Wednesday, 25 November 2009
National School Chaplaincy Program
I, and on behalf of Senator Mason, move:
That the Senate—
- the National School Chaplaincy Program (the program) was introduced by the former Coalition Government in the 2007-08 financial year with a commitment of $165 million for its first 3 years,
- the program offers pastoral care, spiritual guidance and counselling in a range of areas such as bullying, mental health, family relationships and drug and alcohol abuse, operates in 2 700 schools and enjoys strong support among principals, schools and in the community generally,
- the Coalition has announced that if elected, it will continue funding the program at present levels on an ongoing basis,
- the Government has been forced to respond and has extended funding for the program, at a reduced level, for another year until the end of 2011, after which time there may be no more funding despite the program’s social benefits, sound administration and strong community support, and
- the Government’s announcement does not go far enough and does not allow for any new chaplains to be engaged and, as a result, does not provide certainty into the future for chaplains; and therefore
- calls on the Government to make a commitment to extend the program to new schools that apply for a chaplain and to maintain current levels of funding into the future on an ongoing basis.
The Australian Greens recognise the difficulties faced by many young people in our schools across the country and the teaching staff in those schools. We recognise the problems associated with bullying. We recognise the mental health issues, the drug and alcohol abuse issues, and the behavioural problems and issues that occur in our schools. The Australian Greens believe it is appropriate that properly trained psychologists and guidance officers are deployed across our schools in order to deal with those issues in the appropriate way.
We recognise that many of the school chaplains being deployed under this program have no professional training whatsoever to deal with mental health issues, with behavioural problems and with the sorts of complex problems associated with drug and alcohol dependence and abuse, and we would urge the government to ensure that there is adequate funding for guidance officers and psychologists to be deployed across the education system to be able to perform this function.