Advocates have called for school religious chaplains to be trained to affirm LGBTIQ students, following the Australian Government’s announcement of funding in Tuesday’s federal budget.
The National School Chaplaincy Program will receive $61.4 million per year for the next three years, despite the ratio of students to professionally trained non-religious school counsellors being just half of the professionally recommended 500 to 1 in some states.
LGBTIQ group just.equal says that more funding must go to professional, non-religious school counsellors, with a particular need for support for LGBTIQ students.
“Schools have a duty to support and protect all students, including LGBTIQ students, who repeated studies show endure higher levels of stigma, discrimination, bullying, and early school leaving,” said spokesperson Rodney Croome.
“Many students who want to talk privately about their sexuality or gender identity would avoid a chaplain, given historic attitudes of the churches to LGBTIQ people, and there is also no assurance a chaplain would give appropriate counselling in these situations.
“We call on the state and federal governments to fund more professional, non-religious, school counsellors and to ensure all support staff, including chaplains, have the training they need to affirm LGBTIQ students.”
Croome said that a number of successful workshops to train chaplains in LGBTIQ issues were conducted by Relationships Australia with the support of the Scripture Union in Tasmania in 2014, and called for such initiatives to be upscaled in all states.
The absence of bans on anti-LGBTIQ conversion practices in most states made the situation worse, said Croome.
“In most states, there is little to prevent an untrained, unqualified, school chaplain encouraging an LGBTIQ student to consider informal conversion practices,” he said.
“While informal conversion practices remain legal, it is all the more important that LGBTIQ students have the option of a professional, non-religious counsellor and that chaplains have training.”