Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Fundamentalist Australia

Image courtesy of Melbourne Indymedia.

Scooterboy and I have been toying with the idea of moving overseas again. Well, Scooterboy is already living in Shanghai, it's a matter of where we would both go next. I was loathe to move again as I am very happy in Melbourne but, seeing where my taxes (almost 50% of my income plus another 10% for almost all goods or services purchased) are going, I'm a heck of a lot more willing to pack my bags and look for greener, saner pastures overseas.

In October 2006, Good ol Johnny of messin-with-Obama-and-U.S. Democrats-when-it's-not-his-business fame, messed around with the separation of Church and State, and the secular public school system in Australia.

I must admit I missed this in the news as I was up to my ears in wedding planning and had not kept up with current affairs in the last few months of 2006.

You-Need-To-Be-Sacked Johnny implemented, with tax payer funds, the National School Chaplainy Programme through which "thousands of religious counsellors will be appointed to schools that join a new $90 million federal program to fill a significant "spiritual and pastoral" gap in services to Australian students."

View the following links for more information:

"Australian Secondary Principals Association president Andrew Blair said his members would have "favoured a much more open funding arrangement on a per capita basis for every school in the country, to allow them to engage the right kind of support that they might need, whether it be a social worker, a psychologist or a chaplain".

Mr Blair condemned tying such support to a religious base.

"I'm not sure that all that many schools across the country will opt to pick it up," he said.

"This kind of new fundamentalist zeal that seems to be coming out of Canberra is frankly out of step with what the education community really needs."

Australian Education Union federal president Pat Byrne said schools should be able to opt for a non-religious counsellor.

"Most schools would welcome the additional resource," Ms Byrne said. "The difficulty is that they have to be a chaplain representing an organised religious group." Teachers baulk at Howard's chaplains.

"The scheme has nothing to do with any genuine concern for students and the difficulties they confront. As outraged teachers’, parents’ and student counsellors’ organisations have pointed out, it will instead allow individuals without formal qualifications, including religious bigots, to prey upon young people with social, emotional and psychological problems.

Australian Capital Territory Council of Parents and Citizens Association president Jane Gorrie, for example, remarked: “We think it’s a very divisive proposal. Government schools are secular, so putting in religious chaplains is basically giving religious access to government schools and young people at their most vulnerable moment.”

Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out suggestions that schools could apply for the funding for counsellors rather than chaplains. The scheme was to be an avowedly religious one, he told the media. “To call a chaplain a counsellor is to bow to political correctness. Chaplain has a particular connotation, people understand it, they know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Melbourne Indymedia


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