Students to miss out as chaplain cut

PRIMARY school students and their families facing poverty, violence or other hardship will not be able to tap into pastoral support with the axing of chaplaincy funding at Wangaratta West Primary School.

The school’s chaplaincy support was on the chopping block when the Abbott government determined it would cut funding for secular welfare officers and counsellors from the National School Chaplaincy program.

The program is a Commonwealth government initiative but it is up to each state to approve school applications.

Wangaratta West Primary School had its funding denied.

Principal Craig Johnson and school council president and parent Gady Parker was shocked by the decision.

The school has been forced to transfer almost $7000 from its budget to fund the program for the first term of this year.

School chaplain Rose Couttie has previously helped those in situations as diverse as needing a new school uniform or counselling following a bushfire.

“She is often our first port of call in any situation,” Ms Parker said.

“Underlying culture and demographics at school mean our staff and resources are stretched to the limit.

“The chaplain provides assistance, support, experience and knowledge that goes far beyond the welfare label.”

Ms Parker, who has utilised the chaplaincy service on several occasions, said she knew how vital it was.

“With the times we are living in now, the school will suffer greatly without it,” she said.

“Without our chaplaincy program, there will be further burden on those services, which find it hard to cope as it is.”

The school had been granted $20,000 annually for the past seven years towards its chaplaincy support.

Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy said he understood the importance of chaplaincy programs and hoped the decision to deny Wang-aratta West Primary School its funding would be overturned.

He said as far as he knew, funding had been axed at only the one school in his electorate.