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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4030


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (12:44): I seek leave to make a short statement.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator MOORE: The ALP is not supporting this motion. Schools are best placed to determine the needs of the students in their community. Unlike the government, we are firmly of the view that students should come before ideology and that principals not politicians are in the best position to know what their school community needs. If a school determines that the use of a chaplain would be best for their school, the Commonwealth should not stand in their way. For Australian school students, access to support, including from qualified mental health professionals, is extremely important. The prevalence of mental illness is higher among young Australians, and we absolutely acknowledge the barriers many young people face in knowing where to access support and assistance.

Labor is deeply concerned by the government's announcement of the $245 million for religious-only chaplains. The impact of this decision will be that many, many schools that currently use federal money to employ youth workers, welfare workers and mental health professionals will lose funding for these vital services. The government's moves to stand in the way of schools determining what is best for their community by restricting funding to only religious chaplains cannot be justified.