Spiritual wellbeing key to resilience in warfare

Published on SGT Dave Morley (author), LSIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

Location(s): Canberra

Topic(s): Training, Culture, Strategy

Chaplain Cornelis Bosch, RAN, (left) chats with Able Seaman Ryan Kimber on the wharf at Fleet Base East, Sydney. (photo: LSIS Tom Gibson)
Chaplain Cornelis Bosch, RAN, (left) chats with Able Seaman Ryan Kimber on the wharf at Fleet Base East, Sydney.

Navy chaplains from across Australia descended on Canberra recently to take part in an annual forum that helps reinforce the relevance of the role in a modern fighting force.

Staff Officer Director General Chaplaincy - Navy, Lieutenant Frances Beaumont said some of the focus this year was on the shortage of Navy chaplains, and the flexibility required to deliver pastoral support at sea and ashore.

"Chaplains were encouraged to think about what chaplaincy will look like in 2025 and consider the steps that need to be taken to get there," she said.

"Importantly, chaplains were encouraged to consider what is vital to achieving their considered future."

Director General Chaplaincy - Navy Principal Chaplain Collin Acton said the conference considered how chaplaincy would continue to meet the needs of Navy members and their families.

"Concurrent with the introduction of major new capabilities, Navy is increasing the scope and depth of its regional engagement," he said.

"All of Australia's neighbours have rich religious and cultural histories, and as religious advisers to Command, Navy chaplains are well placed to support engagement activities in these areas.

"Australia and the Australian Defence workforce is becoming increasingly multicultural, multifaith and secular with many Navy members now professing to have no religious affiliation."

Principal Chaplain Acton said the chaplaincy branch recognised this.

"While religious ministry and sacramental considerations are important components of their role, more than 85 per cent of a chaplain's daily activity relates to the provision of pastoral care and support of Navy members, and their families, regardless of the member's faith background or spirituality," he said.

"International studies consistently demonstrate that spirituality is a key component of resilience, and that people with connections to faith communities have better resilience than those of no professed religious or spiritual identity.

"As religious ministers, chaplains are well placed to support the Navy Resilience Plan, through the Living Well program and other life-skilling strategies."

Principal Chaplain Acton said Navy chaplains have their greatest impact when deployed, supporting ships companies during stressful periods of service or when challenged by human misery and suffering in humanitarian aid and disaster relief activities.

"Chaplains also provide critical support and counsel to members confronted by the realities of modern warfare," he said.

"With a branch strength of just 26 permanent chaplains, chaplaincy has struggled to satisfy demands placed on it for a number of years.

"To this end, the conference considered how to best grow the chaplaincy capability ensuring Navy people were able to access the pastoral support services provided by chaplains, recognising chaplaincy is an important resource which helps people solve problems at a low level, is cost effective, and which prevents small problems becoming seemingly insurmountable issues."