This post is my draft response to the survey about the National School Chaplaincy Program. This survey is being conducted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), and can be seen at http://www.surveys.dest.gov.au/nsurvey.aspx?surveyid=2505396a8674ae09927471283bed581 .
I offer this draft to others in the hope that they might find the material useful for their own submissions.
Do you support the introduction of minimum qualifications for school chaplains?
Do you support the introduction of a minimum Certificate IV (Associate Diploma) in Youth Work or similar (e.g. pastoral care, community services)?
What should be the minimum entry qualifications?
What elements are most important for minimum qualifications for schools chaplains?
Recognition of life experience
Are there any other comments you would like to make about the qualifications of chaplains?
To anybody who has understood even the rudiments the counselling, it is perfectly obvious to them, and it has also been driven into them by their trainers, that seeking by any means whatsoever to drive the person being counselled towards the counsellor’s own opinions is completely unacceptable.
Then there is the sociological background of the current cohort of chaplains. Almost all of them are working in a strongly religious context, typically a Christian church or similarly Christian movement. I have yet to encounter such an individual who has been able to resist the temptation to bring in the concept of God when it comes to matters of stressors with which another person is having trouble. To my mind, this is a blatant attempt to force religion into the minds of individuals when they are at their most vulnerable. As such, they are violating a prime directive of being a counsellor. Consequently, any chaplain must first disavow any suggestion or hint of God unless, and until, the individual being counselled raises it in the first place – any qualification for a chaplain must have this as an essential learning outcome in the relevant Units of Competency.
Do you support the introduction of minimum standards for service providers under the program?
What elements are most important for minimum standards for service providers?
- Annual audit, and far more stringent than the “rubber stamping” that I have seen in some TAFEs
- The annual audit to cover not only counselling hours, but also the provider’s finances
- A robust, and strongly policed, complaints process
Do you support the current arrangements which require schools to attempt to employ a chaplain before being able to employ a secular pastoral care worker?
No. I am strongly opposed to the current arrangement.
Do you support modification of the program to give schools the choice of a non-faithbased support worker or youth worker?
Yes. Moreover, I think that a non-faithbased (as you put it) support worker should always take preference over a religious alternative.
Are there any other comments you would like to make about the program?
The whole concept of a National Schools Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) is flawed in principle.
Firstly, there is the principle that state education should be secular. For those parents who wish to have their children educated in a religious context, there is a sufficiency of such schools in the private sector.
Secondly, while there is a lively debate between some sections of society as to whether or not Religious Instruction (RI) amounts to child abuse, there are sufficiently many people who regard themselves as having been abused by RI that any prospect of the continuation of the NSCP should be viewed with great alarm. It is perhaps telling that such people regard the term RI as meaning Religious Indoctrination.
There is no doubt that pastoral support provides a valuable service to today’s children and teenagers. Given this, and the two criticisms above, it would be in the best interests of today’s school attendees if the NSCP was scrapped completely, and a secular-based program was put in its place.
The current emphasis on religion by the NSCP has far too many victims of RI for the program to be allowed to continue in a civilised society.
There is an argument to be made that the NSCP is unlawful. Section 116 of the Australian Constitution states “no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”. However, the relevant DEEWR web page
(accessed 17-Feb-2011) states “The offer [to employ Secular Pastoral Care Workers] only applied to those schools that had exhausted all reasonable avenues to find a suitable chaplain.”. While it may be obvious to most people that the DEEWR is violating Section 116, this needs to be tested in a Court of Law.