Atheist Foundation of Australia president David Nicholls today expressed deep concern over Prime Minister Gillard’s announcement over the weekend to increase funding to school chaplains by $222 million.

In a submission to the public consultation process about the National School Chaplaincy Program, the Australian psychological Society (APS) raised concerns about the credentials of many Chaplains providing counselling services as part of the Chaplaincy program in Australian schools.

In their submission they state that the ‘government is supporting a scheme which allows unregistered and unqualified school chaplains to work outside their boundaries as spiritual and religious personnel’[1] and point out that there is clear evidence that school chaplains are engaging in duties for which they are not qualified.

Although the government guidelines state that ‘school chaplains cannot provide services for which they are not qualified, for example counselling services or psychological assessment’[2] it also states that school chaplains are employed to support students for issues such as ‘grief, family breakdown and other crisis situations’[3]

‘Evidence shows that Chaplains with as little as 36 hours training[4] are counselling students and providing funding to support these chaplains is irresponsible and dangerous,’ said David Nicholls.

“There is a reason that Psychologists have a minimum of 6 years training before being able to provide psychological support services and to think that a two day course and belief in an imaginary being will help these children is ridiculous,’ he said.

One of the major providers of school chaplains the Scripture Union of Australia has as one of its aims to “make God’s Good News known to children, young people and families.”[5]

‘Providing funding to a scheme that supports this religious indoctrination in schools is a clear breach of the separation of church and state and atheists, freethinkers and secularists across Australia will be extremely disappointed in Prime Minister Gillard’s conservative and risky stance,’ said David Nicholls.

Media Contact:
David Nicholls
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
Phone (08) 8835 2269
Email: [email protected]

[1] Australian Psychological Society’s ‘Submission to the Consultation Process for
the National School Chaplaincy Program’ July 2010.
[2] Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations NSCP ‘FAQ’ page outlining the school chaplain’s roles.
[3] Ibid page 2.
[4] ACCESS Ministry course brochure 2010.
[5] SUA website