Our school chaplain is Mrs Suzanne Carmody. Suzanne works at Parkhill every Monday and Thursday. She provides a listening ear, comfort and support to all students, staff, parents and the wider community.
Suzanne assists at a whole school level, within the classrooms, with groups and individuals, providing guidance about the school’s values, relationship building and resilience.
The chaplaincy role is federally funded through the National School Chaplaincy Program. While participation in structured programs is encouraged, it is voluntary. But we have found that our chaplain is much respected and appreciated for the services provided. However, parents can direct the school to exclude a child from a particular service if they do not wish them to participate.
The chaplain is an integral part of the school wellbeing team. She is a professionally trained teacher and an extremely competent worker in the field of pastoral care.
The work of the chaplain includes being a friendly presence for the students. If families are struggling with issues, suffering different kinds of grief and loss, or just have a need to talk to someone, then such a person is there. The chaplain also undertakes established programs with small groups of student – for example, anti-bullying; grief and loss; self-esteem.
The chaplain works alongside others in the welfare team and is accountable to them and the school Principal. The chaplain must sign a code of conduct that demands the highest ethical behaviour. That includes: being inclusive, non-judgemental and treating all people equally with respect and dignity. They do not try to convert people to any particular religion, though they are able to assist families that want it, at times of grief and loss. For example they will help with funeral arrangements, or prayers and spiritual support if a family asked for that. Others who do not want that kind of support will never have it pushed on them.
It is important for parents to know that chaplaincy is not the same as Religious Education (RE) in schools. Chaplains do not teach RE. RE is run by trained volunteers. The chaplain on the other hand is appointed by the principal. Some families have opted out of RE for their children, but use the services of the chaplain, knowing that the chaplain is a part of the school wellbeing team. Other families are happy for their children to use both.
If a family wants to opt out of using the chaplain’s services, they should put that request in writing addressed to the school principal.