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 members and their families in a range of peacetime and operational environments.

The Chaplain remains on the clergy roll of their faith group and can operate in the Army only with the authorisation of their faith group. At the same time, the Chaplain is an integral part of the Army.

As members of Army, Chaplains are expected to act as part of a unified, multi-faith team providing leadership in the practice of faith and religious observance.

The role of the Army Chaplain is principally to do with religious ministry however, that ministry extends well beyond the community model of a minister of religion. Chaplains remain active members of their denominational church organisation. They cannot continue to practice without the endorsement of their church. They are also commissioned members of the ADF therefore their roles are governed by two disparate yet culturally sympathetic entities.

Consequently, in describing the role of the Chaplain some similarity with the civilian clergy can be found in the practice of the liturgical and sacramental rites of their particular denomination. This is where the comparison finishes because the military Chaplain must provide spiritual ministry to all members of the Army, regardless of faith or denomination.

No defence force in the service of a democracy, with freedom of religious persuasion, could afford to provide religious ministry to each member's faith at all times, not even in peacetime. Consequently, and in recognition of the imperative to foster firm faith as described, every Chaplain must be the spiritual minister to every member.

Commissioned membership of the Army further distinguishes the military Chaplain from the civilian clergy. Chaplains do not share the settled life of civilian clergy. Army Chaplains exercise ministry of presence by being with soldiers and by sharing in their service life experiences. Every aspect of Service life, which affects the soldier and the soldier's family, affects Chaplains and their families separation, family turbulence, educational disruptions and the like. The Chaplain is expected to share in the dangers of armed conflict, should that arise, and all its associated conditions. There is really no relationship between the life-style of Chaplains and their civilian counterparts because Chaplains must be an integral part of the defence community, which they serve.

Given that the Chaplain is at once a minister of a chosen religion and denomination, a minister to all, regardless of faith, and a commissioned officer of the Army, the Chaplain's role can still be divided into five generic groups:

  • Spiritual Ministry
  • Religious Ministry
  • Pastoral Care
  • Provision of Advice
  • Character Formation and Development

Spiritual ministry. Spiritual ministry includes ministering to and promoting the spiritual wellbeing of all personnel through personal contact and by encouraging participation in spiritual wellbeing activities.

Religious Ministry.The Army Chaplain is to provide spiritual ministry to all members of the Army to foster qualities of faith, character and conduct, which inspire courage and self-sacrifice in adversity. The denominational role of the Army Chaplain is to provide opportunity for Army personnel to practice 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. Provision of opportunity for practice of religion 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.

Religious practices include the preparation for, and the conduct on a regular basis of, denominational services of worship, which includes the sacraments of Holy Communion/Mass, occasional rites, (including the rites of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and Burial) and other special services. The Army Chaplain is to arrange and participate in ecumenical services 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 significance and immediate benefit to participants. They also have a residually beneficial effect in strengthening unit morale and cohesion.

Pastoral Care. In practising pastoral care, the Chaplain is furthering the leadership objectives of the military commander. The Chaplain visits personnel in their work place, and accompanies them on exercises and goes with them into operations. The chaplain supports them 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. They endeavour to inspire and strengthen a sense of personal dignity and commonality of purpose in support of the commander. Pastoral care also extends beyond the Serviceperson 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. They are able to address the problems and, in conjunction with other agencies, provide advice and seek remedies, which will benefit the Serviceperson and their families.

The Chaplain encourages wounded,injured and ill to assist the healing process and, especially in combat, provides consolation for the dying. As part of the family support structure, the Chaplain has an important role in providing support for the bereaved and comfort in distress. The Chaplain relates to all ranks within the Service. The role is both preventative and therapeutic in nature. The Chaplain works in association with and is complementary to the family support team, such as medical officers, social workers, and psychologists. However, the chaplain's function alone embraces the whole range of human experience, at the work place and in the home, in peace and in war.

Character Training and Development. The Army Chaplain shares a functional responsibility for, and is the specialist in, character training for Army personnel. Character training aims to develop personal characteristics and interpersonal skills, which motivate responsible moral judgements and behaviour conducive to the common good of the Army and its members. All initial entry courses include elements of character training, while continuation programs comprise Character Guidance Courses, Character Development Courses, Character Leadership Courses and Commanding Officer's Hours. The Chaplain generally plans, organises and administers the continuation programs.

Provision of Advice. The Army Chaplain is a member of the Commander’s personnel support team. As a specialist adviser to Commanders and staff on spiritual welfare, religion, morale, religious and cultural matters, the Chaplain supports the process of command at all levels. 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.

The role of the RAAChD is:

  • Provide religious and pastoral support to Army members at all levels in accordance with established policy and guidance
  • To provide specific religious ministry to authorised personnel of the same faith group or denomination
  • To facilitate religious ministry to ADF members and their families of all faiths

In fulfilling these roles the RAAChD is responsible for:

  • Minister to and promote the moral, spiritual and religious well being of all unit personnel through personal contact
  • Minister to a range of faith groups in a military context
  • Provide pastoral care and counselling related to military issues and stresses
  • Provide pastoral care and counselling related to domestic issues and stresses
  • Promote the immediate safety of someone who may be at risk of suicide and provide links to further help
  • Conduct and facilitate religious observances and activities for differing groups in the military environment
  • Facilitate character training
  • Provide ethical and pastoral advice
  • Deliver Chaplaincy services including Military Memorial and Commemorative Services
  • Manage Defence Chapels and Chaplaincy resources

The Army recognises two Chaplain ranks within the RAAChD: Chaplain and Principal Chaplain. For the purpose of appointment, salary, entitlements, function and technical chain of control, the Army Chaplain rank is defined in Division Levels (with 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

Key Information

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 - which are detailed below - plus superannuation at a far higher rate than you're likely to find in the civilian world.

For more details download our Salary Scales.

Read our Conditions of Service.

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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:

  • 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

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.

For further details on medical and physical fitness standards refer to Physical Fitness Standards for Entry into the ADF and Medical Process for Entry into the ADF.

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.

Find out more in our Citizenship page or ask your local Defence Force Recruiting Centre.

Security Requirements

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:

  • Residence
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Credit

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.


Military Training

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.

Employment Training

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

Further Training

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