Since its rollout in 2007, $1105,000,000 has been expended by, or committed to the *explicitly religious Commonwealth funded National School Chaplaincy Program.

Considering the billion-dollar behemoth it has become, the story of how the NSCP emerged in 2006 without any apparent need other than to place Christian evangelists into Australia’s public schools is alarmingly simple.

It involves only two people. Greg Hunt, Liberal Party member for Flinders, and Peter Rawlings, currently a Council For Christian Education In Schools director.

From Hansard, Greg Hunt describes the NSCP genesis:

Let me begin with the origins of the National Schools [sic] Chaplaincy Program. It was 2006 and I was amazed and surprised when I attended the chaplaincy dinner at the Mornington racecourse, to raise funds onthe Mornington Peninsula for chaplaincy in schools, because I had gone expecting maybe 80 or 100 people and there were 300 there. Peter Rawlings was critical to that process, as was Dale Stephenson and many, many others. During the course of the evening we discussed the potential for chaplaincy to reach through the different schools on the Mornington Peninsula and elsewhere. In a somewhat rash commitment, the decision was made to take this idea to Canberra, to the Prime Minister, to build a coalition. It was not difficult to find Andrew Laming, Louise Markus and David Fawcett as willing allies in prosecuting the case for a national schools chaplaincy program. Andrew, Louise and David did a tremendous job in pulling together the material which was at the heart of the proposal we prepared for the Prime Minister. The issue was raised in the party room and the then Prime Minister, John Howard, embraced the idea and invited a discussion with the then minister for education, Julie Bishop. From there, in a short period of time, guidelines were drawn up, funding was arranged and the National Schools Chaplaincy Program was announced.

Two days after John Howard’s announcement of the NSCP in a Sunday news drop on 29 October 2006, The Australian described the role played by Andrew Rawlings as co-creator:

Grassroots idea grows into $90 million scheme.

John Howard's $90 million initiative for a chaplain for every school germinated at a grassroots level on the Mornington Peninsula. It was the treasurer of the local chaplaincies committee, financial planner and religious education teacher Peter Rawlings who thought up the scheme, which he then told his local federal MP Greg Hunt. The Liberal MP for Flinders encouraged him to write to the Prime Minister, who agreed it was an idea worthy of a multi-million-dollar budget. "I feel enormously privileged to have written a submission to the Prime Minister that, less than six months later, is a national program with $90 million attached to it," Mr Rawlings said yesterday. "But most of all I'm very passionate about the chaplains - I have seen the results in young families and families that work - the potential for that to be replicated around this nation." Mr Rawlings is no stranger to Canberra - he attended a budget night business dinner on May 9 and was even photographed with the Prime Minister. And he personally lobbied Treasurer Peter Costello as well as having a formal meeting with Education Minister Julie Bishop and with Mr Hunt and other parliamentarians pushing the program.

In a letter to the editor on 31 October 2006, Andrew Rawlings gave ‘all thanks to God’ for delivering him the National School Chaplaincy Program: 

During the months prior to John Howard’s 29 October 2006 NSCP announcement, Greg Hunt and Julie Bishop described what was driving their ambition to get some ‘values taught’ to kids in Australia’s ‘anti-religious’ state school systems by ‘lifting religious standards’: 

The Age, 11 June 2006

FULL-TIME chaplains would be installed in government schools to lift religious standards and provide mentoring for students under a plan backed by the federal Education Minister. Four prominent Liberal MPs are behind the proposal, seen by the Prime Minister and to be discussed in a meeting of Coalition MPs on Tuesday. Education Minister Julie Bishop strongly supports the idea, but the Victorian Education Union has described it as "sickening". Ms Bishop said parents were "looking for choice in the education and values taught to their children". "This proposal is consistent with the national framework for values education in the Australian schools program currently being implemented across the country and while some states do have chaplaincy programs in place, it is definitely worth considering a national approach," Ms Bishop said. But Australian Education Union Victorian president Mary Bluett said values were not the sole province of religions. "This goes to the very heart of our secular education system," Ms Bluett said. "It's also another backhanded swipe at the teaching profession in government schools as if we somehow don't have values." Others supporters are Victorian Greg Hunt, the parliamentary secretary for environment and heritage, Queenslander Andrew Laming, South Australia's David Fawcett and NSW's Louise Markus. Mr Hunt slammed state school systems for being "anti-religious" and said it was time the Commonwealth intervened to give government-educated children a chance.

And so here we are, $1105,000,000 later. Nothing more to be said other than this was Greg Hunt’s worst idea ever — apart from when he stood up Pfizer on their June 2020 date.


*Peter James, CEO Scripture Union Queensland, The Guardian 23 September 2018