In response to HSV concerns about the National School Chaplaincy Program (see summary) Senator the Hon. Scott Ryan, parliamentary secretary to Minister for Education stated that:
• As a result of the High Court’s decision on 19 June 2014 that payments to school chaplaincy programs were beyond the constitutional authority of the Commonwealth, whether a school provides chaplain and/or student welfare services is a matter for the school to determine. Under the former scheme chaplains could be from any faith; they were expected to be sensitive to the views, values and beliefs of others; were required to discourage discrimination on grounds of religion or sexuality,y and were not permitted to proselytise or attempt to convert students to any particular faith.
• It was also required that all chaplains and student welfare workers had a minimum qualification of Certificate IV in Youth Work or Pastoral Care, including mental health awareness. The program was voluntary and school committees decided if they wanted to apply for funding, after consulting and finding support from their broader school community. Students are not obliged to use chaplaincy services.
• The previous government did not allocate funding to the program beyond 2014. However, as part of the 2014–15 Federal budget the Australian government allocated $243.8 million to cover the new chaplaincy program over four years. This was an election commitment.
• The implications of the High Court’s decision on this program are being considered. (22 October 2014)
A response from the previous Victorian Minister for Education (Hon. Martin Dixon MP) stated that the Napthine government had accepted the offer to participate in the School Chaplaincy Programme.
Geoff Allshorn, Inga Anthonipillai, Halina Strnad