LGBTI rights group warns of unqualified religious counsellors in WA’s public schools

Si Gladman / 31 August 2021

LGBTI rights campaigner and former Senator for Western Australia Brian Greig (pictured) has added his voice to the mounting concerns about taxpayer-funded religious chaplains in the state’s public schools.

In a letter to the editor published in the West Australian newspaper recently (see letter below), Greig, the spokesperson for just.equal in WA, said schools needed professional secular counsellors trained in psychology.

“As ambassadors of religion, the only requirement [for religious chaplains] is belief in a supernatural deity. This is not a solid basis for the care of vulnerable children, many of whom will be LGBTIs looking for support and counselling around questions of same-sex attraction and gender identity,” he wrote.

“LGBTI young people suffer higher rates of anxiety and depression. It is deeply worrying that such children might be confronted with unqualified counsellors sourced from religious organisations that have long histories of homophobia and transphobia. Some advocate ‘LGBTI conversion therapy’.”

Greig’s statement came after the newspaper reported that a parents’ and ex-teachers’ group had raised its concerns with the state government about the religious-based discrimination that prevents non-religious people from being employed in the chaplaincy roles.

The WA Public School Alliance also raised concerns about chaplains proselytising in schools, given that some of the selection criteria in the job descriptions and the units involved in the training programs focus on evangelism.

Among the providers of training programs for chaplains is Margaret Court’s Victory Life Church.

You can find our latest reports on this issue here.

Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at sigladman@rationalist.com.au or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman

 

Brian Greig’s letter to the editor, 22 August 2021

While taxpayer-funded chaplains may be optional for schools, there is no requirement they be professionally trained in mental health or psychology. 

As ambassadors of religion, the only requirement is belief in a supernatural deity. This is not a solid basis for the care of vulnerable children, many of whom will be LGBTIs looking for support and counselling around questions of same-sex attraction and gender identity.

LGBTI young people suffer higher rates of anxiety and depression. Up to 30 per cent of all youth suicides are LGBTI related.

It is deeply worrying that such children might be confronted with unqualified counsellors sourced from religious organisations that have long histories of homophobia and transphobia. Some advocate ‘LGBTI conversion therapy’.

Professional, secular counsellors trained in psychology are best for schools. But if the chaplaincy program is to continue it should be mandatory for all chaplains to be trained in LGBTI issues and able to refer students to qualified care.

Brain Greig, WA spokesman, just.equal Australia

All the more reason.

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