Military Perspectives on the Provision of Spiritual Care in the Australian Defence Force: A Cross-Sectional Study - Journal of Religion and Health

Best, M.C., Leach, K.T., Layson, M., Carey, L.B. (2024). Military Perspectives on the Provision of Spiritual Care in the Australian Defence Force: A Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of Religion and Health, 63 (1).


A module to explore perspectives on chaplaincy services was included in an online enterprise survey randomly distributed to members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) during 2021. Up to eight questions were answered by 2783 active military personnel relating to their perception of chaplain activities and the impact of chaplaincy services.

Of those military participants answering the question on religious status (n = 1116), a total of 71.6% (n = 799) of respondents identified as non-religious while 28.4% (n = 317) identified as holding a religious affiliation. Approximately 44.2% (n = 1230) of participants had sought support from a chaplain, of which 85.3% (n = 1049) found chaplaincy care to be satisfactory or very satisfactory.

While the data suggest there is a lack of clarity around the multiple roles undertaken by chaplaincy, nevertheless respondents were just as likely to prefer chaplains for personal support (24.0%), as they were to seek help from non-chaplaincy personnel such as a non-ADF counsellor (23.2%), their workplace supervisor (23.1%) or a psychologist (21.8%).

This evidence affirms that the spiritual care provided by military chaplaincy remains one of several preferred choices and thus a valued part of the holistic care provided by the ADF to support the health and wellbeing of its members.

Now More Than Ever: "Fit for Purpose"

Layson, M., Carey L.B., Best, M. (2023). Now More Than Ever: “Fit for Purpose” Australian Army Chaplaincy Journal 2023, November, 11-23.


It is increasingly reported that organised religion is fading in Western countries, and Australia is no exception to this. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that “no religion” has increased from 19% in 2006 to 30% in 2016 and 38.9% in 2021.

With there being no apparent ceiling for where this “no religion” figure might end, it could be suggested that those who minister from a faith-based or religious background are not needed, as they are not the right fit for our secular culture generally, nor (as some would argue) for our military specifically. The argument goes that the military should start to draw down its faith-based chaplaincy capacity, aiming to see them completely removed by the end of the decade.

This line of argument for removing faith-based chaplains, or diluting their role, has strong intuitive appeal.

However, it is based on three erroneous assumptions: first, that ‘no religion’ is equivalent to ‘secular’; second, that only religious personnel seek or gain benefit from religious chaplaincy, and third, it fails to take into account the projected increase in diverse religious beliefs held by many culturally and linguistically diverse people.


The Impact of Faith-Based Pastoral Care in Decreasingly Religious Contexts: The Australian Chaplaincy Advantage in Critical Environments

Layson, M, Carey L.B., Best M (2023). The Impact of Faith-Based Pastoral Care in Decreasingly Religious Contexts: The Australian Chaplaincy Advantage in Critical Environments. Journal of Religion and Health 62(3):1491-1517.


This article considers the contribution of faith-based chaplains who provide holistic pastoral and spiritual care within critical environments such as the military, first responders, and hospitals.

The contribution of faith-based chaplains can sometimes be taken for granted or not properly understood, particularly in some Western countries which are currently experiencing a decline in religiosity.

Following on from a previous paper regarding chaplaincy utilization (Layson et al. 2022), this article presents an alternative argument to the secularist-humanist perspective by noting five ways by which the faith-based chaplaincy model provides best practice service and builds a capability advantage for organizations that engage faith-based chaplaincy services.

The first section discusses faith-based chaplaincy and organizational holistic care; the second section considers the role of faith-based chaplains—much of which is largely unknown and poorly appreciated; the third section considers the unique capability of faith-based chaplains to provide spiritual and religious care to those of faith and for those of none; the fourth section explores how faith-based chaplains can leverage the positive impact of religious organizations to provide additional low-cost resources for other organizations and their staff; and lastly, the operational advantage of faith-based chaplains on the world stage is considered, particularly in light of culturally and linguistically diverse populations to whom religiosity is increasingly important.


Factors influencing military personnel utilizing chaplains: A literature scoping review.

Layson, M. D., Tunks Leach, K., Carey, L. B., & Best, M. C. (2021/2022). Factors influencing military personnel utilizing chaplains: A literature scoping review. Journal of Religion and Health, 61(2), 1155-1182.


Chaplains have been embedded in military settings for over a millennium. In recent years however, the decline in spiritual/religious (S/R) affiliation of military personnel across Western cultures has led to some commentators questioning the utilization of religious chaplains by defence personnel.

This scoping review maps the literature on S/R and non-S/R factors that influence utilizing military chaplains—with a particular emphasis on the Australian military context. A systematic scoping review of tertiary literature databases using Arksey and O’Malley (2003) and Joanna Briggs Institute methodologies (JBI, 2021), revealed a total of 33 articles meeting the inclusion criteria.

Results fell into three broad categories: (i) how personal religious views influence utilization of military chaplaincy, (ii) barriers and enablers to personnel utilizing military chaplains, and (iii) the impact of chaplaincy. Despite the current reduction in religiosity in Western society, findings from this scoping review suggest there is little evidence that low religiosity among military personnel forms a significant barrier to utilizing chaplaincy services.

To the contrary, the literature revealed that chaplains provide trusted, confidential, and holistic support for military personnel that if diminished or compromised would leave a substantial gap in staff well-being services.


Towards a Holistic Model of Care for Moral Injury: An Australian and New Zealand Investigation into the Role of Police Chaplains in Supporting Police Members following exposure to Moral Transgression

 Andrea J. Phelps, Kelsey Madden, R. Nicholas Carleton, Lucinda Johnson, Lindsay B. Carey, Jean-Michel Mercier, Andrew Mellor, Jeffrey Baills, David Forbes, Peter Devenish-Meares, Fardous Hosseiny & Lisa Del


Police members can be exposed to morally transgressive events with potential for lasting psychosocial and spiritual harm. 

Through interviews with police members and police chaplains across Australia and New Zealand, this qualitative study explores the current role that police chaplains play in supporting members exposed to morally transgressive events. 

The availability of chaplains across police services and the close alignment between the support they offer, and the support sought by police, indicates they have an important role. However, a holistic approach should also consider organizational factors, the role of leaders, and access to evidence-based treatment in collaboration with mental health practitioners.


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