Australia’s national schools chaplaincy program has received $247 million in funding “on a permanent basis” in the federal budget and will now be tasked with addressing bullying in schools.
“We are extending the national schools chaplaincy program on a permanent basis with a special new anti-bullying focus,” the 2018/19 budget papers read.
The budget announcement comes less than a year after federal funding ended to the anti-bullying Safe Schools program that was vehemently opposed by Coalition MPs as well as the Australian Christian Lobby.
Greens MP Adam Bandt tweeted on Budget night, “Appalling that the government is still spending a quarter of a billion on chaplains in schools when we still aren’t funding the full original Gonski, or even a proper Safe Schools program.”
“It is truly outrageous – we need a whole school approach to address mental health and bullying – respectful relationships and safe schools are fabulous for all children – chaplains are not the answer,” Rainbow Families Victoria convener Felicity Marlowe tweeted.
Australian Education Union national president Correna Haythorpe said the the funds could be better spent on professional counsellors for schools.
“These funds are desperately needed in our schools to provide professional school counselling services, ongoing professional development for principals and teachers, and student wellbeing programs,” she said.
Education minister Simon Birmingham said in March he’d had representations “from many, many schools around the country, arguing in favour of the continuation” of the chaplaincy program.
“It is important for listeners who may have misconceptions about it to realise that there are strict qualification criteria that sit around school chaplains, that they have to be well-trained and versed in terms of their capacity to provide counselling and support to students, that they are not allowed to proselytise or preach religion, as such, in schools,” he said.
Appalling that the government is still spending a quarter of billion on Chaplains in schools when we still aren’t funding the full original Gonski, or even a proper Safe Schools program. #Budget18 #Budget2018
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) May 8, 2018
It is truly outrageous- we need a whole school approach to address mental health and bullying – respectful relationships and safe schools are fabulous for all children – chaplains are not the answer. #safeschools #rainbowfamilies @AdamBandt #auspol https://t.co/Gu0iDLiHib
— Felicity Marlowe (@FelicityMarlowe) May 8, 2018