Council Resolution on School Chaplaincy Program
At its November 22 meeting, AEU ACT Branch Council considered the ACT Government's response to the Abbott Government decision to continue the chaplaincy program while taking away the option for schools to choose a secular welfare officer.
Resolution Passed By AEU ACT Branch Council, November 22
Branch Council notes the decision at its meeting on Saturday 21 June 2014:
Council welcomes the decision of the High Court to declare the National School Chaplaincy Program unconstitutional. Council notes that a likely outcome of this decision is that the Commonwealth will consider providing block funding to states and territories, and seek to require them to continue the chaplaincy program in schools. Council respectfully requests that the ACT Government takes the opportunity to re-establish the secular nature of public schooling by ending once and for all the employment of religious chaplains in our public schools. Council requests that the ACT Government re-direct any funding it receives from the Commonwealth into areas of student need, and in particular the employment of a greater number of fully qualified school psychologists and health professionals.
Council notes with disappointment that, despite a number of public statements made by the ACT Education Minister and Chief Minister regarding the importance of secular provision, the ACT Government ceded all ground to the Commonwealth in the negotiations on this matter. The Commonwealth has, for clearly ideologically reasons, mandated the removal of secular student welfare workers from schools and dictated that all workers in the program be sourced from religious organisations.
Council reinforces its demand for the provision of evidence-based support services for all students, by appropriately qualified school psychologists and other health professionals.
Council reiterates its support for our Union’s objective to preserve the secular nature of public schooling. Secular schools provide the optimal environment for people of all religious faiths, or indeed those with no religious faith.
Council acknowledges that some ACT public school communities will be keen to retain their chaplain, due in part to positive relationships that have been formed with that individual.
Council notes that the Commonwealth will be eager to see that the opportunity to have a chaplain will be expanded to as many schools as possible.
Council respectfully requests that members in schools refrain from applying for a chaplain for their school if a chaplain is not currently present in that school.
Council asks each AEU Sub-Branch President and/or other Sub-Branch Executive members to meet with their school principal to discuss the AEU’s position on this matter.