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Tuesday, 12 October 1971
Page: 2197

Mr REID (Holt) - I wish to direct my remarks to the secular Acts under which education is administered in the States. Prior to the introduction of the Education Act of 1872 in Victoria, under which education became free, compulsory and secular, the churches ran most, if not all, of the schools, and much the same happened in the other States. This secular Act has been operating in Victoria for 99 years. Of course, it precludes any of the education grant being used to teach religion in schools. There was a very good reason for the introduction of the 1872 Act. Prior to the turn of the century most of the churches wanted their own schools for their own denominations in sparsely populated areas, with the result that it was costing de States far too much money as they had to subsidise the churches. However, the situation has changed greatly, particularly during the post-war period. For instance, there are more than 3 million people in Victoria. But the important point I want to make is that for certain reasons today people just do not go to church. It means that their children do not have the opportunities that existed when this secular Act was introduced in Victoria.

When national reservists are called up for training they go along to their training camps and they are interviewed. Of course they are asked the obvious questions: What church do you belong to? What contact have you made with the church? Fewer than 10 per cent have made any contact with the church. I think this is most alarming. It certainly brings home the point I am endeavouring to make here, that of the national reservists who were interviewed fewer than 10 per cent had made any contact with the church. For this reason 1 would like to see the old secular Act changed. To me it appears to be illogical. It is incomplete.

I do not quite see the logic of spending some SI, 500m, as the States and the Commonwealth are spending on education this year, giving our children every opportunity of developing mentally, physically and emotionally if they miss out on their spiritual growth. I venture to say that their spiritual development is just as important as any of the other 3 attributes I have mentioned. I will go even further and say that it is as important as the other three put together. Of course, this was one of the reasons why the Council for Christian Education in Schools was formed in Victoria in 1950. A few years later the Education Act was amended to enable chaplains to be appointed to secondary schools. Some 28 appointments have been made over the past number of years. Many more schools want to appoint chaplains, but it costs between $4,500 and $5,000 to appoint a chaplain to a secondary school. As I have mentioned, under the secular Act none of the education grant can be used, lt means that this money has to be raised on a voluntary basis. Each of these chaplains at the secondary schools has a district chaplaincy committee working to raise funds. Approximately one-third of the money is raised by the local churches, another one-third is raised by the school and the local chaplaincy committee raises the other one-third in various ways, mainly through donations and voluntary effort.

I do not think that anyone could assess truly the advantages of having a chaplain in a secondary school. For certain reasons students want to contact a minister of religion. The important thing is not so rauch the work that a chaplain does insofar as religious instruction is concerned; it is the counselling that is carried out in the schools. He has his own study. Any of the students can seek the chaplain out. One cannot truly assess the advantages to be derived from having a chaplain there. He is able to provide the students with information that could be of great assistance to them for the rest of their lives. The Victorian Government recognised the important work carried out by the Council for Christian Education in Schools and provide a grant of $40,000 per annum to assist with the appointment of chaplains. These appointments are mainly carried out in industrial areas because the people in those areas are not able to raise the $4,500 to $5,000. A lot of the very important work of school chaplains is carried out in industrial areas.

Religion in schools is primarily an educational subject and I see no reason why it should not become an integral part of any school curriculum in much the same way as other subjects are taught. Local churches must also realise that they have a vital part to play in education, and one way of assisting is with the appointment of chaplains to secondary schools. I know that the Council for Christian Education in Schools in Victoria and its counterparts in the other States are anxious to carry out research in education with a view to expanding chaplaincy work. However, they are prevented from doing so because of lack of finance. For this reason I would like to see the Commonwealth Government support the Council by providing a grant ot $250,000 for the purposes I have just expounded, as I really do believe that a return to religion in our State education system could well mean that our schools could turn out better balanced students, better able to adjust and meet the challenge of modern day living.

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