Here’s a new video from the Australian Secular Lobby (ASL). It has to be seen to be believed. In short, the ASL claims that Peter Garrett’s commitment to allow secular welfare workers into state schools is a huge sham.
Here are some salient points:
1. Gillard announces the extension of funding for existing chaplaincy to 2014 and says the program will be extended to a further 1000 schools.
2. Garrett announces the program is to be changed to allow secular welfare workers.
3. In practice, however, it appears that new ‘secular welfare workers’ will only be populating these extra 1000 schools.
4. Further, of the 1000 new places, 500 are likely to go to church schools – so probably only a maximum of 500 of 3,700 schools will have Garrett’s supposed choice of either a chaplain or a student welfare worker. In practice, as you will be see, it will far less than this. In other words, it sounds like there is equal opportunity for secular and religious workers when, in fact, there isn’t. It’s spin to satisfy the secular lobby with a nudge and a wink to the Christian lobby.
5. Before Garrett opened applications for secular workers he had already invited schools to ‘roll over’ funding to retain their religious chaplains – ensuring that most schools would have applied to keep their chaplains before they realised they could apply for a secular welfare worker. But ….
6. … just to complete the ‘con job’, secular welfare workers can only be employed through an approved supplier. Currently there are no approved suppliers of secular welfare workers. But, never fear, there are plenty of applicants to do this. Given the rush of applications it now looks certain that those supplying ‘secular’ welfare workers will be …. Christian provider organisations. A double whammy.
7. But let’s play Garrett’s grubby game for a moment and imagine there will be secular workers. What will their guidelines be? Obviously they can’t be asked to offer ‘pastoral care’ and religious guidance – can they? Apparently, yes. In Garrett’s ‘new guidelines’ chaplains and student welfare workers share exactly the same code of conduct. There is no separation between the roles at all. The new guidelines simply replace the word ‘religious’ with ‘spiritual’. The word ‘spiritual’ is used 26 times in the new guidelines – the word ‘secular’ appears only five times.
8. The new guidelines enable both chaplains and secular welfare workers to: help students explore their spirituality, provide services with a spiritual content including discussion groups and lunch-time clubs, and (with prior approval) deliver activities and services that offer a particular view or religious belief and perform religious services and rites including worship and prayer during school assembly etc. Yes – whether religious or secular, the new guidelines allow chaplains and ‘secular’ welfare workers to evangelise and proselytise providing they have approval from the principal.
9. Under the ‘old’ guidelines, schools at least had to pretend they had undertaken community consultation. Under the new guidelines the minimum ‘community consultation’ is simply ‘minuted approval by the P&C executive plus one ordinary member’. We often find P&C’s have been ‘colonised’ by evangelical Christians. This means the wider parent community doesn’t even have to be consulted about having a religious chaplain in the school.
So there you go, secular and non-Christian parents. Peter Garrett and Julia Gillard have pulled a huge swifty on the lot of you. The NSCP has been made to ‘look’ secular when in fact it is just as religious as before – if not more so. It’s all ‘smoke and mirrors’. Julia Gillard can go to the Australian Christian Lobby and say (behind closed doors of course), “Nothing has really changed,” – and she’ll be right.
This is political chicanery at its very finest.
And if you think this is all horribly grubby and underhanded, and you’re embarrassed because the Prime Minister is an atheist – never fear; remember, she assured Jim Wallace and the Australian Christian Lobby her values come from her Baptist upbringing.
Not happy? Contact Julia Gillard or Peter Garrett.
Email: Prime Minister
Email: Peter Garrett
Journalists, editors, columnists – surely there is a story in this! For more information please contact Hugh Wilson at the Australian Secular Lobby: