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Collins, Sen Jacinta
National School Chaplaincy Program
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- Start of Business
- SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (CONNECTING PEOPLE WITH JOBS) BILL 2010
- AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PREVENTIVE HEALTH AGENCY BILL 2010
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
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AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PREVENTIVE HEALTH AGENCY BILL 2010
- Second Reading
- In Committee
- Support of People with Disabilities
- Mr Thomas Reid MBE
- Mr Andrew McLeod
- Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants
- National School Chaplaincy Program
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Cunningham Dax Collection
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- QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) (7:41 PM) —I speak tonight about the successful National School Chaplaincy Program, which is making a real difference in the lives of students, teachers and families across the country. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the annual chaplaincy dinner in Melbourne of Access Ministries. Access Ministries is the largest provider of school chaplains in Victoria and its staff is dedicated to training pastoral care workers. One of the 219 Access Ministries chaplains, who work in 287 schools across Victoria, is a man named Phil Simpson, who was featured in the Australian newspaper last week. A father-of-four, Mr Simpson leads a very interesting life. Three days a week, he is a barrister, specialising in areas such as criminal law, family law, inquests and mental health. The other two days Mr Simpson can be found at Blackburn Primary School—the school that three of his children attend and the place where Mr Simpson works as a school chaplain.
Mr Simpson says he fell into school chaplaincy. The story goes that Blackburn Primary School received government funding for a school chaplain and asked for parents to join a committee to select a suitable candidate. As an active school parent, Mr Simpson asked the principal what sort of person she was looking for. She explained it was really a pastoral care role, to meet the pastoral care needs of the school community, including children and their families as well as teachers and their families. The more he learned about the job, the more interested he became—so much so that Mr Simpson decided not to join the selection committee but to seek the position himself.
Mr Simpson has been in the role for three years now, and he absolutely loves it. Interestingly, he sees a lot of similarities between his work at the school and his work at the bar. It is all about listening, Mr Simpson says, helping people to see light at the end of the tunnel. It is about hope, helping people to develop a new perspective and perhaps to see things in a different way. With only three male teachers at the school, Mr Simpson is also a positive male role model for the pupils, something their parents really value. He has run a successful parenting course at the school and he has the time to attend to pressing issues, working with kids from difficult family situations and single parent families and tackling matters such as bereavement, personal development, socialisation and bullying. I applaud Mr Simpson and the thousands of other school chaplains across the country for really making a difference in their school communities. We all know how overworked teachers are and what a tremendous job they do in the face of increasing demands. What Mr Simpson and other chaplains do is focus on the emotional issues facing students and their families that so many teachers struggle to find the time to focus on.
The Gillard government is proud of the National School Chaplaincy Program, which was started under the Howard government and has been expanded under this Labor government. The program already funds 2,681 schools nationwide through to 2014 and, following a $222 million election commitment, will expand to a further 1,000 schools in disadvantaged rural and remote areas.
I want to deal with criticism of the program, as there have been critics who claim that chaplains are proselytising in schools. That is not what the program is about and, indeed, chaplains operate under strict guidelines that preclude such proselytising. The reality is that Christian agencies and organisations have a long and proud history of providing much-needed support services across a range of community settings. So why shouldn’t schools be added to the list? Why shouldn’t schools have the support of a chaplain to provide pastoral care and help where it is most needed?
The greatest resource of this nation is its children. And the workers who have the toughest job of all are its parents. School chaplains do a wonderful job providing support to children and parents, as well as our dedicated teachers, and for that reason I applaud these school chaplains. I am delighted that the Gillard government is expanding the successful National Schools Chaplaincy Program.