In the wake of today’s High Court decision overturning John Howard and Julia Gillard’s school chaplaincy program, the Greens are offering to work with the government to ensure the remainder of the $222 million is spent to the benefit of students in employing properly qualified counsellors and student support officers.
“This decision by the High Court has very potentially far-ranging implications which will take some time to digest, but the Greens welcome both the overturning of the school chaplains program and the confirmation that executive government must legislate through the parliament to a much greater extent in relation to the expenditure of public money,” said Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne.
“On the constitutional issue, the Greens will be carefully examining the implications of the decision, including the ramifications for federal-state relations, but we have always believed that decisions of the executive, particularly the expenditure of money, should be subject to the scrutiny by the democratically elected parliament.
“As to the chaplaincy issues, schools across Australia need the resources to employ properly qualified counsellors, student support officers and other non-teaching staff to help students through difficult times.
“That’s what this program should always have been, and we look forward to working with the government to legislate for a program to use these funds wisely to support schools and students.”
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson for Youth Affairs, said “The government must not scrap the money allocated to chaplains but instead roll it over to fund properly-trained counsellors and student support officers.
“The High Court has given the government the chance to get the support and welfare program right, so that our school-aged children can get proper support to handle problems such as bullying and self-esteem or difficulties they may be facing at home.
“We know that the needs of students at different schools are not the same. Schools need to be able to choose what type of support or welfare officer best meets the needs of their students.
“For example, school students in rural areas may need different sorts of support to their peers in the city. Schools with large bodies of students who don't speak English as a first language will have needs different from students at other schools.
“The Greens' policy has been that schools should have the right to choose who they wanted to counsel students, and that those offering that help to have met minimum qualifications set by the federal Education Department.”
|Download audio of Senators Milne and Hanson-Young press conference|