ACCESS ministries CEO Dr Evonne Paddison said children, schools and local communities would benefit from the legislation passed through the Senate overnight, ensuring continued funding by the Commonwealth of the National Schools Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program.

“The recent High Court decision was a defining moment for several reasons and understandably attracted widespread media, political and community interest,” Dr Paddison said.

“And while we were delighted to see support at a State and Commonwealth level, from all sides of politics, for the continuation of this important program, it was the level of support we received from local communities and local schools which confirmed the vital role of Chaplains in our schools.”

Chaplaincy provides care, advice, comfort and support to students, staff and families within a school community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. The main issues Chaplains deal with are substance abuse, self-harm, employment and career, family and relationship issues.

Dr Paddison said the heightened interest created by the High Court ruling had encouraged a long-standing school Chaplain to talk about his own experiences working over the past five years with children at Blackburn Primary School.

“Philip Simpson works for two days a week as a Chaplain at Blackburn primary and for the remaining three days a week as a barrister. He made the following comments in describing his work with children and the school community,” Dr Paddison said.

“It’s a very hands-on role and being available for the school community is the main thing. I spend the majority of time at school talking with students and parents… about all the kinds of things that one would expect to encounter in any community: illness, bereavement, family breakdown and conflict. I also share the milestones: birthdays, celebrations, new pets and lost teeth,” Mr Simpson said.

“I’ve also had the chance to be involved in some fundraising projects – the most notable was our school’s response to the Black Saturday fires, where our community raised over $16,300 to support the primary schools in Kinglake, Middle Kinglake, Kinglake West, Strathewen and Flowerdale. My Principal also released me for one day per week to work at the Flowerdale Primary School, which was a massive privilege.”

All ACCESS ministries Chaplains are required to have a minimum degree-level qualification and receive initial and ongoing training from ACCESS ministries.

Research consistently shows the role Chaplains play is overwhelmingly welcomed by students, families and school communities.