“Schools must be free to choose whether to employ a religious chaplain or secular youth worker or counsellor,” said Hugh Boulter, a member of the Council Executive. “Offering schools a religious chaplain without the option for a secular worker is inconsistent with the principles of public education which was established to be free of religion.”
Currently there are 25 secular school counsellors or social workers in the ACT, employed under the former Federal Government’s School Chaplaincy Program. Each of these positions is now under threat as the scheme has been changed to fund only religious chaplains.
“The ACT Government has accepted federal funding for religious school chaplains only,” Mr Boulter said. “We call on them to match this with funding for secular workers. This will secure the positions of counsellors currently working well in our schools and give schools the chance to choose.”
With suicide the leading cause of death among young people in Australia, access to professional, qualified help is imperative. Funding is needed for the professionals best placed to ensure student wellbeing: mental health nurses, qualified counsellors and social workers based in schools.
Council also calls for transparency and public accountability for the use of federal chaplaincy funding by all schools.
Released November 3, 2014