Schools shift away from chaplains

ABOUT 200 schools around Australia are planning to stop employing religious chaplains, hiring secular welfare workers instead to deliver support services to students.

The schools are taking advantage of changes to the federal government’s $222 million chaplaincy scheme, which previously stipulated that a welfare worker could only be appointed if there was proof that a chaplain was not available.

Call to MP: don't rush bill for gays

GAY marriage campaigners are urging a Labor backbencher to wait until Coalition MPs are granted a conscience vote before he introduces proposals to legalise same-sex marriage.

Stephen Jones is expected to introduce a private member's bill on the issue early this year. But it appears likely to be defeated by the combined forces of its Labor opponents - including Prime Minister Julia Gillard - and the Coalition.

At its national conference in December, Labor changed its platform to support gay marriage, but granted MPs a conscience vote on the issue.

Sceptical group brave enough to tackle the big issues, like the Stallone rump reading

ADAM van Langenberg was hor­rified when he saw Australian sceptic Richard Saunders demonstrate how consumers were being scammed by Power Balance wristbands, which claimed to improve strength by working with wearers’ “natural energy field”.

Mr V, as he is known at McKinnon Secondary College, had seen his students wearing the hologram bracelets, which were worn by sportspeople including former AFL player Brendan Fevola.

“I realised this is what my kids were wearing, and got really angry,” Mr van Langen­berg says.

Final Christmas message from Father Bob one of hope

FATHER Bob Maguire is hoping for a late Christmas present this year.

While it is likely the popular priest has delivered his final Christmas message to his South Melbourne parish, the 77-year-old refuses to give up hope of a reprieve engineered by two unusual allies: Santa and the Pope.

Father Bob was told last month his time was up and he would have to leave his parish at the end of next month.

School plagued by bullying claims faces the loss of half its teachers

A SUBURBAN primary school hit with bullying allegations against its principal over the past two years is facing the loss of about half its full-time teachers.

A letter to parents at Sandringham's Sacred Heart Parish School, citing the losses and announcing five replacement staff, spoke of ''exciting changes'' for 2012.

But a parent said the departures included some of the school's most respected teachers.

The hirings include a new deputy principal, whose predecessor, Anne Reed, has launched a worker's compensation claim against the school.

Critics of church’s handling of abuse cases need evidence

Those calling for a public inquiry must show why it is necessary.

As the independent commissioner for the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, I have found more than 300 complaints of clerical sexual abuse established. Those people have been awarded compensation and will receive free psychological and counselling support for as long as they need it.

Man, 78, dies after row over parking at church

A 78-YEAR-OLD man was allegedly involved in a fight with two men over a disabled car space before driving to a police station where he died while reporting an assault.

Homicide squad detectives are investigating the alleged altercation outside the Sacred Heart Catholic church in Wicklow Avenue, Croydon, on Saturday evening.

It is believed all three men involved in the alleged dispute were going to a pre-Christmas church service.

Abbott bans conscience vote despite support

TONY Abbott is flying in the face of eight out of 10 Coalition voters - and possibly buying a fight with Malcolm Turnbull - by making it clear yesterday Liberal MPs will not get a conscience vote on gay marriage.

The Age/Nielsen poll found support for a conscience vote at 81 per cent among Labor voters and Coalition voters and 90 per cent among Greens supporters.

Church's job service rorted payments

THE Catholic Church's employment arm has been systematically rorting the taxpayer-funded welfare-to-work program, defrauding large sums from the multibillion-dollar scheme.

It is one of a number of employment agencies that are exploiting loopholes in the $4.7 billion Job Services Australia program, a federal initiative to assist the long-term unemployed find work.

As the scheme rewards agencies that ''broker'', or find, a high volume of jobs for Centrelink recipients, some organisations are falsely claiming they have found jobs that individuals secured for themselves.

Halina Wagowska

From the Melbourne Magazine, no. 87, January 2012 [December 2011]*: 50.

* supplement to The Age (Melbourne), 9 Dec. 2011.

Extract from “The Top 100 [for] 2011”

The story: Born in Poland, Halina Wagowska was nine when war broke out. When it finished, she had lost her family and suffered innumerable horrors in three concentration camps. She arrived in Melbourne alone1 at 18, worked as a medical scientist for 44 years and has since dedicated her life to helping others.

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