Last week's budget delivered a double blow to youth welfare worker Joanne Homsi. For the past 18 months, Ms Homsi has worked in two high schools in the St George and Sutherland area, supporting students with drug and alcohol issues, low confidence, family problems and suicidal thoughts.
As well as talking with students, she has connected them to mental health centres, remedial learning programs and other services.
Ms Homsi loves the job, and the schools value her work. But in December she will be looking for a new job - and there will not be a safety net to catch her if she cannot find one. Because she is under 30, she would have to wait six months before she can receive any unemployment benefits under tough new rules for young job seekers.
Ms Homsi's three-days-a-week position was funded by the federal government's National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program. The government is continuing the program, at a cost of $245 million over five years, but will remove the option for schools to hire a non-religious welfare worker.
The 623 schools that made this choice will have to hire a chaplain or go without. "I'm very saddened and concerned about the change to the program," she said.
School chaplains have a role to play, but not everywhere, she said. She noted St George is a multicultural area where Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims, Buddhists, Greek Orthodox and non-religious students study together. "These schools had a choice between a chaplain or a youth worker and they chose to have a youth worker," she said.
"I've been available to everyone regardless of their religion or culture. I've provided students with a non-judgmental approach to very sensitive issues and that has been beneficial to everyone."