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Donation aids pastor school visits

A Murchison shire has given almost half its annual donation budget to a group preaching the Bible to public school children.

At its ordinary meeting on December 15, the seven Shire of Cue councillors unanimously voted to donate $4000 to the Wheatbelt Christian Fellowship, for the third consecutive year.

Willetton Christian Church pastor Geoff van Schie, who administers the Gospelair program, applied to the council for funding to continue conducting the Christian values lessons in Murchison schools, which he has delivered to Cue Primary School on a voluntary basis since 2015.

Cue Primary School principal Susan Kirkham provided a letter of support to the Shire for Mr van Schie’s request, saying its 12 students and the staff looked forward to his regular visits and the children had been fully engaged in his lessons.

“He provides regular lessons to our classes based on the Christian stories which incorporate the values of trust, patience, respect, compassion, tolerance, rights of others and our shared responsibility as members of a community,” she wrote.

“These lessons have a significant and positive impact on our students’ wellbeing by helping to build personal resilience and giving them strategies to assist them to deal with emotional and social problems arising in their lives both as children and later in adult life.

“Pastor Geoff is a valued addition to our school … his lessons align with the Australian Curriculum particularly in literacy, civics and citizenship, health and history.”

The teaching of religious education is governed by the School Education Act 1999, which states the curriculum and teaching in WA public schools is not to promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.

The program is also delivered to Meekatharra, Mount Magnet and Yalgoo, where a similar request for donations was also made.

The Shire’s available budget allocation for donations for the 2020-21 financial year was $10,000 with $5000 also budgeted for “other education” donations, of which about $3000 had already been allocated towards provision of a waterslide to the school, reinstatement of the school bell, and future installation of new flag poles.

Shire of Cue president Ross Pigdon said the Wheatbelt Christian Fellowship did “a lot of good” in the region. “Encouraging community volunteers is one of our objectives … it’s one of our policies to promote wellbeing in the community,” he said.

“I don’t think Cue is (widely religious) … I can see why (people) may not agree with donating it.”

In his letter to the Shire, Mr van Schie said the money donated would go towards the operation of the organisation’s aircraft he piloted himself to the Mid West towns, activity sheets, games and other resources needed for the presentation of lessons.

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