More on offer than prayers

Published on Ms Michelle Fretwell (author), Jay Cronan (photographer)

Topic(s): Health, Fitness and Wellbeing, Chaplaincy

Director-General Chaplaincy Navy PCHA Collin Acton speaks about the Chaplaincy Reporting Tool, launched in January 2017. (photo: Jay Cronan)
Director-General Chaplaincy Navy PCHA Collin Acton speaks about the Chaplaincy Reporting Tool, launched in January 2017.

Seeking chaplaincy support, counsel and assessment is much more common than you might think. Navy Chaplains have, for the first time, started recording the numbers of people seeking advice and counsel - and from those records, it’s clear the issues that concern serving personnel are common.

The Chaplaincy Reporting Tool was developed by the Director-Generals of Chaplaincy across the three services and now records anonymous, de-identified data.

The first complete set of data collected in July shows the breadth of services chaplains provide.

In August alone, 140 Navy personnel reached out for support regarding postings and transitions, 76 sought advice about workplace-generated stress, 47 about colleague tension and 202 about deployments.

On the home front, 35 members sought support for significant relationship problems, 69 requested relationship guidance and 46 sought advice on family health.

Director-General Chaplaincy - Principal Chaplain Collin Acton said Navy Chaplains were experiencing a high level of demand and understood the pressures being a Navy member could place on relationships and families.

“Navy members are often under a lot of pressure, both at work and at home. Members being away from family for long periods of time can be extremely difficult for both parties,” Principal Chaplain Acton said.

“Our chaplains understand the pressures and are here to listen and to walk alongside members when their lives are challenging.”

Navy has 26 permanent full-time chaplains and 23 specialist reservist chaplains who provide care and support.

Owing to the increasing demand for their services and an expanding force, Navy plans to increase the number of chaplains by 24 per cent by 2028.

“We feel that the large numbers of people reaching out for our help about deeply personal matters reflects that members see us as a trusted friend,” he said.

“We work hard to build and keep that trust - this is very important to us.

“Regardless of who you are, what you believe or don’t believe, whether you have faith, or don’t, regardless of your gender, your sexuality, your politics - Navy Chaplains are there for you, on your terms, to provide care, support and guidance.”

To understand members’ needs better, and contribute to the consideration and formulation of advice provided to the Navy Diversity and Inclusion Council, many chaplains belong to Navy’s new Diversity Reference Groups, including cultural, Indigenous, diverse sexuality, women and disability groups.

Navy has produced a guide to help clarify the privacy around the service of chaplains.

“Maintaining privacy and keeping the confidence of members is of the upmost importance and is critically important to maintaining the level of trust members have with their Navy chaplains,” Principal Chaplain Acton said.

“The privacy policy for chaplains is the same across the Australian Defence Force but we make sure we have the information on hand in case there are any questions or concerns.

“Chaplains are here to support members and their families 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are always on duty and are always here to help.”

For more information and all hours contact numbers see the Navy website