What does it take to be a Chaplain?
One of the biggest issues with the NSCP is that we don’t know the level of qualifications held by those who will be teaching SRE in schools. This is an example of religion being held in distinction from the rest of society, as a thing of morality and trustworthiness. All we need to do is look at the Catholic church and its ministers to know this is not the case.
According to the government discussion paper supplied on the government’s website about the National School Chaplaincy Program, these are the requirements that Chaplains must meet in order to be allowed to teach RE at schools. I add my comments in between the paragraphs.
Current requirements of National School Chaplaincy Program in relation to the appointment of chaplains, state and territory differences and current major chaplaincy provider standards
Current requirements of National School Chaplaincy Program
The National School Chaplaincy Program currently does not specify a minimum qualification to be held by a person being appointed as a chaplain under the program. The program provides school communities with the flexibility to appoint the most appropriate person to the role of chaplain with reference to individual school needs and decision-making.
The program guidelines state that a school chaplain is one that ‘is recognised…through formal ordination, commissioning, recognised qualifications or endorsement by a recognised or accepted religious institution or a state/territory government approved chaplaincy service’.
So what this means is that the person who is going to be teaching at our schools may not have even finished school themselves. If there is no minimum requirement except for being recognised…through formal ordination, commissioning, recognised qualifications or endorsement by a recognised or accepted religious institution or a state/territory government approved chaplaincy service’ this leaves the door open for any person who may want to teach whatever they want to our children
The school principal is responsible for ‘assessing their qualifications, skills, experience and community standing’. Each school and provider administers the program within the requirements of the guidelines, appointing chaplains from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience.
So if a school principal sees fit, the chaplain, of whatever education level, can be in the classroom. As to the “diverse range of backgrounds and experience” we have seen that this diversity doesn’t spread much past that of a Christian background, as the providers are primarily evangelical Christians, such as Access Ministries.
The program guidelines state that the program is not intended to ‘diminish or replace existing…counselling services funded by state and territory governments’. They are also clear that any activities undertaken by individual chaplains are not to exceed their qualifications.
The program has already stated that the intention is for Chaplains to act as counsellors for the children, so this idea seems to be counter to what has already been stated. As to the activities they provide, it’s already too late once an untrained Chaplain is in the school for them to not exceed their qualification, unless the Chaplain is already a qualified teacher or social worker.
While there are individuals appointed as chaplains under the program that hold formal counselling qualifications and can perform these services if called upon to do so, the overall intention of program is to support a complementary wellbeing role alongside counselling and other support services.
The program imposes mandatory child protection requirements on school chaplains and all chaplains funded under the program are required to undergo a national criminal history check before commencement (and the validity of the check must be maintained throughout their period of service). School chaplains are also required to abide by any relevant state or territory requirements (e.g. Queensland ‘Blue Card’ system or Western Australian ‘Working with Children’ check).
While it’s important that the Chaplains aren’t criminals, this is really missing the point of the objections people have to the NSCP. While some may be qualified counsellors, and some may be qualified teachers, the door is open for any person who wishes to recruit soldiers for Jesus, because the providers are largely evangelicals, who by their nature, are doing just this.
According to this article from The Herald Sun, religious instructors are required to attend a 6 hour training course to become recognised as competent to teach RE, compared to a minimum of 3-4 years at university for qualified primary school teachers. And while the Chaplains are required to be “supervised” by a teacher or principal while teaching, this is no guarantee that the curriculum that the Chaplain sees fit to teach will be measured or fairly presented. It only makes sense that if an evangelical Chaplain is in the classroom and given free reign over what they teach, that they will be proselytizing the children.
The real problem lies in the under-representation of groups other than Christians in this scheme, when up to 40% of children in schools come from families who identify themselves as from the “other” religions or no religion at all. There is no mandate that Christianity be represented as “the religion of Australia” as some would have you believe. I’m hoping that the coming August census will show that this is most certainly not the case.
If you disagree with the NSCP, show your support by visiting the “Say Not To Chaplains” website.