ACT education minister is confused about chaplaincy and should accept funding

ACT education minister Joy Burch doesn’t understand the vital role school chaplains play, according to the National School Chaplaincy Association.

The comments came after the Association publicly called for Ms Burch to accept the Federal Government’s renewed funding for chaplains, which she has so far refused to do.

NSCA national spokesperson Peter James said Ms Burch “confuses counselling, social workers and welfare workers and needs to understand how valuable chaplaincy is to those ACT schools that have chosen to be a part of the program.

“The role of chaplain is an integral part of the Student Services / Pastoral Care Team.

“Most schools already have youth workers, social workers, counsellors, nurses and others, with chaplains playing an important role in the team.

Mr James said the valuable support role will disappear from more than 30 territory schools if Ms Burch doesn’t accept the Federal Government funding by the end of this week.

ACT director of chaplaincy services Dianne Priest has urged Ms Burch to act and “support the continued welfare of ACT students”.

“We consistently hear from the schools that they don’t need more programs so much as they need more people to spend quality time with students listening, supporting and caring for them,” she said.

“Students value the quality time that a chaplain offers and teachers regularly refer students to the chaplains.”

Mr James said programs like breakfast clubs, homework clubs, life skills, grief support, self-esteem projects, healthy eating groups, young carers groups and other support groups will be lost to school communities if chaplaincy is not continued.

“Chaplains are qualified, don’t discriminate and operate in the best interests of all students irrespective of their beliefs or backgrounds.”

He explained that chaplaincy is not forced on any school but was a voluntary choice.

“I urge minister Burch to support the choice of schools, parents and students across the ACT who value and want a chaplain.

Media Contacts: Lyall Mercer – 0413 749 830 // Barbara Gorogh – 0435 909 608