Removing Discrimination from Victorian School Chaplaincy

In a speech to the Victorian parliament last week, Fiona Patten took a stand for secularism as she introduced legislation to end discriminatory practices in the hiring of religious chaplains in public schools.

The Reason Party leader is seeking to amend the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 to ensure that public school staff members can only be employed in compliance with the non-discriminatory standards in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and Public Administration Act 2004.

Until now, contractors of the state’s Department of Education and Training have been only hiring Christians for student welfare roles, funded under the National School Chaplaincy Program. This contradicts the Department’s own guidelines, which provide for welfare workers of any faith or of no faith.

“These people have the slightly misleading job title of ‘chaplain’. The work they perform is not meant to be religious; they are meant to be student welfare workers,” said Fiona, who is also an ambassador for the National Secular Lobby.

“The Department might be willing to look the other way when its contractors tell potential job applicants, 'Sorry, you don't have a reference from a church minister'. But Victorian public schools would never themselves put out a job ad saying 'Christians only'."

In response, the Australian Christian Lobby has attacked Patten, arguing that the legislation “marks a new wave of attacks on faith-based freedom and support in schools” and is somehow discriminatory against Christians.

Recently, we’ve highlighted the privileging of taxpayer-funded religious chaplaincy programs in public institutions such as schools and the military, even as demand for, and confidence in, such programs has continued to drop.

A Dynata survey, published on our blog last month, showed that very few non-religious people would be likely to seek support from religious chaplains.

National Secular Lobby president Peter Monk welcomed the new Bill.

"Ever since Victoria established its 'free, secular and compulsory' public education system in 1872, it's been subject to creeping religious influence," he said.

"We should not be forfeiting the fundamental protections of our anti-discrimination laws to support the privileging of religious interests in our public institutions."

This is another post on the topic of #SecularSchools in Australia.

More on Secular Schools

Aussies Losing Faith in Chaplains

25 August 2020

Results from a new survey have again brought into question the taxpayer funding of exclusively religious chaplains in public institutions such as the military and schools.

BBQ Stopper: Alison Courtice

31 December 2019

Today’s ‘sauce’ on the RDB is Alison Courtice, spokesperson for Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools.

Keeping Hillsong out of Public Schools

20 December 2019

One mum is taking on Hillsong Church in a bid to keep our public schools secular and free from proselytism.

My View: Darrin Morgan

20 September 2019

Darrin Morgan makes the case for why religious groups should not be allowed into New South Wales classrooms to present materials that the Minister for Education and the Department of Education have no control over.

My View: Alison Courtice

16 August 2019

In a contribution to our Secular Spotlight blog, Alison Courtice traces the history of how ‘secular’ state schooling disappeared in Queensland and religious instruction was ushered into the classroom.

My View: Max Loomes

24 July 2019

In late 2018, Max Loomes made headlines when his open letter to the heads of Sydney’s Anglican schools, censuring them for wanting to maintain their exemptions to discriminations laws, attracted the support of thousands of fellow alumni. In a ‘My View’ contribution to our Secular Spotlight blog, Max shares his story of the response to his petition.


At the National Secular Lobby, we're pleased to have joined forces with a number of pro-secular community organisations in the #DontDivideUs campaign against the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill. Add your voice to the campaign.