Having prayed and breakfasted with some of my pastoral colleagues here in Mount Gambier this morning, I found out that some of them were unaware of the weekend announcement of extended funding for the National School Chaplaincy Scheme.
Though the details are not clear just yet, 42 million dollars in additional funding was pledged by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a speech to the Australian Christian Lobby. This additional funding is intended to pay the current placements until the end of 2011, effectively a 12 to 15 month extension.
You can read the text of PM Rudd’s speech here. He deals with a number of different issues relating to religion and life in Australia in addition to the chaplaincy announcement. It is well worth reading.
The long-standing support that Rudd indicates for school chaplaincy is heartening. His personal reflection in the speech about the influence that late friends of his had as chaplains is touching.
The Labour Government would not have been responsible for ‘ending’ chaplaincy if they did not extend funding. The previous government initiated the scheme with finite funding for three years. There was no continuing provision for it. This government had to source new funding to continue it. Hopefully, if the scheme continues, in some form or another, it will be on the basis of secure funding so that forward planning can be facilitated.
It would seem that extended funding will not allow new positions to be initiated at this point in time. I’d look forward to students who don’t have access to this support being able to have it in the future.
Over two years a thorough evaluation of the scheme can be conducted. This time will enable chaplains/Christian pastoral support workers to develop the role withing their school communities.