Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Labor matches Libs on chaplains and then some...

One of the election issues highlighted by many Christian organisations is the ongoing funding of the state school chaplaincy program, first introduced by the Howard government.

After Opposition leader Tony Abbott promised to continue funding at least until 2014, it seemed the Coalition was in front on this issue.

However Labor has matched and then risen the chaplaincy stakes by promising to not only maintain funding for existing chaplains for a further three years, but to extend the program.

As many as 1000 additional schools, including those in remote or disadvantaged areas, will get a chaplain service under Labor's new policy, announced this month.

The National School Chaplaincy Program already provides the service to 2700 schools. If Labor wins the August 21 election, the program would get $222 million to reach more schools, especially those in disadvantaged and remote areas. Funding could also be pooled so a chaplain could serve a number of schools.
A national consultation process will consider the scheme's effectiveness and how it fits with other student support activities, with a discussion paper to be released by October.

A study into the effectiveness of school chaplains, conducted by University of New England and Edith Cowan University is available online. Among other things, it finds that 98 per cent of state school principals believe chaplains are making a positive contribution to their school community.

The Greens are opposed to school chaplains and have called for them to be replaced with 'counsellors'.

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