Secular funding push

FUNDING for organisations that only hire church-going Christian chaplains is likely to come to an end at Bayswater council.

Since 2011 Bayswater has paid Christian charity Youthcare $40,000 a year for chaplains at John Forrest Secondary College, Hampton Senior High School, Morley Senior High School and Maylands Peninsula Primary School. 

Youthcare’s members are from 13 Christian denominations, including Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Pentacostal and Assemblies of Christian Brethren.

“As a Christian organisation, we exist to express God’s love and presence in educational communities throughout WA,” Youthcare says on its website, while its chaplains are required to regularly attend church.

In June the Albanese government confirmed it would change the rules around the $60 million school chaplaincy program to allow schools the option to hire non-religious welfare workers.

But for most schools, chaplaincy funding is a tangle of state, federal, and local money, and Bayswater’s cash is still locked into Youthcare to cover the four local schools. 

$40,000 to go to Youthcare during a mid-year budget review, but this week councillor Dan Bull put up a notice of motion to give the money directly to the four schools so they could choose a chaplain or a “professionally qualified wellbeing worker”.

His motion was two votes short of passing. Instead mayor Filomena Piffaretti said the council should review the whole school chaplaincy funding program and foreshadowed putting up a motion next month.

She questioned whether some of the city’s most needy schools were missing out.

“It is obvious that some of our most disadvantaged and highest-need school communities are not receiving this funding,” Cr Piffaretti said.

Cr Bull supported the review but urged councillors to vote for his motion to secularise the cash as a failsafe: He pointed out the $40,000 could be sent to Youthcare before the council had a chance to conduct the review.

Only councillors Sally Palmer, Elli Petersen-Pik and Giorgia Johnson sided with Cr Bull so there’s no movement for now.

by DAVID BELL

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