During the ACCESS Rally yesterday, Chair of ACCESS Bishop Stephen Hale waxed biblically to a largely ageing demographic that they had been “tested by fire”, this year. Later reminding the crowd this certainly applied to Evonne Paddison, ACCESS CEO.

He made a point of refuting any criticism about negative feedback. Teachers would surely know if such darstardly doings were afoot he reasoned. The education department had received no complaints… that were substantiated. “Not one”, he proffered erecting a single digit in celebration of past maths classes. Managing to even sound a little hurt Hale argued critics suggested that because ACCESS was fulfilling;

… government mandated requirements and obligations, that we by definition are therefore proselytising. Because that’s what’s been said hasn’t it? Again and again. We’re only in state schools because of the obligations and provisions of the education act of the parliament of Victoria… we don’t go in of our own volition and we don’t go in because we’ve muscled our way in, we go in because the government has made provision to be there… but nevertheless it has been said that all of us are involved in the business of proselytising, in fact seek to convert children in some intentional and deliberate way.

We recognise it’s an exercise that requires great wisdom and discernment in finding the balance between explaining the Christian faith, and telling children the Christian story and exposing children to Christian values and yet at the same time not seeking to impose or elicit some direct response. But it’s been said that because you’re volunteers you can’t possibly do that competently, because you’re not trained teachers. And that’s been said, has it not? Again and again as this public debate has gone on.

Paddison herself stuck to the “very positive” script, claiming this year had “…been a marvellous year for ACCESS Ministries and there’s much to celebrate. That’s what we’ll be doing today”. Last month saw ACCESS hit a new record for monthly donations. Over $120,000. “Feel free to double that next month”.

Evonne also referred to a “concerted attack” balancing, or perhaps dismissing it, with references to positive letters and feedback dominating at ACCESS. ACCESS is “not embittered and not in retreat”, she said. “Bring on the inquiries”. The mission will go on. “The one we serve is the same yesterday, today… forever. And his purposes will not be thwarted“, Paddison offered, giving us a peak at the type of mindset that can ignore the wishes of Victorians, the Education Union, health professionals and more. The ACCESS board had in February signed off on a new five year plan which will see expansion overseas and into independent schools. Launching the plan Paddison suggests it’s, “A blueprint for growth”.

ACCESS also praised the work of chaplains and will continue to pursue state dominance. Audience members were told over 100 new schools want chaplains. I find this an ambitious statement, but wouldn’t put anything past the National School Chaplaincy Association, given the clearly documented manipulation of figures to mislead the Australian public and federal parliament.

Paddison finishes with;

When we look into moving forward together, we know with absolute certainty that our message and the centre of our faith remains the same. It remains firm because the one we serve is the same yesterday, today… forever. And his purposes will. not. be. thwarted. So again I ask, will you stand with me and with ACCESS Ministries in moving forward together? Now I want to hear you say, ‘Yes we will’ and I want you to stand up and say it. Will you stand with me and ACCESS Ministries in moving foreward together?.

The crowd stands. “Yes We Will” they intone as one. “Hooray”, responds Evonne Paddison.

Full audio of speech below. Or direct download.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

ABC News