Quarter of a billion taxpayers’ dollars for THIS, Mr Hockey?

I have a Twitter friend, an ordinary Aussie mum, so outraged at the allocation of nearly quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayers’ money to the National School Chaplaincy Program, she’s taken to scanning the internet for information about what chaplains actually do.

We’re told they can’t proselytise, the guidelines say they can’t ‘counsel’. In a budget which slashed funding for the CSIRO, failed to provide ongoing funding to help students with disabilities to stay in school, cut millions out of Federal funding for dental care and alternative energy, and slashed $80 billion from state-provided health and education services  – how does Mr Hockey justify one-quarter of a billion dollars for chaplains!

What do they actually do?

In my previous post I revealed that, despite the ban on proselytising, chaplains, and the funding recipients which provide them, see one of their key roles as ‘making disciples’.

No, that doesn’t involve a piece of folded up paper and a pair of scissors. It means making your kids into Bible-believing, happy-clapping, tithe-paying followers of Christ; whether you, as a parent, like it or not.

You don’t get to sign a permission slip for your child to ‘attend’ the chaplain’s ‘office’. The chaplain is ubiquitous in the school – speaking (even praying) on assembly and special school events,  in the classroom as a teachers’ aide, coaching sporting teams, running sausage sizzles and crazy hair days, presiding over lunch-time ‘clubs’, mixing and mingling on the playground and accompanying the kids on school excursions. If you want to exclude your child from interaction from the chaplain, you’ll pretty much need to exclude them from school.

Now, chaplains aren’t allowed to proselytise. But if your child finds lunch time a bit boring, they might just follow some of their friends into the chaplain’s lunch time ‘club’ or ‘group’. This, apparently, is allowed under the guidelines.

And, thanks to my curious Twitter friend, we have an insight into the kinds of things that go on in these taxpayer funded sessions in taxpayer funded school rooms. Now, you can see – at least in part – what your quarter of a billion dollars is being spent on!

Calum Henderson is a Christian primary school teacher. Recently, under the auspices of the Crusader Union of Australia – Crusaders: Sharing Jesus with a new generation – Henderson presented a session at a development day for teachers and school chaplains. The session focused on games that can be played during lunchtime Christian group sessions.

No intellectual discussion about the wisdom of the crusades, here, folks! No education about the impact of religion on art and politics, no insights into the theological differences that led to the split between Protestants and Catholics, no introspection about whether modern ethics and Biblical law are compatible!

No. Instead, Calum suggests that chaplains should remove the labels from cans of food and let the kids guess what’s inside them. Could be anything, right? That’s the fun! Bet you would never have guessed Split Pea and Ham Soup! Gotcha!

Here’s another great activity that’s apparently worth more than providing funding for hospitals and dental care:   line up three glasses with three different kinds of Coke in them and see if the kids can tell which is which.

That’ll get those intellectual juices flowing!

And, just to make sure the kids get in some vital physical activity, there’s this great game where one player holds up a finger and the other person tries to grab it. Riveting stuff!

Yes, it’s true, I’m being facetious and misrepresenting these suggestions somewhat. You see, these are not just silly but fun games for bored kids. No. They’re designed to loosen the kids up to be receptive to the chaplain’s message. 

“Try to link games to the Bible topic as often as possible,” Henderson advises. “If you only have 30 minutes, a 10 minute game which reinforces the main point will be incredibly helpful.”

The aim, as the Crusader Union puts it so succinctly is to ‘share Jesus with a new generation’.

Mr Hockey’s quarter of a billion dollar gift is allowing chaplains to do just that – in our public, secular, taxpayer funded schools.

“There is nothing more wonderful than witnessing a young person put their trust in the Lord, walking alongside them as they learn to treasure God’s Word and seeing them go out to declare their faith among their peers. And Crusaders is there to help them!”

“Since 1930,” I learn from their website, “Crusaders has been blessed to see lives transformed by the Gospel on a regular basis. This year, Crusaders staff and volunteer leaders will reach over 2,500 children and teenagers each week across NSW and the ACT with the Good News of Jesus.”

But, Crusaders isn’t just about getting chaplains and teachers to proselytise to children. The aim is to train up kids to bring in their friends. It’s works just like network marketing.

Here’s the blurb:

“CRU knows it can be hard to share Jesus with your friends and stay strong in your faith at school.

That’s why CRU has 6 full-time staff workers to visit, support and speak at your CRU Lunchtime Group, give Bible talks at chapel and help train you for Christian leadership.”

Well, that’s a relief! And your chappie is right there in the school to help you get all your unchurched friends to come to lunchtime groups and, “Hey! Guess what? CRU also holds holiday camps! Cool, huh?” 

You see, the thing is, there’s this inconvenient ban on proselytising in schools, so chaplains have to be a bit subtle. If you can just encourage the kids to attend a camp – and peer pressure functions hugely in this – then you’re free of the constrictions of the National School Chaplaincy and Education Department guidelines. It’s gloves off.

“CRU Camps endeavor to provide all campers with a camp experience where they can build meaningful friendships, see ‘real’ Christian leaders live out what they believe, and have heaps of fun.”

While Australians wait up to six years to see a specialist, while kids’ teeth rot for want of dental care, while science is sold down the river, while pensioners are told they have to pull in their belts even further to help a nation suffering crippling debt, Mr Hockey has found a quarter of a billion dollars for this travesty. 

Mr Hockey will be answering viewers’ questions on Q and A on Monday night. Maybe you’d like to submit one?

Chrys Stevenson




49 thoughts on “Quarter of a billion taxpayers’ dollars for THIS, Mr Hockey?

  1. skeptoiddragon

    Maureen I am the coordinator for ethics at my kids school but there has been little interest as most seem to be apathetic about religion here. We tried last year and we are going to give it another go this year. Hopefully we will get a better response.

      1. Andrew Skegg (@askegg)

        Indeed. Some religious groups complained loudly when ethics classes were introduced. Some even stated that ethics conflicts with religion. Sometimes I wonder if they can hear themselves.

  2. skeptoiddragon

    What is our country coming to. No disrespect to our American friends but are we sliding into the same abyss of having religion trying to control all parts of our lives? Religion is in steep decline, but as this decline continues and religotards are getting scared and lashing out to try to stop the slide into irrelevance. Along the way they are trying to damage our kids. I for one am not going to stand for it. I am volunteering at school as a teachers aid along side my wife, helping with scripture alternative called ethics classes and talking with the staff about protecting our kids from these purveyors of nonsense and idiocy.

    I am angry and fed up with these attempts to get to my children. Right now I can see religotards walking up my street knocking on doors. They don’t come here anymore I have warned them the next time they come with involve arrests and the Police. I expect they will be arrested.

    1. SusanT

      Sliding into the same abyss as your American friends? Sorry, but as an American Australian, I am appalled at how much WORSE the situation is here in Sydney. In America, chaplains are not allowed to step foot into public schools. There is no such thing as SRE/SRI/Scripture in American public schools. The people, and our constitution would just not allow it. At best some schools, while the teacher is taking the roll, have a ‘moment of silence’ where kids can sit quietly for 60 seconds and think what they want. 99.7% of our education budget in the US goes to PUBLIC schools, not like in Australia where the gov’t funds private religious school on par with its suffering public schools.

    2. Jim KABLE

      Ethically, the way to treat Christians of the proselytising kind is with kindness – to their faces and otherwise. One does not have to agree with them or their delusion. The world is a mirror – says a Buddhist maxim – echoing The Golden Rule. How we look and treat others is how they will respond to us, n’est-ce pas? I am neither a Christian – though fundamentally raised as one – nor am I a Buddhist. But I do care for my fellows – and that we don’t have overtly religious influences in our public schools here in Australia.

  3. Lynette Joy

    This is so insidious. Who and what is driving this? I usually run a mile from conspiracy theories but this is cannot be the result of one old gent talking to Greg Hunt blah, blah, blah. And for it to be defended so fiercely?

  4. aussienet

    I am so outraged at this squandering of money that i can barely contain myself. We need to bring the injustice of this to the wider public via all media, I don’t think the wider community has given much thought to this issue and we need to give them all the information as to what is happening in schools. A debate maybe on Q&A would be a good start, I would happily be in the audience to field questions.
    Keep religion out of schools and teach children critical thinking so they have choices.

    1. David Gorringe

      Can someone do a video question to Q&A?. god knows Joe Hockeys standard reply will be “everyone reports great benefits from his scheme”. Yes, great benefits for the church bank accounts! Bloody scandalous.

  5. Chrys Stevenson

    Strangely, the only ‘benefits’ the Commonwealth solicitor-general and Scripture Union’s QC could offer up was grief-counselling and the inculcation of ‘values’ – neither of which are possible under the guidelines’ prohibitions. Good luck to Joe to provide a better answer.

    The Court has already ruled once that the program provides no tangible or measurable ‘benefit’ to students.

    I believe someone with the initials RW may be working on a little something for Q and A, but I’d encourage others to send in their questions and make videos too. Maybe Q and A may decide religion in schools is a topic which deserves a whole program.

  6. Jane Pullenvale

    That last suggestion was a good one. I’ll pass that on to my local atheist community.

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      Iain – says she picking herself up from the floor – thank you! This (as you can probably tell) has been a bit of a gargantuan task for someone with no law training at all. At times I was literally paralysed with self-doubt. I was very conscious of not doing a disservice to the legal representatives from either side (they are all amazing) but I knew that most people would not work their way through the transcripts. If I’ve provided a service in (hopefully accurately) ‘popularising’ the case, I am very, very pleased. Your recommendation is highly valued.

  7. Davo

    Also, folk like myself are looking for work in our local area, which is hard in Tassie with so few jobs going, and a job I could have applied for before the budget now requires that I be christian to apply 😡
    Others are set to lose their jobs in the same roles, according to an article in The Mercury with counselors hitting out at the changes.

  8. Theo

    There are, and always have been, voluntary student groups at schools: choirs, music groups and bands, robotics clubs, drama groups, science clubs, sports clubs, homework clubs, Christian groups, Muslim groups, Jewish groups, book clubs, atheist groups (including at least one I’ve known at a Christian school) … what’s the problem with voluntary Christian groups and what’s the problem with having an organisation to support them? Are all the other groups allowed, but not Christian groups?
    What you may not be aware of is that a massive number of Chaplains are not Federally-funded. I am a Chaplain who refused to sign the form to get the federal funding, for exactly the reasons above: it would have involved submitting to government interference in what I could and couldn’t say and do. So I had what is, I hope, the integrity to refuse the funding. My school still gets the “Chaplaincy” funding, but for the guidance counsellor — which is totally permitted under the funding guidelines.
    My guess is that most, if not all, of the Chaplains at the Crusaders day were not Federally-funded.

    1. Annette

      Tell us, honestly, what you actually do, Theo, as a chaplain, and your hours, and where your funding, if any, comes from. And how massive is massive? Do these massive numbers not accept funding as a matter of conscience? Does your headmaster/mistress have any right to interfere in what you say and do?

      I doubt that outside representatives of robotics or drama or atheist organisations roam the playgrounds.

      1. Theo

        My job is to provide pastoral care and religious education to the school community. I’m at a private school and I’m funded by the fees of the parents who choose to send their children to the school.
        How “massive” is massive? I honestly don’t know, but what I do know is that every private school I’ve been involved with as a Chaplain (admittedly only four, spread over two Australian States) has chosen to not receive the Chaplaincy money. The Federal requirements to schools that receive the money are very, very strict — which is as it should be, given that it’s taxpayers’ money. So rather than simply ignore the guidelines (and, yes, sadly some schools do), many private schools choose to be law-abiding and not claim the funds.
        Outside representatives of robotics or drama or atheism or Christianity do not roam the playgrounds. But internal representatives — employed as teachers — do. Teachers ourselves are neither passion-free nor value-free.

    2. Vance

      “I am a Chaplain who refused to sign the form to get the federal funding, for exactly the reasons above: it would have involved submitting to government interference in what I could and couldn’t say and do.”

      But you still expect us to believe that chaplains don’t proselytise, right?

      1. Theo

        I proselytise. I just don’t do so with taxpayers’ money! And I have parental consent to proselytise at the school I’m at. The laws are very clear and I follow them. If the laws change, I’ll make sure I follow them too.

      1. Theo

        I must admit I haven’t seen the new rules yet. The old ones were quite complex and detailed and I expect the new rules to be as well. Under the new rules, my school applied for the funding for our (non-Christian) guidance counsellor and received the funding. I’m sure we’ll comply with whatever the new rules are as well, if/when they come into force.

  9. Chrys Stevenson

    Theo, you may be working at a church school. That’s quite different. Parents who send their children to religious schools have, in my opinion, accepted that their children will be exposed to religious views and doctrine. Ron Williams has never objected to the presence of chaplains in church schools – only to state funding for them and to their presence in state schools which should be secular in order to provide parents with a choice.

    1. Theo

      But that’s not a distinction you made in your original post, Chrys! Let me admit that I was at that Crusaders day. I spent a lot of time meeting and networking with the delegates there. Not one of them that I met was from anything other than a “Church”/private school. And I doubt VERY much that they were receiving Federal funding. If I’m right, and they are not receiving the Federal money, then why did you strongly imply, if not state outright in your original post, that they were??
      For the record, I don’t like the idea of Chaplains receiving Federal funding either!!

      1. Chrys Stevenson

        Theo, it seems neither of us can say definitively whether any of the chaplains at the Crusaders day were Federally funded. I think it’s immaterial. These lunch-time groups are a feature of chaplaincy in both private and state schools. Calum’s blog gives us an insight into the kinds of activities conducted in those groups. Are you really arguing that if I want to a lunch-time group at a private school it would differ significantly to one held at a state school?

        Do you really think that chaplains in state schools have less evangelical zeal than you? They are employed through parachurch organisations whose aims are set out clearly in their mission statements – to evangelise and disciple children.

        More importantly, chaplains clearly believe that they have a commission from Christ to ‘save’ souls. As one chaplain posted recently in a comment to the Australian Christian Lobby:

        “I’ve just become a school chaplain (paid from July) and I’m working closely with the school counsellor. Fortunately, he’s a godly man and we work well together. I’m learning from him skills that I don’t have, but I can see that he can really only help behaviour (useful), but can’t really initiate lasting healing which comes from God. As a Christian, I can pray for a child, love them with God’s love, and provide godly wisdom as well as gentle touch (if necessary). These help put them on the road to recovery. I believe we make a great team. Two secular workers would definitely be missing the God factor which is powerful!”

        She’s undertaking f***ing faith healing on students – presumably without their parents’ permission! (Watch that comment disappear at the speed of light. Don’t worry – I have a screen shot!)

        I honestly don’t blame the chaplains for this travesty. They are perfectly entitled to hold the beliefs they do and they are obviously (mostly) driven by the purest (if misguided) motives.

        It is completely unreasonable to expect you can put religious zealots like yourself into schools and *not* expect them to proselytise. That is our point. The fault is entirely with the government – and the parachurch organisations which are making gazillions out of this (except, perhaps for Access which seem to suck at business as well as PR).

        You have proven my point. You cannot put a fox in a henhouse and expect it not to eat the chooks.

  10. Chrys Stevenson

    Another gem from chaplain, Wendy Boniface, chaplain at Casino West Public School:

    “Wendy Boniface
    A great article. I have just begun a certificate 4 chaplaincy course(last week) to teach me how to be Christ in the world, workplace etc and I thought as I was learning all these skills that this is what every Christian should be learning to equip us to advance the kingdom of God. The good news is the chaplaincy movement is growing quickly and it seems to be a way of getting out of the pews and into the community. I feel like I’ve finally crossed the Jordan River and am about to take territory at last!”


    The ‘taking territory’ reference is telling. It relates to the 7 mountains movement which enjoins Christians to reclaim the 7 mountains which shape our culture: business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.

    Chaplains see their access to the schools as a key strategy in winning the holy war in respect to education.

    To see what kind of dominionist lunacy we are PAYING to let into our schools, watch this:

  11. Theo

    Under the “old rules” … (the ones I’ve read and am used to):

    The “Chaplain” can be from any religion, or no religion. He/she is employed by the school at the request of the school. She/he is not allowed to proselytise or promote any religion without explicit parental consent.

    Apparently there are “new rules”. Forgive me if I’m misrepresenting or misunderstanding Andrew Skegg and Davo above, but from what they write it seems that under these “new rules” it is now REQUIRED that all Chaplains be Christian??!??!

    I just cannot believe that. If Andrew and Davo are right about these “new rules”, they’re clearly unconstitutional. Clearly. But I just can’t believe that even this current Federal government would be that obviously insane. Are you CERTAIN about these “new rules”? Have you read them? Can you provide a link or a quote from a legislator or someone from the relevant Federal department?

    I’m a Christian and a Chaplain. But to link Federal funding to religious belief? Really? In Australia? Either I don’t understand what you’re saying, or you’re not getting your facts straight.

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      I don’t believe guidelines for the new program have been drafted yet. We understand that no secular welfare workers will be employed under the new rules – a chaplain will have to be religious . I don’t believe that would be restricted to Christian but there is an institutional bias towards employing Christian chaplains.

      At Ron Williams’ children’s school, for example, the majority of students come from families which are Muslim or have no religion – yet they have a Christian chaplain. Why?????

      1. Theo

        I have no problem with federally-funded “pastoral care” workers (using “pastoral care” in the sense that it’s used in educational contexts: as “facilitating the emotional and/or social welfare of the students”). To be honest I also have no problem with the individual schools deciding how best to spend that “pastoral care” money in their context — on a religious chaplain, a youth worker, a counsellor, a life coach, or whatever. This is the system as it currently stands (though I do think it’s unfortunate and misleading that the government uses the term “Chaplain” as an umbrella-term to describe these people).

        School Principals will sometimes make, shall we say, “curious” decisions. In principle, however, I think it’s worth giving the individual schools power to decide how the use the money. On balance, it’s more likely that local Principals will make a decision that best fits the school’s context than if that decision were imposed centrally.

        I do support Principles having the right to employ someone of no religion if they so choose. But please, let’s not call that person a “Chaplain”!

      2. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

        Theo, the ‘secular welfare worker’ thing was mostly smoke and mirrors. I spent a morning trying to track down one of these mythical beasts with no luck. I did find a Christian parachurch organisation happy to rebrand their chaplains as ‘secular’ though.

        Theo, kids need university trained professionals with no religious agenda. Chaplains are robbing schools of this resource. The Australian Psychology Society is appalled at the program and says it is dangerous. The Australian Education Union opposes it. The peak body representing the parents of state school children oppose it. Two ombudsmen have slammed it. Chaplains may be well meaning but they put their commission to evangelise before the best interests of children.

    2. Iain Stewart

      Commonwealth Constitution section 116 provides, in its second part: “no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth”. In Williams No 1, the High Court refused to hear argument that “under” extends beyond actual employment by the Commonwealth. Therefore s 116 does not prevent a test imposed by a supplying agency that prefers, itself, to employ people of a particular religion or (which has some judicial authority) of no religion.

  12. Chrys Stevenson

    Iain, while I have no particular beef against military chaplains (I figure adults are able to consent to contact and have developed their religious views by the time they join the military), I understand that they may be vulnerable to a decision based on S116 if someone were to mount a constitutional challenge against them. Would that be correct? Hasten to add – no-one that I know has any plans to do this.

  13. Iain Stewart

    Chrys, I suspect that the High Court would understand the constitutional framers not to have intended to include the military within the category “office or public trust” and would sustain that interpretation for the present day. At least because to understand the framers otherwise would mean that military chaplains should have been given the boot on 1 January 1901.

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  15. Annette

    Re the 7 mountains people: as far as I know, soteriology is divided into 2 camps, the Catholic “works” camp and the Protestant “faith” camp. Eschatology within these camps is divided into 3*, the pre-, a-, and post-millenialists. The dominionists hold to the latter and the 7 mountains idea is a direct outcome of their view of end times “prophecies”. A graduate of an Anglican theological school whom I know describes himself as “loosely amillenialist”. The authors of the Left Behind books are of the premillenialist persuasion.

    So the whole thing is an unholy mess, and it’s pot luck as to which camp a (public school) chaplain will try to recruit your kid to (and many will try), but the dominionists are most to be feared because they have ambitions to do whatever it takes to grow spheres of influence, to “break down strongholds”. They are the most political in my opinion. Traditional Protestantism was always more bottom up. I suspect John Howard who started this whole thing is just an old-fashioned Anglican who believes that a little bit of religion is good for a well rounded personality. Let’s hope that if this system survives, the chaplains will all be that innocuous. But I doubt it.

    * There is evidently also a small group called preterists.

  16. taxpayer

    All Counselling is garbage. About time adults worked things out for themselves. Cut out this funding and the millions wasted on Drug Counselling which has only increased addicts. No money for silly husband and wife/partner disputes. Chaplains should not be getting paid in Schools their job is religion. Put troublemakers out of school and let mum deal with them herself. Disabled children should be in special schools. Stop the word disadvantaged. Schools are not disadvantaged
    nor are any parents that live in public housing. They do not work, pay no mortgage, no maintenance, no rates. They are the advantaged. Make contraceptives and sterilisation free to the single mums that sleep around with anyone they met.

  17. Clancy


    Thanks for this and the other information you have published about the High Court challenge.

    Parents cannot even object??? Is an incredibly expensive, virtually unmonitored underhand and indefensible corruption of secular education.

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