The Greens say the funding extension for the controversial school chaplain program could pose a major risk to LGBTI students following last night’s federal budget announcement.
The government announced that the program would be continue to be funded to the tune of $245.7 million over the next four years.
The new budget documents show a further $61 million commitment to cover 2022-2023, should the program not be discontinued before then.
“$245.7 million for religious chaplains in public schools is unacceptable and puts LGBTIQ+ students in danger,” said Senator Janet Rice, the Greens’ LGBTIQ+ spokesperson.
“Public schools are secular institutions and are no place for religious chaplains.
“The school chaplain program should be scrapped and the $245.7 million funding should be redirected to providing public schools with trained, secular counsellors, and inclusive anti-bullying programs like Safe Schools, not chaplains who may be pursuing their own religious agenda.”
The Greens recently announced that they would push for the chaplaincy program to be scrapped as part of a suite of LGBTIQ+ policies.
The Australian Education Union last year spoke out against the chaplaincy program, saying that “schools need these funds to invest in programs such as school counsellors and student wellbeing programs in schools.”
“We prefer to see that money invested in our schools more broadly,” said AEU President Correna Haythorpe.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s budget has been described by budget analysts as a gamble given how soon it has been announced before the next election, which is due to take place next month.
The centrepiece of the Morrison government’s offering is the promise of returning the budget to a surplus, but analysts say this projection depends on perfect economic conditions, as well as the Coalition’s return to government.
A major issue political battle late last year, the issue of protection from expulsion for LGBTI students and teachers at religious schools has fallen well and truly by the wayside.
It remains to be seen whether it will be an issue that factors in the soon to be announced federal election campaign. Labor has previously indicated it would consider ending the school chaplaincy program.