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Secular lobby says welfare program is a con -

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Religious organisations are in the running to provide student welfare workers to schools. The
Australian Secular Lobby says it's a con because the workers are supposed to be secular.

TONY EASTLEY: The Australian Secular Lobby says the Federal Government's changes to the
controversial school chaplains program are a con.

In September the Schools Education Minister Peter Garrett announced that from next year schools
will be able to choose between a chaplain or a secular student welfare worker.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: The changes to the program are designed to open it up to schools that want a student
guidance worker without the religion. Hugh Wilson from the Australian Secular Lobby says the
arrangements being put in place will make no difference, except to make it less clear when religion
is involved.

HUGH WILSON: Con job. The department has failed to provide a definition for secular so nobody knows
what they mean by it except by their actions and their actions are well, deceitful at best.

SIMON LAUDER: The Department of Education has published lists of organisations that are in the
running to get funding to provide student welfare workers - many of them are religious
organisations. Hugh Wilson says that's inappropriate.

HUGH WILSON: I think it is a bit of a glaring conflict of interest and neither students, staff nor
parents would know whether this person was clearly attached as a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim in
this school or whether they were someone who perhaps didn't have such obvious connections to
religion.

SIMON LAUDER: Do you believe that student welfare officers should be atheists?

HUGH WILSON: Oh, most certainly not. If the Australian Atheist Foundation were applying to employ
student welfare workers, that would be just as inappropriate as if Access Ministries was.

SIMON LAUDER: AM has attempted to contact some of the religious groups that have applied to provide
student welfare officers. Mr Wilson says the Federal Government's attempt to design a secular
version of the program has failed.

A spokeswoman for the Schools Education Minister, Peter Garrett, has told AM the application
process for the service is still open and schools will choose their service provider. She says all
workers employed under the program must follow a strict code of conduct, including a ban on
proselytising.

TONY EASTLEY: Simon Lauder reporting.