Scott Hedges from FIRIS chats on ABC Ballarat

Thurs. March 15th, 2012: Scott Hedges chats with Steve Martin during Mornings on ABC Ballarat about the Fairness In Religions In School campaign.

Catch up on the VCAT hearing.

  1. What’s going on at VCAT? – Dr. Meredith Doig, President of the Rationalist Society of Australia.
  2. Mike Stuchbery, Live Blogging – The Final Showdown
  3. Christians pray for VCAT ruling – Amber Wilson
  4. Trust kids when it comes to religious teaching – Dick Gross
  5. Victorian Humanists – Test case on religious discrimination
  6. Mail from Belfast
  7. ABC Law Report [MP3]:


“The one we serve (Jesus) is the same yesterday, today and forever. And his purposes (converting humanity) will not be thwarted!” (Forward Together Rally 2011)

“What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools. Without Jesus, our students are lost”.

“It’s important that the church recognize its commission is to make disciples. Our young people need Christ”.

“What a commandment, make disciples (of school children). What a responsibility. What a privilege we have been given. Let’s go for it!

Scott Hedges Interview – ABC Ballarat

Part of the crowd outside VCAT on March 1st


ACCESS Ministries: Back to religious discrimination in Victoria

FIRIS Billboard hits on religious discrimination in schoolsStory here

Don’t be fooled by ACCESS ministries’ attempt to rewrite history and obfuscate their intention.

Victoria’s legislation provides for public school education about all religions. Yet this privilege has been usurped by a scheme to “save children” through conversion to Christianity.

In a multi-faith, multi-ethnic, secular community the choice of any religion or of no religion should be the right of every family. Not a struggle against a dominant force.


In her own words… again: Evonne Paddison seeks to rewrite history


Disunity for ACCESS

The decision by Uniting Church to form a task force and probe it’s relationship with ACCESS ministries, in addition to how best to teach Christian education, is welcome news. As reported UC have “backed away from supporting the beleaguered agency.”

It’s not difficult to see why. ACCESS ministries, under Evonne Paddison is broken. It can no more fulfill it’s obligations under the education act than Alan Jones can deliver a balanced lecture on climate change science. Despite all the fluff and damage control of late it’s clear even more now that as far as respecting parental wishes and acknowledging the flaws of proselytising nothing has changed.

From the earliest days of dissent with the ACCESS monopoly, to exposure of Evonne Paddison’s blueprint for converting students and raising congregations within schools, to the so-called Federal Inquiry into adherence to education guidelines, one theme has persisted. That aggressive secularism and atheism is behind the criticism of ACCESS. Nothing could be further from the truth. Paddison is a victim of her own arrogance and delusion.

Her monochrome vision means one is either a Christian or an anti-theist driven by the need to attack the messengers of God. When it became manifestly clear that Christian families were dissatisfied with her manipulation of the secular system, she resorted to intimidation. In another theme that’s become all too common, the Education Department did her dirty work.

The feverish evangelical fervour of ACCESS ministries has proven time and again that it is at variance with mainstream Christianity and education guidelines that stipulate proselytising is forbidden. Concerned Victorians have been awarded lip service from ACCESS ministries and recidivist impotence from federal and state education ministers. Yet as so eloquently scribed by Rev. Ronald Noone in May this year, not only does Evonne Paddison believe her vision is just because “students are lost without Jesus”, such a claim is “manifestly untrue”. Elaborating, Noone continues;

There is, of course, a certain kind of evangelical Christian who believes the message is the same regardless of the context in which it is expressed. They believe this task is carrying out the God-given role assigned to them – to preach the Gospel and make disciples of all (Matthew 28). Given this is a primary text for many evangelicals, is it any wonder that conversion is an aim of their presence in school classrooms?

In contrast to a parish setting, a classroom is where formal education takes place and the overall aim is to promote knowledge and understanding of the ways in which human beings have made sense of the spiritual dimension in all of human experience. […] The classroom is a place to promote intellectual rigor and provide a context of genuine enquiry and where respect for religious traditions is matched by an honest and open appreciation of the theological, philosophical and exegetical complexities embedded in religious beliefs, texts, traditions and cultures. It is not a place for narrow forms of instruction.

As I noted recently, far from appreciating such an axiomatic notion, Paddison’s disdain for those who would articulate it came a week later in a Crosslight article, Christian religious education takes a secular beating;

What has developed over a few short months is a deliberate attempt by the media to start a faith war  – to divide Christians against other Christians; faiths against faiths; congregations against congregations.

It’s sensationalist journalism – find a schism in the foundation, a rat in the ranks, report the division and watch the Letters to the Editor or the news blog implode with atheistic comment. [….]

With 12 million Christians in Australia, and nearly 65 per cent of parents opting their children into CRE classes, Christians too should have a choice.  Detractors claim that CRE should be confined to Sunday. I’ve got news for them – God is with us, always, not just on the day of rest.

The tone is unmistakable and that anyone or any minister could be fooled into trusting such a person beggars belief. For thirty four minutes at the 2008 Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion Evonne Paddison spelled out her plan to save Australian churches from “a slow death march”, through the application of CRE. We can be in no doubt about, and must not waver toward accepting excuses for, Paddison’s intention to shirk legislative responsibility in favour of theocratic vision.

Much has been made of her comments to “make disciples”. But the speech contained far more insight into her conviction to the cause. It’s important Victorians never loose sight of this intent. Being a key stake holder for direction and tactics of the National School Chaplaincy Association, all Australians should be wary of Evonne Paddison’s arguably ruthless dedication to pure evangelism.

Proud to proclaim the ACCESS vision is “to reach every child in Victoria through the transforming love of God and His son, Jesus” (see video below) the 2008 EFAC performance is robust confirmation of her intent to use the privileged position held by ACCESS. This is no “bread and butter” Christian values at play here. The welfare of children or wishes of parents outside of “Christ’s new society”, as she calls it is of no moment. She seeks to;

…promote the same marks of discipleship for young people as those that the Bible presents to us. But of course, in a way that is appropriate and contextual to them. The first step in becoming a disciple is clearly believing, but so many of our young people have never heard the gospel.

Paddison stated that children and students are the greatest mission field for disciple making in Australia. Happy to admit classrooms are being used for ministry in place of education, “both at state level and at national level both in government and non government schools”, she goes further;

… but we must ask how much of that ministry is actually resulting in Christian conversion and discipleship growing and resulting in church growth? We have a huge challenge ahead of us. We must develop the right attitude and framework and goals and models in order to see not only Christian ministry taking place but conversion, discipleship and commitment to a Christian faith community.

We reached 250,000 children every week. Our goal is to double those numbers. However despite all the ministry going on here in Victoria and across Australia we need to recognize that what isn’t happening and what isn’t happening is a connection between school and church.

There’s no question that to be a Christian is to belong to Jesus’ church. Membership of a faith community is vital. And our model for discipleship must include this. [….] We need to be like Jesus who became one of us and pitched his tent in order to reveal grace and truth….

In this way we will show that Christ and his church provide a love more true than those available in popular culture. And importantly can I urge we must move them to an acceptance of the centrality of Scripture. Through modeling our own adherence to it. Making it central to any gatherings we have with them and showing it as a door or two growing in a relationship with Jesus.

One can be forgiven for being confused about the actual beneficiaries. Paddison even instructs her lackeys to hold to Trinitarian logic, “in our encounter with students”;

Our engagement must show that Jesus is the best of all choices. Do not water it [Scripture] down. We have to reflect the relationships of the persons of the Trinity in our relationships in Christ’s new society. As we develop this perspective in our encounter with students we will tap into their longing for belonging and acceptance that has grown out of a world of divorce and division.

What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools. Without Jesus, our students are lost…. Our churches in the West are on a slow death march. We have the opportunity to create life. It may be uncomfortable but so what? What a commandment, make disciples. What a responsibility. What a privilege we have been given. Let’s go for it.

As we know, Evonne Paddison did not budge, insisting that her speech had been taken out of context. Eventually in late July the Commonwealth Ombudsman criticised management of the National Chaplaincy Program. ACCESS went into damage control.

Paddison claimed to “strongly support” the finding of the Ombudsman. “Public debate about religion in schools is nothing new”, we’re told pleasantly and has “it’s genesis” in the case being brought before VCAT and the NSCP High Court challenge. Evonne could now “acknowledge” some debate arose about her speech, but ACCESS still had no compromise to make. In a video of Paddison reading from script we’re told;

I accept that parts of that speech could have better emphasised that ACCESS ministries does not and never has condoned proselytising in schools. I understand how people could have interpreted it otherwise… that was never my intention. What I meant is that ACCESS ministries has an opportunity to teach children what Christians believe.

ACCESS ministries forbids proselytising and we continue to respect the context in which we honour our privilege and serve the school community. The federal government recently conducted an investigation… and found no evidence that we had tried to convert in breach of government guidelines.

What a joke. It’s intriguing to imagine how she tries to pass off similar lies to honest colleagues, genuine educators and fellow board members with integrity.

Although her influence remains a problem, Paddison is foolish to think her legion of opponents can be tarred with the brush of “secular” and “atheist”. Which brings us back to Uniting Church. Barney Zwartz writes;

THE Uniting Church, one of the key partners in Access Ministries that provides religious education in Victorian primary schools, has backed away from supporting the beleaguered agency.

The church’s state synod (parliament) declined to vote on a proposal that the church continue to support the work of Access, instead forming a task group to explore the relationship between it and the synod, and how best to teach Christian education. [….]

Annette Blaze, a Uniting Church representative on the Access board, proposed that the synod support Access, suggesting the ministry was victim of a campaign to attack the Christian base of Australia’s culture and noting that investigations by both state and federal education ministers found criticisms of Access were unfounded.

But the synod opted for a proposal by Macedon Ranges minister Avril Hannah-Jones to investigate the Access curriculum. ”There have been complaints. Some, clearly from the secular and new atheist perspective, I thought we could discount, but some came from parents and Uniting Church volunteers which I thought were worth exploring,” Dr Hannah-Jones told The Age last night.

Hannah-Jones’ comments themselves should be cause for concern. Paddison may well be the most vocal, the most corrupt, the most malignant presence in a secular education system. But the impact of religiously inclined ministers is reflected in the confidence by which Hannah-Jones marks her territory. Those with a differing ontology to the steadily declining view that Christianity has merit, much less meaning, have been, are being and will continue to be discriminated against. Yet still their complaints may be automatically “discounted”.

Still, there is well earned and justified schadenfreude here for those who see the value of religious education in a modern secular society. As I said at the beginning the typical theme has been that any dissent can be written off as unwarranted attack. A plot, a plan, a conspiracy amongst the angry. How delightful then that all this time later, the defence is the same.

Despite Paddison’s grovelling act, ACCESS board member Annette Blaze can only resort to the standard mantra of fallacious personal incredulity. There is “a campaign to attack the Christian base of Australian culture”.

Although demonstrably false, the official line again it seems is that ACCESS is “a victim’.

Reaching every child in Victoria through the transforming love of God and His son, Jesus

Ross Cameron’s tantrum over changes to school chaplaincy on The Drum

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

Mark 12:17

So anyway… getting back to school chaplaincy, there’s been some sensible rendering of funding of late. Perhaps Garrett stumbled upon this verse and saw the light.

As we know secular welfare workers or “counsellors” if you will are now on board as an option in spending your school’s $20,000 diluting that magical omnipotent lifeline to God. As reported in The Age today;

The change will open up the program to schools that have chosen not to take up chaplains, such as 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,” he said.

Previously schools were able to hire a secular welfare worker under the program only if they showed efforts to find an ordained chaplain had failed. Mr 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,” he said.

Other changes include mandated minimum qualifications, stricter guidelines for conduct and a better system for complaints. Existing school chaplains operating under the program will now have to ensure they meet a minimum skills requirement of the mental health and making referrals units of a Certificate IV in Youth Work.

New chaplains and student welfare officers appointed from 2012 will need to have completed a Certificate IV in Youth Work, Pastoral Care or an equivalent qualification.

As we noted previously the Australian Christian Lobby whose leader fought and killed foreigners for a non gay, non Islamic Australia is mighty upset. He resorted to Twitter. His calling card is the “-:”. And no subliminal suggestions please ❖. The Age continued;

The Australian Christian Lobby said widening the program 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 program would retain its unique faith-based pastoral care emphasis,” managing director Jim Wallace said. He said secular workers should be funded separately.

I’m not surprised Wallace is having a sob. That’s what your taxes pay this rather vile, bigoted, moralistic thug to do. When Howard introduced the program he (Howard) made much of the word “chaplain” as providing Christian pastoral values in times of need as opposed to secular workers. Described by many experienced teachers as “a cynical ploy”, things got worse with Rudd and Gillard. As Rupert Macgregor, Executive Director of the Australian Council of State School Organisations (ACSSO), noted just over a year ago;

What is further disturbing is the extent to which we have seen established open process overtaken by the interests of political expediency. With the promised neutral national review under way and well advanced, PM Rudd essentially pre-empted the outcome by announcing an extension of the existing arrangements beyond the determined “end date” Even more recently, during the election campaign, PM Gillard subverted the whole review process by announcing a further extension to 2014. At the same time, the Opposition basically dismissed any need for review, reverting to their original conviction that this program should continue in perpetuity.

No wonder then visitors to the ACL media page will read;

It actually speaks volumes. Volumes as to the true political favour seeking function of the ACL. That which, in their own minds, places them above and beyond not just other Australians – all too often seen as besieging them via some immoral ontological attack – but above the welfare of their fellow country men and women. Students no less.

Allow me to translate. If you are not willing to accept the narrow minded Christian option lurching at the end of a leash which we always hold, then off you go and find your own money. You should be angry. Damn angry that Über-phobes who are only too happy to mess up our children’s minds and futures just to see their own castrated view of reality seeping across the land can rail as such.

Some “broken promise”. NSW never took part in the NSCA’s NSCP charade. The method by which Australian’s were scammed into thinking 25% of schools – which were half of a carefully chosen 50% of total schools to return surveys – was actually a “97% request rate for the NSCP nationally”, is outrageous.

Scripture Union QLD are keeping the faith as we’ve already noted. As unscientific as polls are one does chuckle at these two images – the second from the above Age article;

Scripture Union QLD Tweet

Fairfax Poll

Yet to me surely the most telling tantrum was from former Liberal MP Ross Cameron, on ABC’s The Drum, last night (September 7th). Ross blamed the need to balance chaplains with secular welfare workers on student dynamics brought on by “.. one of the single most negative, corrosive, destructive forces in our community”.

Shite! Drug Lords? Terrorists? Collingwood fans? No. The Education Unions.  It’s them wot dunnit. “They are a disgrace and have systematically worked to destroy cultures of excellence within public schools”. Wow! Who’da thunk it?

Students shouldn’t be running for help as implied by the need for counsellors and he reckons the money would be better spent on preventing why they can’t just play with chaplains instead. Oh, yes – again this is such a small petty issue he’s amazed it gets coverage.

Last time he told us it was “the smallest of small beer” and that as chaplains are going in to war zones with troops they can “handle a playground full of students”.

Shut up Ross.

Secular welfare changes to school chaplaincy on The Drum

❖ Update: Speaking of subliminal… Some hours later I was on Twitter only to read:

Peter Garrett welcomes changes to school chaplaincy program

Catch up on other NSCP posts here.

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.