The peak body representing school chaplains has called on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to immediately clarify the ALP’s position on the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) following comments by Senator Doug Cameron in a Senate Estimates hearing today.

National School Chaplaincy Association spokesperson Peter James said Senator Cameron’s statements, particularly his claim that Labor’s view was that funding for the program could be better spent elsewhere, were at odds with the bipartisan support chaplaincy has enjoyed over many years.

“These statements show a complete ignorance of the vital role chaplains play within the overall wellbeing and support structure of schools, and the overwhelming endorsement chaplaincy has from principals and school communities,” he said.

“But more than that, it’s a departure from Labor’s historical policy, and with multiple by-elections around the corner, the voters need to know whether this is the current position or whether the senator was out of line.”

Mr James said in the marginal Queensland electorate of Longman, chaplaincy has a long and successful history with over 20,000 students depending on their chaplains’ support, and school communities would revolt against Labor if they refuse to back the continuation of the NSCP.

“I am hopeful that Senator Cameron will retract his statements, but it’s now time for Labor to be transparent with the community and publicly support chaplaincy or reveal their intentions to the contrary.

“I call on Mr Shorten to tell us now, and not wait until after the by-election, because if Labor does not continue the NSCP, every school in Longman will lose their chaplain, which they chose due to the excellent and proven work they do.”

Mr James also said third-hand claims by Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young about chaplain behaviour is likely just scare mongering, and complaints against chaplains are rare.


School chaplaincy key facts

77 per cent of NSCA chaplains exceed the Federal Government’s minimum qualification requirement of a Certificate IV in Youth Work or equivalent, holding relevant diplomas, bachelor degrees and higher in related fields, including human services, counselling and education.

In 2017 alone, funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program helped deliver:

  • 67,520 formal pastoral conversations around bullying/harassment;
  • One-on-one support for 28,264 students per week;
  • Pastoral care for 17,867 parents, careers and school staff per week;
  • 43,262 social and emotional programs and activities per term to support 314,353 students; 7,945 breakfast programs, and more.

About the NSCA

The National School Chaplaincy Association is a network of chaplaincy organisations in Australia. It is represented by ACCESS Ministries (Vic), Generate Ministries (NSW), Schools Ministry Group (SA), YouthCare (WA) and Scripture Union (ACT, Queensland, Tasmania).

About the NSCP

  • The Australian Government’s National School Chaplaincy Program assists more than 3,000 schools to engage the services of a school chaplain.
  • The program aims to support the emotional wellbeing of students through the provision of pastoral care services and strategies that support the emotional wellbeing of the broader school community.
  • The program is voluntary for schools and students to participate in and all school chaplains must meet the minimum qualification requirement set by the Federal Government.