Chaplains expected to stay

CHAPLAINS in schools are not expected to disappear in light of the High Court ruling this week, according to the state's largest body, the Scripture Union of Tasmania.

Half of Tasmania's public schools have chaplains working in them, much higher than the national average of about a third.

According to the scripture union's chief executive Ruth Pinkerton, the High Court ruling in Queensland this week, was not about what chaplains did but how they were funded by the federal government.

So now it was a matter of finding an alternative to receiving funding directly from the federal government, she said.

The High Court found that the federal government was unable to fund the program directly as there was no supporting legislation to do so.

The outcome has the potential to put hundreds of programs up in the air, including those that directly affect the operations of local government.

Ms Pinkerton said she wasn't across all the details yet, but an arrangement between the federal government and states could see funding go through the state before being distributed directly to groups like the scripture union.

"I'm fairly confident the decision is unlikely to have an impact on the general running of chaplains in Tasmania," she said.

"I'm certainly hopeful an arrangement can be found if the state government is in favour of keeping chaplaincy."

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the government supported the High Court decision in that states should be responsible for determining how best to invest taxpayer money.

"I am advised that the decision relates only to the school chaplaincy program at this point, but it does leave open the question of whether other program funding provided directly by the Commonwealth is valid," he said. "We will discuss these matters with the Commonwealth and I will be seeking advice from the Solicitor-General on the implications of the case."


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