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A chaplain is an Australian Regular Army (ARA) or Army Reserve (ARes) commissioned Specialist Service Officer responsible for the provision of spiritual, religious and pastoral support to all ADF personnel and their families in a range of peacetime and operational environments.
A chaplain is an Army Officer who remains a member of the faith group they represent and can only operate in the Army with the endorsement of their faith group authorities and the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services.
The role of the Army Chaplain is principally to do with the provision of religious ministry or support however, that role extends well beyond the community model of a faith group religious practitioner. Chaplains, whilst Army Officers, remain active members of their endorsing faith group. Chaplains are therefore governed by two disparate yet culturally sympathetic entities.
Army Chaplains are required to provide for their own, facilitate for others and care for all. Consequently, in describing the role of the Army Chaplain some similarity with the civilian religious practitioners can be found in the delivery of spiritual guidance, liturgical and sacramental rites of their particular faith group. This is where the comparison finishes because the Army Chaplain must provide spiritual support and pastoral care to all personnel of the Army, regardless of faith or non-faith perspectives held by the person being supported.
As members of Army, chaplains are expected to act as part of a unified, multi-faith team providing leadership in the practice of faith, spiritual and religious observance and ceremony.
The chaplain's role can be divided into five primary functions:
Spiritual Ministry and support. Spirituality offers a world view that suggests there is a more to life than just what people experience on a sensory and physical level. Spirituality is a source of comfort and relief from stress for multitude of people. Spirituality is generally expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices.
Spiritual health is about understanding one’s own purpose in life, being able to find meaning in life events and having the ability to be compassionate towards others.
Chaplains promote spiritual wellbeing of all Army personnel through personal contact, guiding and empowering individuals to:
Spiritual ministry and support also includes the conduct of military services and ceremonies.
Religious Ministry and support. An Army Chaplain is to conduct own faith group services including the conduct of occasional religious services such as baptisms, marriages and funerals respecting faith group practices.
Army Chaplains facilitate opportunity for Army personnel to practice and participate their chosen religion by acts of public worship in a manner to which they are accustomed and as conveniently as can be arranged, both in peace and war, and in accordance with their rights under the Commonwealth Constitution.
The Army Chaplain is to arrange and participate in inter-faith, ecumenical and united services and activities that mark special events in the life of the Army community, such as the presentation of Sovereign's and Regimental Colours. Such traditional services are of religious and spiritual significance which assist in strengthening unit morale and cohesion.
The provision of religious ministry and support by Army Chaplains extends beyond Army personnel to include the recognised spouses and children of Army personnel in peacetime. This extension of duties particularly applies in military areas separated by distance from normal community facilities.
Pastoral Care. Army Chaplains routinely exercise ministry of presence by being with members and by sharing in their Service life experiences. This ministry creates unique opportunities for Army Chaplains to provide pastoral care to Army personnel. The chaplain visits personnel in their work place, and accompanies them on exercises and goes with them into operations. The chaplain walks with and supports Army personnel through anxiety, fear, stress, moral dilemmas, guilt, fatigue, boredom and loneliness. They accept human frailty in a helpful non-condemnatory manner, but at the same time upholds and strives to exemplify standards of conduct, which conform to the ethics of their faith. The chaplain support and encourage the wounded, injured and ill and, especially in combat, provides consolation for the dying.
Pastoral care also extends beyond Army personnel to the family. The chaplain's ability to enter into the domestic life of personnel and the confidential position in which they are placed, enable them to be an important and vital member of the family support team. As part of the family support structure, the chaplain has an important role in providing support for the bereaved and comfort to the distressed.
Character Formation and Development. The Army Chaplain shares a functional responsibility for the development and delivery of character and pastoral education programs. Character education programs aim to encourage spiritual formation of individuals in order to develop personal characteristics and interpersonal skills, which motivate responsible moral judgements and behaviour conducive to the common good of the Army, its personnel and teams.
Provision of Advice. The Army Chaplain is a member of the Commander’s personnel support team. Free from the responsibilities of command and privileged in insight into personnel attitudes, the chaplain stands in a unique position to exercise independent judgement and to give expression to that judgement as a staff adviser. Chaplains are expected to provide timely, accurate and relevant advice to Commanders and staff on:
Chaplain Ranks and Divisions. The Army recognises two chaplain ranks: Chaplain and Principal Chaplain. For the purpose of appointment, salary, entitlements, function and technical chain of control, an Army Chaplain are awarded a Division Level and honorary rank equivalency. An Army Chaplain's written and spoken rank regardless of Division Level is Chaplain. The Chaplain Divisions (rank equivalencies) are provided below:
Chaplain Division 1 – Captain equivalent
Chaplain Division 2 - Major equivalent
Chaplain Division 3 - Lieutenant Colonel equivalent
Chaplain Division 4 – Colonel equivalent
Principal Chaplain Division 5 - Brigadier equivalent
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Preparing for Your Recruitment Process
This document provides information that will assist applicants for roles in the Navy, Army and Air Force, including details about the recruitment process, how to prepare yourself for assessment, and what to expect if you are successful in joining the Australian Defence Force.
Salary & Allowances
In the Army you'll get paid a good salary from day one regardless of your age, experience or qualifications; and your pay increases as you progress through training.
In addition to base pay you'll receive a variety of allowances, extra pay for relevant qualifications – plus 16.4% superannuation, a far higher rate than you're likely to find in the civilian world.
Chaplains are appointed to all levels of the Army structure to ensure appropriate advice and support to commanders. Senior Chaplains are appointed to functional commands and higher headquarters. Coordinating Chaplains are appointed to coordinate the activities of Chaplains across a brigade or formation.
Applicants may apply up to the age of 56 years. The compulsory retirement age for Chaplain Officers is 60 years.
Education & Experience
An applicant for appointment to the Royal Australian Army Chaplain Department (RAAChD) is required to:
Medical & Fitness
To be enlisted or appointed, you must be medically and physically fit for entry to your chosen occupation. This is partially assessed from the completion of an extensive questionnaire covering your medical history, followed by a physical examination.
You will also be required to successfully pass a physical fitness test before appointment.
Period of Service
You will be appointed for an Initial Minimum Period of Service (IMPS) of three years. Subsequent periods of service may be offered subject to the requirements of the ADF and your suitability for further service. You may tender your resignation at any time provided you do not have an outstanding Initial Minimum Period of Service obligation.
Your Careers Coach can advise on how IMPS will relate to your chosen occupation.
The application process to join the Australian Defence Force requires you to complete a series of aptitude tests which may include verbal, spatial and numerical ability and a general maths test. Some jobs may also require you to complete additional testing at a later date.
Psychology support staff will explain what is involved with each test.
The aptitude tests provide information about your suitability for the Australian Defence Force.
Further information on the aptitude testing requirements can be found here.
Only Australian Citizens are permitted to serve in the ADF.
If you are a permanent resident of Australia, the ADF may consider a temporary waiver of the citizenship requirement if the position for which you are applying cannot be filled by an applicant who meets all the citizenship requirements, and then only in exceptional circumstances. You will be required to obtain Australian Citizenship as early as possible following enlistment or appointment.
The Department of Defence requires ADF employees to have security clearances appropriate to their employment.
A process of background checks, collection of relevant information and, as required, interviews, enables the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency to make an informed assessment of an applicant's suitability for a security clearance.
The minimum security clearance level required is Negative Vetting Level 1, and current policy requires applicants to have a checkable background for the previous 10 years. Required information includes:
Australian Citizenship is a requirement for a security clearance and a clearance will only be granted to a non-citizen in exceptional circumstances.
NOTE: The security clearance is critical to an applicants successful progression through the Army training system. If an applicant is unable to obtain the required security clearance in time, they will not be allowed to continue their training and may need to be re-allocated to another employment category. As such, it is strongly recommended that all applicants obtain the required documentation as soon as possible to provide the best opportunity to be employed in their preferred employment category.
The Specialist Service Officer Course is conducted at the Royal Military College - Duntroon and provides Regular and Reserve Force Specialist Service Officers with fundamental knowledge of leadership, command and control, unit and personnel administration, basic military skills and the ideals of officer behaviour and attitudes necessary for future employment.
The ARA course is 42 days of training and currently conducted in the first half of the training year.
During RMC-D (Military Training) members may be required to pay a contribution towards meals, accommodation and utilities.
Physical Fitness Levels
All trainees attending training at Royal Military College-Duntroon are required to participate in an Initial Fitness Assessment (IFA) on arrival.
ARes SSOs must complete Initial Fitness Assessment (IFA) for both modules. This is an entry level requirement for all courses conducted at Royal Military College - Duntroon. The IFA is based on a shuttle run, push ups and sit ups and is designed to determine whether trainees are at the minimum required standard to complete training at RMC. Due to the unique nature of training at RMC, trainees who do not demonstrate the base line levels of the assessment may be withdrawn from training and RTU. If you do not pass the IFA, you will be medically reviewed by the RMC Doctor and you will be advised if you are able to continue with training.
For further details on physical fitness standards refer to Physical Fitness Standards for Entry into the ADF.
All newly commissioned Chaplains are required to complete ADF Chaplaincy Training. Your training is tri-Service alongside Navy and Air Force Chaplains. Attendance on this tri-Service training is important, as part of your role and responsibilities could require you, at times, to support the personnel and their families, of all three Services and across all denominations. You will also form valuable friendships and networks. Both full and part-time Chaplains are required to complete ADF Chaplaincy training.
All employment training is conducted at the Defence Force Chaplains College (DFCC), the home of ADF chaplaincy training conducted at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. Here they deliver three levels of training, initial, intermediate and senior.
The initial level of employment training is required to be completed within the stipulated time frames.
ADF Chaplain Initial Course. The purpose of the Initial Course is to train newly commissioned ADF Chaplains in common core service areas for employment in their respective Services and consists of two modules.
The ADF Chaplain Initial Course - Mod 1 (12 days). This module aims to prepare you for your first appointment and deployment. The training will provide an understanding and a contextualisation of Defence and chaplaincy processes.
The ADF Chaplain Initial Course - Mod 2 (6 days). This module aims to train you to a level where you can confidently support the Defence Mental Health Strategy. It involves training in suicide awareness and post-traumatic stress responses.
Intermediate and senior levels of training are provided to you at various stages of your ADF service, in order to prepare you for the varying roles and increasing responsibilities associated with increased roles and functions. They are: