Overview of the Multifaith Chaplaincy Project

Rev. Richard JohnsonChaplaincy in Australia commenced with the arrival of the First Fleet; Rev. Richard Johnson was appointed Chaplain. Since those days of 1786, chaplaincy has expanded to provide spiritual works and comfort to peoples in a variety of service environments and places where people are resident for extended periods.

First Christian service - Australia
Though it has never been fully recognised, chaplaincy has been part of Australian history right from its European beginnings with the appointment of Richard Johnson in 1786 by the British Government to be the chaplain to the First Fleet with its sailors, soldiers and convicts under the command of Governor Arthur Phillip. Soon after, Samuel Marsden arrived to become known as ‘the flogging parson’. Their appointments were part of the government policy to rehabilitate and Christianise the early convicts. However, both chaplains were subsequently appointed as magistrates, which led to a confusion of their roles as grace-givers and judgement-makers. As well, beginning in 1801 there were chaplains to the female and male orphan schools in early New South Wales.

After this early colonial prison and other forms of chaplaincy, chaplaincy expanded into military chaplaincy with the formation of the Australian armed forces soon after Federation in 1901 and this form of chaplaincy has since greatly expanded since the formation of army chaplaincy services in 1913. Chaplaincy rarely hits the news headlines though one exception was at Ground Zero at 9/11 when the Franciscan chaplain to the New York Fire Brigade, Fr Myckal Judge, was the first officially declared victim of 9/11 when he risked his life to enter the burning inferno – there is talk of declaring him a martyr saint. He was killed by the falling debris from the collapsing North Tower, reputedly praying aloud, “God, please end this”. Gay himself, he was a champion of LGBTI individuals.

Fr Mykal Judge
Fr Mykal Judge OFM – Chaplain to New York Fire Dept; first to perish in 9/11

This work (website), sponsored by the Victorian branch of Religions for Peace Australia and funded by the Victorian Multicultural Commission, is based on a preliminary review of the relevant research literature and a navigation through the key websites together with interviews with several key religious personnel. The aim was to scope the breadth of chaplaincy services in the context of an ecumenical and multifaith Victoria and to outline the key policy and practice issues pertaining to chaplaincy and spiritual care in both Victoria and Australia. The author wishes to emphasise that this can only be a preliminary overview of a sector that is much more complex and varied than first envisaged, and is most unwieldy in terms of praxis and policy formulation. More work will have to be done, perhaps through a PhD project, especially in the development of government policy. Chaplaincy in particular and spiritual care more generally are now part of the occupational and volunteer workscapes.


Richard Johnson Obelisk in Sydney
The Richard Johnson Obelisk is a Gothic Revival monument located in Richard Johnson Square, on the corner of Bligh Street and Hunter Street. It is on the site of the first church built in Australia, opened on 23 August 1793. The square was named for the first Anglican clergyman in Australia and pioneer farmer, Richard Johnson. This church burnt down on 1 October 1798 and the monument was completed on 19 March 1925.



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