'The National School Chaplaincy Program' published nine years ago is in reality a 'Pastoral Care' program which falls in line with other community highly valued chaplaincies such as in the military, hospitals, industry and commerce, the Fire Brigade, SES, professional sport and the like, along with a ready component associated with the program to answer spiritual questions when and as requested.
This school pastoral care program has received considerable publicity over recent years. The High Court challenge approved school chaplaincy funding thru the States which on the whole it is "agreeably applauded".
It needs to be stated that this is a "community" program of pastoral care and not a 'religious' provision for a school. The Christian community generally uses the word 'Chaplain' as it's a well recognised term for 'community pastoral care'.
The situation is that each school makes their own decision on whether they adopt the school 'pastoral care' model and the funding for the service is partially met by the Commonwealth to the tune of $20,000 a year for a chaplain.
The reality is that $20,000 is not a great deal of money in terms of a full time salary today, therefore the figure has to be supplemented. These additional monies are raised by the "community groups" that provides the chaplains. It needs to be said, that the chaplain is not required to be Christian, but on the whole, it's the Christians who establish these community groups and provide "Christian" chaplains.
Some of these 'community groups' are well established Christian organisations such as Scripture Union in Queensland and others are established Associations for the precise purpose of providing such pastoral care personnel to schools.
To offer several similar but not exact parallel illustrations.
The InterChurch Trade and Industry Mission (ITIM) provide industry and commerce chaplains to a range of companies who recognise the value of 'pastoral care'. These chaplains serve on behalf of the Christian Churches.
The military likewise have a well established Heads of Churches structured chaplaincy program, as do the Hospital Chaplains, similarly the Fire Brigade and SES and the like.
In 1982 I initiated the Sports and Leisure Ministry providing 'Pastoral Carers' (known as the Chaplains) to Australia's professional sports, there was a proven methodology through Heads of Churches to establish this.
Community pastoral care by chaplains is a well established footnote across the nation's history, moreover, these people have consistently been highly valued.
These community groups that administer this national school program has as one of its major activities, that of raising the additional monies to provide a salary to the chaplains. Although the guidelines spell out that a school can engage anyone with accredited qualifications, the problem for that person becomes that of funding the additional monies to pay a salary when the Government grant is limited to $20,000.
The Christian groups are well organised with a wide net from which to seek this additional funding, where many business people make substantial contributions. There are some denominational churches who neither have the resources or the personnel who could be, or even want to be, a school chaplain. Therefore, sometimes there is a perception that this school program spirits away their young people to the local congregation where the school chaplain and his family worship.
Many of our politicians on all sides of politics have seen school chaplaincy in action at grass roots level and how it was supported by the communities, and become a convert to the school chaplaincy program.
Herein lies this school program's strength. It is grass roots. It is overwhelmingly appreciative.
Anyone who puts their "bib-in" at this local level in an attempt to truncate the program, will inevitably get it bitten off, because Australians stridently object to such interference from the outside, or the do-gooders of the latte-set who never get their hands dirty, or those who are philosophically left-wing whoopy ideologues.
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 mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html