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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13280

Mr GEORGANAS (9:45 AM) —I rise to speak about the same issue that the member for Dickson just raised, but with one difference: there has been an announcement made for funding beyond 2010. I have spoken to the Deputy Prime Minister and the PM’s office about the very important National School Chaplaincy Program. I am very pleased to say that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, having heard the community on this issue, have decided to extend the funding by some $42.8 million, extending the program to December 2011. I have been contacted by many concerned parents, schools and chaplains regarding the continued funding of this program. Under the previous government it was funded only until next year, 2010.

The government has made the commitment to take stock and review this program—to look at the evidence of what has happened, at what should continue to happen and at what improvements should be made. In particular, the government is keen to look at better ways to accommodate schools in rural and regional areas, small schools and small disadvantaged communities. This is obviously the responsible thing to do, and it should not have been problematic. However, as I said, the program was funded by the previous government only until late next year.

Given the necessary review, the smooth ongoing administration of the program, specifically the continuation of the payment of wages to those employed as school chaplains, was looking pretty awkward. The last thing I would want to see is a good program supported by the government coming to trouble due to an awkward link between one funding period and the next. We do not want to see the people performing the role of chaplains not knowing what is happening to the program, due to the review, and taking a safer bet in leaving that work for what might be in the end no good reason.

Schools across my electorate of Hindmarsh and the chaplains can watch the review process unfold, safe in the knowledge that the program now has funding to appoint well after the review process concludes, and that is through to 2011. We all have a better idea of where the program might be going. Schools like Grange Primary School in my electorate, where parents and friends have been so amazingly supportive of the program, have been emailing me requesting assistance. I am pleased that the PM and the Deputy PM have heard their requests. These people can rest a little easier knowing that this funding is coming.

This is a terrific result, not just for the schools in my electorate but for schools all around Australia, the churches that support the chaplains, the chaplains themselves and each and every student who may need a quiet word of advice, gentle persuasion to stick up for their principles and do the right thing or some help getting professional help outside the school system. We need to give our school students the very best start in life, and this is just one way that we as a federal government can help. I am extremely pleased that we have this program. It is another example of this government’s preparedness to help.