The High Court's decision is in...
On Thursday 19th June 2014, the High Court of Australia handed down its decision on the ongoing federal funding for School Chaplaincy.
In line with the Court's views in the first Williams case, the Court has ruled against the current funding model, meaning another change must be made in order for funding to continue.
No doubt this judgement sounds very familiar, as it echoes the first Williams case in 2012. This is not an anti-chaplaincy ruling, but rather a ruling about where the balance lies between State and Federal government spending powers.
In fact, the High Court's Chief Justice and four other members of the court have made very positive comments about chaplaincy and how it benefits students:
"...it may be assumed that provision of chaplaincy services at a school will help some students. Provision of those services will be of benefit to them. It will be of "benefit" to them in the sense of providing them with an advantage or a good."
[School chaplain's support] "... includes "strengthening values, providing pastoral care and enhancing engagement with the broader community". These are desirable ends."
"For the purposes of argument, it may be accepted that some students would derive advantage from using the services and, in that sense, should do so. But no student and no member of the school community must do so."
Ironically, the fact that school chaplains are available to all students and benefit the whole school community means that chaplaincy falls outside of the narrow scope of the Commonwealth power. The court held that Commonwealth power extends only to identified group's of students, rather than whole school communities - and therefore a new funding model will be needed.
So where does this leave us?
Our current chaplaincy funding continues until the end of 2014. The benefit of such a quick decision is that the government can make the corrections to ensure continued funding for our chaplains. SU QLD will be working hard with the Commonwealth, and other relevant bodies, to put in place a new funding model in time for 2015.
We greatly appreciate the incredible community backing for school chaplaincy, shown through signed statements of support, personal emails, and the countless conversations that our team have had with people in local school communities.
Thank you for your ongoing support as we work towards a new funding solution. In the meantime, our Chaplains will keep on caring for children and young people across the state.
The Result Last Time
How it began...
On the 20th of December, 2010, a Toowoomba man – backed by the Australian Secular Lobby – served a writ in the High Court of Australia opposing the Commonwealth funding of chaplains in state schools. The defendants in this case were the Commonwealth and SU QLD (Scripture Union Queensland) – the accredited employing authority for school chaplains in Queensland.
Huge community response
The community rallied, and around 85,000 signed statements of support for chaplaincy were collected, which was an outstanding demonstration of the value of chaplains in local schools. In fact, even though Queensland schools were recently given the option of a secular welfare worker, 98% chose to retain their chaplain. It’s become clear that there is overwhelming community support for continued funding of school chaplaincy. This gives us confidence in working with all levels of government to keep chaplains in schools.
On the 20th June, 2012, the High Court delivered their ruling. While the ramifications of the decision were quite far-reaching, the crux of the decision is that issue of Church/State separation was dismissed, but the historical funding model was rejected, as it was deemed to be beyond the Cabinet's authority to legislate.
What this meant was that the existing funding model needed to be revised, and that's exactly what happened - in record time! Within hours of the announcement, representatives from both sides of politics stepped forward to declare their commitment to the School Chaplaincy Program, and their intention to find a new way to ensure funding so that young people would not go even a day without their chappy's support.
Within a week of the initial decision being handed down, new supporting legislation was passed through the House of Representatives and the Senate, supported by Labor and the Coalition, and on the 29th June, Federal Government funding recommenced in full!
Your Continued Support Makes a Difference
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