About the Job
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 or support
- Religious ministry or support
- Pastoral Care
- Provision of Advice
- Character Formation and Development
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:
- discover their own purpose and identity IOT shape their lives, decisions and behaviours
- achieve spiritual health creating a balance between physical, psychological and social aspects of human life
- see old things in a new way
- develop resilience
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:
- matters relating to spiritual, religious and pastoral wellbeing
- personal morality
- character formation
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
Make the most of your relevant degree joining fully qualified
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 your salary 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 must be at least 17 years of age and able to complete the Initial Minimum Period of Service before reaching Compulsory Retirement Age (60).
Applicants will not be allowed to enter the ADF until they achieve a minimum of 17 years of age, however they may be able to initiate the application process from 16 years and six months of age.
Education & Experience
An applicant for appointment to the Royal Australian Army Chaplain Department (RAAChD) is required to:
- Be from an endorsed denomination or faith group represented within the current religious diversity of Australian Army personnel. These denominations are currently the Anglican Church, Catholic Church, Uniting Church, Presbyterian Church, Baptist Union of Australia, Lutheran Church of Australia, Churches of Christ, Salvation Army, Australian Christian Churches and Council of Australian Jewry
- Provide documented evidence of a minimum of three years denominationally endorsed theological or ministry Bachelor level degree
- Provide documented evidence of ordination or faith group equivalent
- Have at least two years post-ordination and post completion academic pastoral ministry experience
- Have documented endorsement and approval from the candidate's faith group, at the national level, that they are in good standing with their denomination and suitable representatives for Army chaplaincy
- Have approval of the Director General Chaplaincy - Army or his representative to initiate recruiting
- Be deemed suitable by the appropriate denominational Principal Chaplain and be endorsed by the appropriate member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services (RACS)
- Satisfy the entry criteria applicable for Australian Army officers
Be from an endorsed denomination or faith group represented within the current religious diversity of Australian Army personnel. These denominations are currently the Anglican Church, Catholic Church, Uniting Church, Presbyterian Church, Baptist Union of Australia, Lutheran Church of Australia, Churches of Christ, Salvation Army, Australian Christian Churches, Islamic Council of Australia and Council of Australian Jewry.
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.
Online Aptitude Testing (OAT) is completed as part of the application process to join the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Some jobs may also require you to complete additional testing at a later date.
OAT is used by Defence to establish suitability for ADF entry, and then identify jobs that best match your abilities.
Further information about OAT can be found in the Guide to Online Aptitude Testing for the ADF.
To get a feel for the types of questions that are used in an Online Aptitude Test and how they will look on your screen some examples can be found in the Online Aptitude Testing Example Questions.
To serve in the ADF you must be an Australian Citizen.
If you are a permanent resident of Australia, the ADF may consider a temporary deferral 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.
Find out more in our Citizenship page or ask your local Defence Force Recruiting Centre.
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.
- Full-time Chaplains are to attend within the first 12 months of being commissioned as a Chaplain.
- Part-time Chaplains are to attend within 24 months of being commissioned as a Chaplain.
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.
- For newly commissioned full-time Chaplains this course should be completed immediately after the Mod 1 Course
- For newly commissioned part-time Chaplains this course may be completed immediately after the Mod 1 Course, however if it is not, it should be completed as soon after as possible and within the identified 24 months after appointment as a Chaplain
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:
- ADF Chaplain Intermediate Course (12 days). The aim of the ADF Chaplain Intermediate Course is to prepare you for employment as a Coordinating Chaplain
- ADF Chaplain Senior Course (5 days). The aim of the Chaplain Senior Course is to educate Division 3 Chaplains in common service areas in preparation for advancement to, and employment as, a Senior Chaplain at the Division 4 level