Warrnambool schools likely to defy anti-chaplaincy push

Warrnambool schools likely to defy anti-chaplaincy push

SCHOOL chaplaincy is likely to continue in the Warrnambool district despite federal and state campaigns to scrap Christian education in government schools.

An $80,000 community appeal was launched this month to supplement $120,000 in federal government funding for six chaplains across four primary and two secondary schools in the city.

Organisers are confident support will continue for chaplains claiming they perform a more secular role to voluntary religious education teachers.

Today the Victorian teachers' union will meet Education Minister Martin Dixon calling for an end to religious education in state schools, increasing pressure on the Baillieu government over the controversial program.

Federally a High Court case has been launched to challenge the right of the Federal government to fund chaplaincy in schools.

The union branch, representing 46,000 state school teachers, passed a resolution at its Friday council meeting calling for Special Religious Instruction during school hours to be scrapped.

Its resolution stated public education must remain ''free and secular''.

On Friday, The Age revealed that Access Ministries - which provides teachers in 96 per cent of the 70 per cent of schools that offer Special Religious Instruction - regarded the program as ''an open door to children'' for Christians to ''go and make disciples''.

Expansion of the school chaplaincy program was one of the federal government's major education announcements in last week's budget.

The $222 million funding increase will provide for chaplains in up to 3700 schools until 2014.

The Victorian government has also announced an extra $200,000 a year to Access Ministries to fund 196 chaplains, bringing the total state government contribution to $500,000 a year for four years.

Warrnambool Chaplaincy Committee chairman Sean Kenny was confident the local program, which has been running for more than 50 years, would continue even if government funds were cut. He said chaplaincy was distinct from the Access Ministries religious education lessons conducted by volunteers.

“Our charter is to support school staff and students where we can. There is no proselytising,” he said.

“There is a distinct difference between chaplains and teachers in the special religious instruction program.

“The reason we have been around for so long in Warrnambool district is our work is valued by the community and schools.”

The appeal is being conducted through a mailout to previous donors, barbecues and other fund-raisers.

Brauer and Warrnambool colleges have had locally funded chaplains for decades.

Federal funding launched by the former Howard government four years ago enabled expansion to Warrnambool Primary School, Warrnambool East, Warrnambool West and Woodford primary schools with two days a week in each.