Please keep our ACT Chaplains

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The Malkara Parents and Citizens Committee respectfully asks the ACT Government to continue to allow our school the right to decide to keep our chaplain, the irreplaceable Reverend Andrea de Vaal Horciu, and to continue to extend that right to all ACT public schools, including the other 21 schools which have asked for chaplains under the Commonwealth chaplains scheme. Please don't take away our choice. We wholeheartedly support the right of other schools to choose. We respect and need our chaplain.

Sincerely
Bri Heseltine (President), Wendy Taggart, Kylie Arora, Gillian Bradford and Ken Mansfield, Malkara Parents and Citizens Committee

This is a petition to save approximately 30 kind and loving people who work as school chaplains in Canberra, at no cost to the ACT rate payer, to help our kids and families. It is inspired by our beloved chaplain, Reverend Andrea de Vaal Horciu (think 'ah-choo'), a woman who has devoted her life to helping families with children with disability. It is a petition written with love and gratitude for all ACT chaplains and the unwavering support they give to so many at every hour of the day, night and weekend, all without any expectation of praise or even a living wage.

The ACT Government is thinking of rejecting Commonwealth funding for chaplains and requiring ACT schools to use their existing budget to fund reduced hours for youth workers who have similar qualifications to work with young people. It will be okay if a Muslim or Christian worker keeps their faith in the closet, they just aren't allowed to be open about their identity. (Sound a bit retrograde and familiar?)

We already have excellent school psychologists and social workers. Many of us have yet to hear a convincing reason to dispense with chaplains when so many of our families rely on them and the Commonwealth is funding them. In 27 years of selfless service, there has not been a single complaint against an ACT chaplain.

Andrea arranges food hampers and raises tens of thousands of dollars for refugee kids for mobility chairs and nappies. She runs weekend music programs so our kids have somewhere they will be loved and encouraged outside school. She practices Auslan and volunteers at other schools to translate their concerts for people with disability. She drives our kids to therapies and surgeries. She runs free retreats for exhausted parents. She sits with us when parents and children die and offers us an incomparable level of comfort and hope for better futures for our kids. We love Andrea and we could never discriminate against her because of her faith.

As a mother, Andrea has given me invaluable support and guidance since I met her nearly 5 years ago at Malkara Specialist School. To stand by without asking the government to rethink this idea would be to denounce Andrea's kindness and our relationship, during which time I have witnessed her role as a lifeline for so many.

ACT Government, please rethink this. I do not believe you intend to show prejudice to others based on their faith, which no doubt keeps our chaplains going in the toughest times. Instead of signing your petition, I ask you to sign mine. I ask you to think if your petition was directed to get rid of 30 people on the basis of any other marginalising criterion, would you launch it? No, I must believe you would not. 

We need Andrea at Malkara and if you denounce her faith, you denounce her. She works with all of our families: atheists, Muslims, agnostics, Christians and everyone in between. No other youth worker will do anything but the set hours. Try explaining that to my eldest son, or to the refugee girl with cerebral palsy whom Andrea has sustained for 3 years.

Come on, ACT Government. Love is love is love. Our kids need all of the support they can get.