New documents have revealed that qualified and trusted welfare officers in 620 schools across Australia – including 4 in the Hunter electorate – are facing the sack as a result of the Abbott Government’s decision to only fund religious chaplains.

After the High Court ruling that it was invalid for payments to be made directly by the Commonwealth to schools under the program, the Federal Government is now giving the money to states and territories to administer, but on the condition it is used to only fund religious chaplains.

“It should be up to school principals and communities to decide what support is best for their students, not the federal government,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“Hundreds of qualified welfare officers across the country are doing great work and have established strong and trusting relationships with students,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“The only thing these dedicated, qualified and professional counsellors have done to deserve the sack is not have formal links to a religious institution,” he said.

Mr Fitzgibbon called on the Abbott Government to reverse its decision to restrict funding only to religious chaplains, so the important work of local Student Welfare Officers could continue.

It is entirely unjustifiable for the Abbott Government to ram its ideology down the throats of school students across Australia and disempower local school communities who know best what supports are needed for local students.

Labor previously expanded the program so school communities had the choice of hiring a qualified welfare officer or counsellor.

Hunter schools with welfare officers:

Hunter Trade College

Kitchener Public School

Maitland Public School

Rylstone Public School

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