More training for children’s ministry workers and chaplains in Victoria

More training for children’s ministry workers and chaplains in Victoria is now available through a new training institute launched by Access Ministries, though training for religious educators in public schools (CRE) teachers won’t be compulsory.

The new institute also includes the first tailored programme for chaplains looking to serve in the Indigenous church or wider Indigenous community.

“For many years the Indigenous church has looked for a culturally relevant and tailored programme,” says Access Ministries CEO Evonne Paddison. “We’ve made the commitment to partner with the Indigenous church and currently going through the curriculum with them, asking what we need to add to ensure it meets the requirements of the Indigenous Community.”

Access Ministries Training Institute (AMTI) was opened on Monday 24 February, aiming to “improve the training for people working in ministry with young people,” according to Paddison.

She says that there is a particular focus on chaplaincy, but Access Ministries sees the ongoing need for professional development more broadly with people working in children’s ministry and those working in Christian Religious Education (CRE).

Access Ministries, responsible for CRE in Victoria, has been beleaguered by consistent concerns in Victoria over the future and appropriateness of religious education in schools.

Most recently, it has come under fire by media in the state after year six students of Torquay Public School were given the biblezine Refuel 2, which contains a Q&A that includes questions about sexuality called “inappropriate” and “offensive” by some commentators. Access Ministries has said it did not authorise the distribution of the materials.

Access Ministries provide chaplaincy services and roll out Christian Religious Education (CRE) and children's programmes in schools across Victoria.  Image: Access Ministries.

Access Ministries provide chaplaincy services and roll out Christian Religious Education (CRE) and children’s programmes in schools across Victoria.
Image: Access Ministries.

“We are extremely disappointed that this has occurred. We work very hard to ensure that our volunteers, who give up so much of their time to serve school communities, are well trained and equipped to treat all children, parents and teachers with respect,” it says in a media statement on its website.

Evonne Paddison says the new training institute is part of a long-term vision and is not a direct response to the criticisms levelled at Access Ministries over the past few years.

“It’s not so much a response to criticism as in fact part of a long-term strategy,” she says.

However Victoria’s Minister for Education, Martin Dixon, at the launch of AMTI said he hoped the high standard of training at the new institute will “communicate to detractors that we value the work we do and will continue to improve upon good foundations.

“This will ensure those delivering programs in schools will be better equipped and the material they deliver will be educationally sound,” says a statement yesterday by Access Ministries announcing the foundation of AMTI.

However, completion of an AMTI course will not be compulsory for CRE teachers or chaplains.

“At the present moment we offer some orientation and professional development outside of AMTI for CRE teachers. In the long-term, we can see AMTI playing a role in providing that and enhanced training and support for our volunteer instructors,” says Paddison.

“We are serious about the work we do and want to make sure that people are properly equipped.”

AMTI will offer a Certificate III and IV in Christian Ministry and Theology, a Certificate IV in Pastoral Care, Diploma of Christian Studies, Bachelor of Theology and Post Grad Courses in Theology through the Australian College of Ministries. Access has formed a consortium with other colleges and institutions including Melbourne School of Theology, Ridley College, Reformed Theological College Australian College of Ministries, Whitley College, Tabor College, Harvest Bible College and community partners including the Indigenous Church Network.