Parents step up election call for changes to school chaplaincy

Si Gladman / 12 April 2022

The parents behind a 20,000-strong petition calling for changes to the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) to include secular youth workers want the major parties to commit to removing religious-based discrimination in the program this election.

In an interview on ABC Radio Brisbane this morning, petitioner Fiona Newton said the major parties should remove the discriminatory requirement from the NSCP and remove the role of third-party religious chaplaincy providers. 

You can listen to the full ABC interview from the 20:00 mark here.

Ms Newton (pictured) is among five parents from across the country who have set up the Fund Youth Workers, not Faith Workers, in Public Schools group. The group’s petition on change.org has attracted a wave of support, with almost 20,000 having signed it since January.

“What we’re asking both parties – but particularly Labor hasn’t made a stand on this in this area either – is to say that they’re going to remove this (religious requirement) because it is discrimination,” Ms Newton told ABC Mornings host Rebecca Levingston.

“You couldn’t advertise a position based on someone being white or being female or – you know. But we somehow can have this requirement for funding about religious belief. It seems very strange, very odd.”

Ms Newton noted that the Gillard government had expanded the program to include secular wellbeing support, but said that the current Labor opposition appeared uncommitted to returning to a similar policy.

The Rationalist Society of Australia has backed the parents’ call for change to the NSCP, with president Meredith Doig saying children deserve the best pastoral care and wellbeing support in public schools.

The RSA has been busy lobbying state governments to remove the religious-based discrimination in the program which prevents non-religious people from filling the positions.

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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

All the more reason.