Australia: Federal Govt set to keep funding school chaplains

Chaplains in Australian schools are to continue receiving money from the Federal Government, despite a High Court decision that put their funding under threat.

In June, the court ruled that it was against the constitution for national funding to go directly to chaplaincy organisations.

But the Federal Government is now providing individual states and territories with money in order for them to administer the National School Chaplaincy Program.


The move has been welcomed by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).

Scott Ryan, parliamentary secretary to the minister for education, said: “The Government believes that school chaplains make a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of students and school communities”.

Schools can receive up to $20,000, or $24,000 in rural areas, as part of the programme, which was introduced in 2006.


The 2014-15 budget allocates $245 million over five years for the scheme, which gives funding for the employment of religious chaplains.

The governments of South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) say they will only accept the funding if they are allowed to use it for secular workers, a view criticised by the ACL.

The organisation’s Managing Director Lyle Shelton said: “It is disappointing the ACT government is denying local schools the choice of extra resources for their school communities because of what appears to be an anti-faith bias.”


A Queensland father, Ron Williams, had challenged the National School Chaplaincy Program in court twice, and says he may take action for a third time.

He said: “I think it’s all pretty disgraceful, the callous arrogance being displayed by the Federal Government on this”.

Williams accused the Government of trying to “circumvent” the High Court rulings.

But at the time of the High Court ruling in June, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he greatly supported the school chaplains’ programme, and wanted it to continue.

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