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Queensland takes action to support school chaplains

The Queensland Government will intervene in a High Court matter to support school chaplains.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick said the constitutional validity of Queensland’s school chaplaincy services was being challenged in the High Court (Williams v Commonwealth of Australia and Others).

Under the Commonwealth Judiciary Act 1903, State Attorneys-General with an interest in a particular High Court case can intervene, with the State making representations to the High Court on the matter.

Mr Dick said the Queensland Government supported the provision of chaplaincy services in State schools.

“School chaplains provide an important service – as friends, mentors and positive role models for thousands of young people,” he said.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson said the constitutional challenge threatened the good work of school chaplains.

“Chaplains have been working positively with students in our State schools for two decades,” Mr Wilson said. “School chaplains are the Salvos of the school yard. Just like the Salvation Army representatives who work in the wider community, school chaplains provide a vital and valuable service within our schools.

“Chaplains are a friend to those in need, and touch the lives of thousands of students every year.

“Often the driving force behind introducing chaplains into State schools is the P&C or members of the wider school community.

“Chaplains are only ever adopted into schools after the principal has consulted with the school’s P&C and the school community.”

More than 500 chaplains operate in more than 698 Queensland State schools.

The High Court case involves action by Mr Ronald Williams, who issued a writ on 21 December 2010 challenging the constitutional validity of chaplaincy services provided in a Toowoomba State school. Mr Williams, a Toowoomba resident, asserts that the Federal Government is not authorised to fund the school chaplaincy program, and that the program breaches the Constitution. Member for Toowoomba North Kerry Shine said he supported the government’s intervention.

“School chaplaincy programs, which are optional in State schools, provide personal support to students, teachers and the broader school community,” Mr Shine said. “These non-discriminatory programs show respect for everyone, regardless of one’s faith, and provide a valuable service that students really appreciate.

“I appreciate that not everyone agrees with the programs, but my impression is that they have overwhelming support in Toowoomba North State school communities.”