Religious discrimination against youth workers in Australian public schools is a systemic feature of the operation of the new National Student Wellbeing Program (NSWP), according to a new report from the Rationalist Society of Australia.
The report – titled Religious discrimination in the recruitment of National Student Wellbeing Program (NSWP) workers in Australian public schools – compiles the selection criteria used to hire NSWP workers by each of the organisations authorised to supply NSWP workers to public schools in every state and territory.
The NSWP provides funding to employ youth workers in schools to provide pastoral care services.
The report shows that usual practice is that only qualified youth workers who are Christian are eligible for NSWP youth worker jobs in Australian public schools.
This is happening despite religious discrimination against job applicants being unlawful in most states and territories and despite the federal government’s NSWP guidelines saying that “the NSWP is not a religious program and does not provide religious instruction or religious counselling to students.”
For example, in NSW Generate Services is contracted to provide NSWP workers to 138 public schools in 2023 and requires every NSWP worker to be a “Committed Christian” and “Attend a local faith community”.
In South Australia, Schools Ministry Group is contracted to provide NSWP workers to 312 government schools in 2023 and requires every NSWP worker to have “a personal commitment to Christian faith” and have “active and regular involvement in a Christian Community”.
The RSA has provided a copy of the report to all federal, state and territory education departments, and has asked each department:
- Whether the recruitment practices for NSWP workers in public schools as outlined in the report accords with the department’s policies; and
- What steps the department will take to address the systemic religious discrimination against NSWP workers in public schools.
Si Gladman is Campaign & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.
Image: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.