In a sentence, it means that those schools who are not dependent on the Commonwealth funding situation, (all things being equal), it is business as usual with their school chaplain. Moreover for many schools where the Christian churches and Christian individuals raise the funding, the school chaplaincy continues in any case.
What is uncertain are those schools, such as one particular high school in the Whitsundays, who chose the Counsellor option under the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP). There appears to be no other financial support for that person to continue unless a private benefactor funds it.
ABC Radio National interviewed (Wednesday 20 June) Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon who said the government would carefully review the decision to determine if it might have wider implications and moreover what other funding options there might be (for the National School Chaplaincy Project).
Late yesterday afternoon Roxon in a press conference that the funding for the school chaplaincy program would be provided through another mechanism as the Government was committed to school chaplaincy.
Constitutional lawyers yesterday came out of the woodwork in both secular and religious media saying that the High Court decision determines the 'uncertain silence' of the Australian Constitution.
The key questions were whether the Australian Constitution interpreted by the High Court to implicate Commonwealth funding (1) to interpret the uncertainty or (2) to interpret this isolated specific situation, which would, it seems, be something of a dramatic step from previous High Court decisions – as wider implications have been the order-of-the-day.
The question constitutional lawyers have asked:
Does the ruling include such things as: local government funding for special projects, the direct funding of private and religious schools, even the many weird and wonderful community groups that put their hand-up for funding.
The secular and religious 'media' are asking whether it opens a Pandora's box?
Constitutional lawyers refer to this as the unkown factor - and it could be months before there are definitive answers to many of these unknowns.
What is known is that the High Court has in effect, given the green light to school chaplaincies (but not to Commonwealth Funding for school chaplaincy in that existing context).
Certainly the school chaplaincies religious green- light from the High Court has important broader religious ramifications.
The breadth of 'religious' chaplaincy services in Australia are demonstrably significant:
Military, Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Industry and Commerce, Professional Sport, Respite, Youth, Emergency Services such as the SES, Fire Brigade, the Ambulance, Police, Tourism, Prisons, Welfare Agencies, Aged Care – the list goes on and on.
School Chaplaincy Services have been, (as it were), supported by the High Court of Australia as a right and proper activity, and by implication within the social framework of the nation, so have 'religious' chaplaincies across the board.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html