The parents and carers behind a push for the religious requirement to be removed from the chaplaincy roles in their public primary school say they just want the “best person for the job”.
In an interview on ABC Radio in Perth this morning, Ashley Greig (pictured), the vice-president for the Maylands Peninsula Primary School’s P&C, said the requirement for chaplains to be people “of faith” was “a bit out of place” with the school’s diverse community.
Last week, the Rationalist Society of Australia reported that parents and carers at West Australian school had, in May, voted overwhelmingly to make the taxpayer-funded chaplaincy positions subject to equal opportunity employment – meaning that they could no longer be only for people “of faith”. Yesterday, the West Australian reported on the matter.
Speaking with ABC Mornings host Nadia Mitsopoulos, Mr Greig said the P&C was not opposed to the school chaplaincy program.
“This is about equal opportunity, essentially. The P&C absolutely supports the chaplaincy program, as much as having someone to do that job – it’s vital to the school community. But the question is: ‘Why do they have to be of Christian faith or of faith at all?’” he said.
“And the answer to that is: ‘Well, they don’t.’
“There are plenty of people who could provide, and we should be getting the best person for the job, not the best person of faith for the job.”
The P&C is preparing a motion to be put at the state conference of the WA Council of State Schools Organisation in September, advocating for all pastoral care positions to be open to applications without any religious requirement.
Although the new federal government has announced that public schools would be give the choice of a secular welfare worker, and the state government has updated its website to open the roles to people of “no faith”, Mr Greig said he was concerned about there would be “quite a few” impediments in the way.
He said the diversity of the Maylands Peninsula school community, where about half of the population came from non-English-speaking backgrounds, was part of the reason the P&C took action on the chaplaincy issue.
The RSA has long lobbied for states including Western Australia to remove the religious-based discrimination in the National School Chaplaincy Program.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman