The High Court has handed down its judgment regarding the latest challenge to the federal funding of school chaplains.The court has found that the current legislation and funding model are invalid.
This does not reflect the court's view on the legitimacy of the chaplaincy program itself, but on the validity of the current federal funding arrangements.
We appreciate the incredible support for school chaplaincy from so many throughout this High Court case. Despite the success of the challenge to the way the program has been funded, the defence mounted by Scripture Union Queensland and the Commonwealth Government has been of the highest standard. Especially encouraging are the positive comments about the chaplaincy program in the High Court ruling itself.
We look forward to finding out how the new funding model through the states and territories will work, and pray that this will be resolved in good time for 2900 chaplaincies to be funded nationally from January next year.
National School Chaplaincy Association
The National School Chaplaincy Association has welcomed the support of the Prime Minister and other members of the Government following today’s decision by the High Court that overturned the current funding model for school chaplains.
National spokesperson and CEO of SU Queensland Peter James emphasised that the ruling was about the funding model only and pointed to the comments by the Court that affirmed the benefits of chaplaincy.
“We believe that this decision will enable the Government to put in place an appropriate funding model that meets the court’s requirements, securing chaplaincy for the future,” he said.
“We hope this can be arranged as soon as possible.”
SU Queensland is Australia’s largest provider of school chaplains and was a co-defendant in the case along with the Commonwealth.
Mr James said that chaplains provide important social, emotion and spiritual support for students across Australian schools.
“In its judgment today, the court made very positive comments about school chaplaincy.
“The ruling confirmed the advantages of chaplaincy support in terms of pastoral care and to enhance engagement with the wider community,” he explained.
He said the argument against chaplaincy was “driven by people with personal and political agendas who don’t understand, or won’t acknowledge the facts."
“It’s time to dispel the myths around the argument that chaplains are trying to convert students. The facts don’t support that.
“Around 2900 schools have chosen to have a chaplain, and in 2013, only one complaint nationally was received.”
He said it is a requirement of a chaplain holding their job that they be non-judgmental, non-coercive and supportive of all students regardless of the student’s issues or worldview.
The most likely funding to ensure the continuation of the chaplaincy program is a system of grants via the states and territories, an alternative the High Court has acknowledged both during this case and the prior case in 2012.
Media Contact: Lyall Mercer – 0413 749 830