Prior to the elections last month, I didn’t really listen to any of the promises by either party. I couldn’t be bothered especially since I had made up my mind. But then I read something just the other day. I read news that both the Labor and Coalition governments had agreed to provide extra funding for chaplains in state schools across the nation. And I was hugely disappointed. On more levels than one.
I am not against any religion as such despite not being a very religious person. And I’m sure chaplains are great in their own way. But how can the government think of spending so much money on chaplains when state schools don’t have decent school counsellors to cover the number of students? I cannot speak for other states but I know for a fact that in New South Wales, there is a school counsellor spread across two to three schools each with at least 500 students. No state school gets a full time counsellor of it’s own. And knowing this situation, the major parties pledge to fund chaplains? Chaplains who are not trained in any mental health work, I’d like to add. School counsellors are probably not as trained as psychologists in mental health but they still know what signs to look for. They know where to refer students to.
I attended a school counsellor’s meeting a while ago and the mean age of the state counsellors is nearing retirement. With not many more entering the workforce due to a job where they are thinly spread and over-worked. Why doesn’t the government fund more school counsellors than chaplains?
The other argument I have against chaplains is the assumption that every child is of one particular faith. What about those children that don’t feel comfortable speaking to a chaplain and would rather speak to a non-judgemental counsellor? Someone who is not going to impart purely religious beliefs. What about those students that are not religious at all?
I think it’s appalling on the government’s part to think of spending all this money on something that I don’t think is necessary for all schools. If there are some schools that want to have chaplains, fair enough. They can have them. But why use tax payers’ money to fund the same? I’m glad the Australian Psychological Society has spoken up against this. And for the need of more school counsellors instead. The government funding for chaplaincy in state schools is now facing legal challenge in the high court. I do hope the government comes to its senses and decides to use the $220 million to fund counsellors instead.
Else, they are failing majority of the children and adolescents here. Those in need of talking to someone who understands them. And who is non-judgemental. And of course, someone who understands mental health.
Not just someone asking them to pray to god for help or forgiveness.
Until next time,