Pastoral care should not be confused with spiritual care according to the Australian Psychological Society (APS).
The APS applauds the Government’s willingness to spend $90 million on improving access to counselling services for Australian school children for matters such as mental health problems, stress at home or personal tragedy, and its recognition that children’s needs are not currently being met. However, the APS urges Mr Howard to consider allowing schools to access non-religious counsellors under the scheme announced yesterday.
“It is vital that all such positions in schools be filled by trained professionals such as those with appropriate psychological training and not just religious knowledge,” said APS President, Amanda Gordon. “There is already valuable work being done by non-religious-based school counsellors, who are trained educators in addition to being trained in psychology, however there is a shortage of them throughout the system and this funding could be used to address this.”
“The other fundamental issue arises from the fact that all government schools have a mixed religious population and to ask a school to select a single religious counsellor to meet the needs of such a diverse population is not right. This encourages restricted access if the chaplain is from a different faith than the child who needs support. “
“Schools should have the freedom to use this funding to select the right person for the job, not be tied to selecting a single religious advocate,” said Gordon. “Under this scheme if a school community can’t agree on a specific chaplaincy then they may miss out.”
“We must maintain high standards of relevant professional training among those counselling children, not only spiritual knowledge.”
Amanda Gordon is available for comment, contact:
Australian Psychological Society
Ph: 03 8662 3363 or 0412 683 068