Monday, 27 May 2013
National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program
I rise to advise the House of a little-known organisation that does a mighty effort in communities right around Australia. I speak of our school chaplains. Last week was Chappy Week, which is an annual event held to raise awareness of school chaplains and the valuable service they provide to students, parents and teachers in our schools. Chaplains provide spiritual but, more importantly, emotional support to school communities. They work at helping students find a better way to deal with issues including family breakdown, loneliness, drug abuse, depression, anxiety and, more recently, cyberbullying. Chaplains encourage responsible behaviour based on sound and acceptable social skills.
In my day, you were the odd kid out in a classroom if you did not have a mum and a dad. Today, it is the opposite. Most kids in the state schools now come from a broken family—not all, but these are problems that chaplains are now confronted with. I remember we used to ride our bikes or walk many kilometres, in a safe community environment, to get to our school. Misbehaviour in a small, tight-knit community was reported expediently back to parents. Misbehaviour on the streets of our community was not tolerated and you were quickly dealt with by a responsible parent at home if you were throwing rotten mangoes at the next-door neighbour's dogs!
More than ever before, Australian children are experiencing family problems, confusing relationships, friendship issues, peer pressure, self-esteem issues, bullying and depression. School life and playground dynamics have changed enormously since we all went to school. Without getting into the psychology of it, it seems that nowadays it is much more difficult for a kid just to be a kid. This is why I am a supporter of the chaplaincy program in my community and right across the nation. In a national government school survey recently, 92.5 per cent of chaplains reported dealing with bullying and harassment, 92 per cent reported dealing with peer relationships and loneliness, 91 per cent reported dealing with family relationships and 85 per cent reported dealing with students' sense of purpose and self-esteem.
In my electorate, bullying, harassment and peer pressure were major issues in the schoolyard and affected the wellbeing of a significant number of students. Fortunately, the school chaplaincy program has been adopted across several schools and significant changes have been noted. I often use schools in my electorate of Wright as an example of where the chaplaincy program has been a success. The obvious benefits which come from the chaplaincy program confirm the need for widespread participation during Chappy Week, which raises much needed funds for the program. Almost 50 per cent of Queensland state schools have a chappy, which I am very proud of, but unfortunately that leaves 600 state schools without a chappy, and in my opinion that is 600 schools too many.