Children and young people are “screaming out” for mental health support and a school chaplaincy program is not enough, says independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie.
Senator Lambie’s comments come in response to the federal government’s recent announcement that it would invest $247 million over four years to renew the National School Chaplaincy Program.
The funding is designed to allow about 3000 schools across the nation to access the services of a qualified chaplain.
In an opinion piece, Senator Lambie highlighted a need for trained psychologists to support students, particularly those in rural and regional areas.
“Chaplains do a good job,” Senator Lambie wrote .
“But chaplains aren’t trained psychologists, and our kids need help from mental health professionals.”
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Tasmanian Labor senator Anne Urquhart said Labor – when last in government – had ensured the program had the option to choose a professionally qualified, non-religious welfare worker to undertake a role in supporting the social and emotional well-being of students.
“It is very important that school students have easy access to psychological support and counselling at all times but particularly amid the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
“Many young people are experiencing huge anxiety about their own future as well as facing extra stresses at home as family incomes take a hit and the future looks uncertain.”
She said the program was not a substitute for properly funding schools.
“The Liberals have been starving public schools of funding for years, which means Australian schoolkids are missing out on the support they deserve,” she said.
A Tasmanian Department of Education spokesperson said Tasmania would receive a total of $6.6 million over the three years for the program.
“Ninety-three Tasmanian government schools will receive funding for a school chaplain under the program,” they said.
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