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National School Chaplaincy Program.
Prime Minister of Australia | John Howard
29 October 2006
National School Chaplaincy Program
To assist our schools in providing greater pastoral care and supporting the spiritual wellbeing of their students, I am pleased to announce a new initiative today, the Australian Government's National School Chaplaincy Program. This program will provide up to $20,000 a year directly to government and non-government schools that want to provide chaplaincy services for their school community.
School chaplains are already making valuable contributions to the personal, spiritual and emotional wellbeing of many school communities nationally, and the Australian Government will invest up to $30 million annually for three years to make these services available to all schools. This funding will contribute towards the cost of engaging chaplains. School communities will also be expected to contribute funding and support for chaplaincy programs at their school.
Each local school community will decide if they want to participate in this voluntary program. The choice of chaplaincy services, including the religious affiliation and denomination, is entirely a decision for the school community, including teachers and parents. Schools that apply will need to demonstrate evidence of extensive consultation with and support from their broader school community. Schools that already have chaplains will also be able to apply for support. Individual chaplains for whom funding is provided will need to be approved by the Government.
Chaplains will be expected to provide pastoral care, general religious and personal advice and comfort and support to all students and staff, irrespective of their religious beliefs. A chaplain might support school students and the wider school community in a range of ways, such as assisting students in exploring their spirituality; providing guidance on religious, values and ethical matters; helping school counsellors and staff in offering welfare services and support in cases of bereavement, family breakdown or other crisis and loss situations.
Some states have limited support for chaplaincy programs. This new Commonwealth funding will be in addition to state programs. It is to be hoped that none of the states committed to funding chaplaincy services will withdraw or reduce their funding because of today's announcement. Further, I encourage all states and territories to fully match this Commonwealth Government commitment and to ensure chaplaincy services are not denied to those government schools that want them.
In addition, this new initiative should in no way replace existing careers advice and counselling services funded by the states.
I have asked the Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, to implement this important initiative.
A reference group will be established shortly to provide advice on how the program will work. The program guidelines will be released in December and schools will be able to submit applications for funding by the end of March 2007. Successful applicants will be notified in late April-early May next year.
Further details may be obtained from the Department of Education, Science and Training website www.dest.gov.au/schools/chaplains
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