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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 290

Senator TATE(7.14) —I wish very briefly to congratulate Bishop Geoffrey Maine on his ordination as Bishop for the Australian Armed Forces. The ordination took place at St Christopher's Church, Manuka, today. He has taken on a very demanding task, to provide pastoral care to members of the Armed Forces of Australia. I also wish to take the opportunity to commend a group of young Canberra people who conducted a prayer vigil on the steps of the church at the time of the ordination. This group is known as the Catholic Social Justice Work Group. Many of these young people are living in communities and are sharing their income and a common life. I believe they are very well motivated. I commend their manner which is non-violent, and, as I say, prayerful. Their message was that the church needs to think again about the symbolism of its association with the Armed Forces through the presence of chaplains, in particular through the taking of rank and equivalent status, insignia and so on, which to some extent identifies to the outside eye chaplains quite closely with the structure of the forces. Of course, it is the symbolism which is so important. I am in no way undermining or questioning the pastoral role of such chaplains. I believe a valid question has been raised by these young people and any such change, as is mooted by way of perhaps differentiating the manner of payment and the status of military chaplains within the forces, should be undertaken by way of consultation with the Government. The Government might think it appropriate to initiate some such discussions.

I have found it difficult over the years to reconcile the presence of school cadets in Christian schools. I think that young adults are at a sensitive stage in the formation of their views about issues of war and peace while they are at school. To combine and confuse, to some extent, the emergence of qualities of leadership and the enjoyment and the sharing of camaraderie in cadets with the very preliminary training in some of the martial skills once again raises questions about the sort of training to which we should expose our young adolescents at a time when their consciences should be being formed.

I trust and I expect that Bishop Maine will bring his considerable abilities to bear on the provision of moral guidance facing members of the military forces. I do not mean merely of a private character but of a character which we debated in this chamber this afternoon-the large issues going to the very discharge of their military obligations and the moral limits on the waging of war. I say to the young people who made this vigil that they have shown, by their demeanour and by their message, that some very relevant questions have to be addresses.