Wednesday 3 February, 2016:
Since the establishment of this website in January 2010, it has been an unofficial receiving point for thousands of enquiries, requests for advice, and complaints regarding the conduct of the National School Chaplaincy Program in the public schools of Australia. While requests for such assistance are as important and welcome as ever, for a swift response, please direct all such communications to:
Commonwealth funded religious chaplains in Australian public schools
From 2015, in order to circumvent two High Court of Australia constitutional decisions, the federal government commenced supplying $60M p/a to all states and territories to place and administer chaplains in Australian public and private schools. The funding was, and remains strictly conditional upon every chaplain being religious, or as it is stated within the “Project Agreement for the National School Chaplaincy Programme” contract signed in late 2014 by the education ministers of every Australian state and territory:
“A chaplain is an individual who is recognised through formal ordination, commissioning, recognised religious qualifications or endorsement by a recognised or accepted religious institution”
The National School Chaplaincy Program is now operating without any form of central guidelines, code of conduct or complaints process. NSCP funded chaplains are employed almost entirely by evangelical parachurch organisations including Scripture Union Queensland (QLD, ACT and TAS), Generate Ministries (NSW), ACCESS ministries (VIC), Schools Ministry Group (SA) and YouthCARE (WA). Unfettered by statute, enforceable constraints or any disciplinary procedures whatsoever, the National School Chaplaincy Program continues as a Trojan Horse which releases upon national public school campuses Bible clubs and evangelical activities such as SUPA clubs (Scripture Union Primary Age), JAFFA clubs (Jesus A Friend For All) and gendered programs such as the ubiquitous Hillsong church SHINE program for girls.
Throughout 2015 we received numerous complaints from across Australia related to Commonwealth funded chaplains evangelising and proselytising on public school campuses via programs and activities described above and other methods which include visiting evangelical speakers, bands, magicians and the Jesus Racing team, while recruiting students to attend Christian camps and church youth activities via school newsletters.
Toward the close of the 2015 school year, many complaints were received regarding chaplains being employed or reinstated for 2016 with grossly inadequate school community consultation—or apparently no consultation whatsoever. Unfortunately, the NSCP project agreement contract provides no requirements or obligations for any consultation processes prior to the employment of a chaplain—leaving these matters entirely at the discretion of individual state and territory signatories. It would seem that the end of 2015 chaplain employment and re-employment process for 2016 has largely been undertaken in a covert manner across Australia.
Operating as a national program without any universal code of conduct, guidelines or complaints process, parents and caregivers with grievances regarding the NSCP are placed in a most frustrating and distressing position. As we enter the 2016 school year, this page will be a ‘work in progress’. We would suggest for now that all complaints regarding the National School Chaplaincy Program as it operates in each state and territory be directed to us via email, or by phone should the matter be urgent.
Media enquiries welcome.
The National School Chaplaincy Program was the most irresponsible, outrageous and expensive political stunt ever foisted upon the taxpayers of Australia.
On 27 August 2014 the Federal Government announced that in order to circumvent the High Court decision of 19 June 2014, from 2015 an amount of $248.8 million would be made available to State and Territory Governments to participate in the National School Chaplaincy Program. According to the same ministerial statement by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education:
"The key change to the programme following the High Court decision is an administrative one – the National School Chaplaincy Programme will be funded by the Commonwealth but delivered by the States and Territories."
A senate inquiry must now be undertaken to investigate how, and why this absurd national disgrace, twice declared invalid by the High Court of Australia, was allowed to operate for seven years at a cost of almost a half a billion dollars.
During the course of my High Court proceedings, I have been approached by a number of persons providing, or offering to provide statements regarding their experiences as past employees, administrators or executives within the National School Chaplaincy Program system. Any person wishing to contribute such information can email me at: email@example.com Your anonymity will be strictly protected throughout.
RONALD WILLIAMS v COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA & ORS
[19 June 2014] HCA 23
Today the High Court unanimously decided that legislation enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament which purported to provide legislative authority to make agreements for the outlay of public money, and to make payments under those agreements, is invalid in its operation with respect to a funding agreement between the Commonwealth and Scripture Union Queensland ("SUQ"). By that agreement, the Commonwealth was to pay SUQ to provide chaplaincy services at schools in Queensland.
In December 2010, Ronald Williams brought a proceeding in the High Court challenging the payment of money by the Commonwealth to SUQ for SUQ to provide chaplaincy services at the state school Mr Williams' four children attended. In 2012, the Court held that the funding agreement between SUQ and the Commonwealth, and the payments made under it, were not supported by the executive power of the Commonwealth under s 61 of the Constitution.
Soon after the Court made orders in that proceeding, the Parliament enacted the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Act (No 3) 2012 (Cth) ("the FFLA Act"). The FFLA Act amended the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (Cth) ("the FMA Act") and the Financial Management and Accountability Regulations 1997 (Cth) ("the FMA Regulations") to provide legislative support not only for the making of agreements and payments of the kind which were in issue in the first proceeding, but also for the making of other arrangements and grants.
Mr Williams then brought a fresh proceeding in the High Court against the Commonwealth, the relevant Minister and SUQ, challenging the validity of the relevant provisions of the FMA Act and FMA Regulations inserted by the FFLA Act. He challenged the validity of those provisions both generally and in their particular operation with respect to the payment of money by the Commonwealth to SUQ under the then funding agreement. Both the agreement and the payments made under it were said to be made under the "National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program".
The Court held that, in their operation with respect to the challenged funding agreement and the challenged payments made under that agreement, none of the challenged provisions is a valid law of the Commonwealth. The provisions are not, in their relevant operation, supported by a head of legislative power under the Constitution. Providing at a school the services of a chaplain or welfare worker for the objective described in the FMA Regulations is not a provision of "benefits to students" within the meaning of s 51(xxiiiA) of the Constitution. The Court further held that the Commonwealth's entry into, and expenditure of money under, the funding agreement was not supported by the executive power of the Commonwealth. The making of the payments was therefore held to be unlawful.