Bernardi, who is providing a great succour to an extremist politician who has dangerous views which are completely at odds with Australian culture and Australian values.

And I am extremely concerned to see that Senator Bernardi, who has consistently put a hardline view on a range of issues, has now offered support to a Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, whose views are extreme and dangerous. And Mr Abbott should show some leadership, discipline this Senator, remove him from his portfolio responsibilities, and ensure that he makes it absolutely clear that there is no place in a country like Australia, where our values are values of fairness and tolerance, for the kind of actions that Senator Bernardi has embarked upon in offering to support this extremist overseas politician.

QUESTION: Well, John Howard had Pauline Hanson disendorsed from the Liberal Party in 1996. Are you saying Tony Abbott should have Cory Bernardi kicked out of the Liberal Party in 2011?

PETER GARRETT: It’s up to Mr Abbott to make clear what action he’s going to take in relation to Senator Bernardi’s dangerous and completely unacceptable offer of assistance to an extremist politician. The ball is in Mr Abbott’s court if he understands the significance of the actions that Senator Bernardi has taken, and I would like to think that he does understand the significance of them, then he ought to take the appropriate action – it’s in his hands.

QUESTION: Just a – do you support a return to offshore processing of refugees?

PETER GARRETT: I’ve already made my comments clear in relation to what I think the Government has in front of us following the High Court decision. You’ve seen the subsequent comments made by the Prime Minister and we’ll continue to deal with this issue in the most appropriate way, given the decision that the court has made. Thanks everybody.

QUESTION: I’ve just got one more question, sorry.

UNKNOWN: Just when you thought you were –

QUESTION: It’s about the chaplains or the secular workers actually.


QUESTION: Where are the secular workers going to come from?

PETER GARRETT: Look, they’ll come from the community and from those areas of expertise of people who have those qualifications.

QUESTION: But the chaplains don’t get paid very much so you’re asking non chaplain workers who are supported by their churches to come and do the work with them for the same amount of money?

PETER GARRETT: Yeah. It’s the same figure for the chaplains or the welfare workers, other than that we’re providing the additional amount up to $24 000 for the remote and disadvantaged areas.  Look, I’m confident that there will be a source of people that want to come in and do this work. I know that we have people who are coming through the TAFE system, through the university system, through non government organisations and others, who have these equivalent qualifications who would relish the opportunity of working in schools, and providing assistance and support to kids in those schools.

QUESTION: For $20 000 a year?

PETER GARRETT: Well, I don’t have any doubt at all that in the same way as we’ve seen chaplains come into the schools for two days during the week normally, that the same opportunities will arise for the welfare workers.

QUESTION: Is the expansion of this to the secular workers a recognition that not everyone was happy with the religious nature of the program?

PETER GARRETT: The broadening of the program is a recognition that we want to provide schools with every opportunity to exercise a range of choice as to who they want to have operating in their school community. The fact is that the chaplains program has been a popular and positive program. It’s well supported by schools and given that it’s a voluntary program, I have every expectation that we’ll continue to see large numbers of chaplains in schools, but we’re also providing the opportunity for schools to make a choice about the kind of person they want working in their school. And if they do desire a secular worker in the school, then that opportunity is there for them.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, the $24 000 a year, that’s for ones in regional or remote areas – so is that outside capital cities? How would that criteria work?

PETER GARRETT: Look, there’s a series of definitions that the Department applies to those criteria and that will be made clear to the applicants.

QUESTION: So would the Central Coast of New South Wales be part of – considered regional or would that be part of the Sydney metropolitan for chaplains?

PETER GARRETT: Well, in terms of the Department’s definition, that’s something for them to determine but the point of the additional investment that we’re providing to the program is to enable schools that are in remote and regional areas and in disadvantaged communities as well to take advantage of this program. So the Department will have a set of indices that apply to that and the guidelines will make clear what they are and schools will have the opportunity of applying.

Thanks, everybody.