Chaplaincy at the Crossroads: Spiritual Care in and for a Multifaith Australia


  • Desmond Cahill
  • Susan Ennis


Even though chaplaincy has been part of Australia’s history since 1788, the theology and praxis of chaplaincy has not been as discussed as it should have been in general or for the various sector chaplaincies such as military, health care, criminal justice, emergency services, educational, industrial and sports. Chaplaincy would appear to be at the crossroads. The mainstream churches have been gradually withdrawing from chaplaincy services yet, at the same time, the need for spiritual care services has been expanding, as seen in the 2019-20 bushfires, and many volunteers have come forward. As well, there has been the movement towards multifaith chaplaincy as Australia’s religious profile has become vastly more diverse over the past three decades.

This paper will deal with the confused nomenclature issue. It will then examine the challenges facing spiritual care and chaplaincy, including (i) pluralisation and integration of faiths other than Christian (Buddhist, Hindu & Muslim), (ii) chaplaincy training, and (iii) spiritual care, all as related to an underlying theological framework based around a ministry of presence, professionalism in institutional settings, and pastoral outreach and social care in multifaith contexts.

Author Biographies

Desmond Cahill

Desmond Cahill is Emeritus Professor of Intercultural Studies in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. He did his theological and pastoral studies at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, and has worked in the interfaith area for over 25 years. In October 2021, he was elected by the 22 member nations as Moderator of Religions for Peace Asia which has its Secretariat in Tokyo.

Susan Ennis

Susan Ennis has taught English as a Second Language for over four decades to adult immigrants. Her PhD study examined religion, spirituality and the refugee experience, with refugees from the Middle East and the Horn of Africa as her subjects. She is Secretary of Religions for Peace Australia, and in 2022 was appointed Associate Secretary-General for Oceania in Religions for Peace Asia. She is a Quaker.






Peer Reviewed Articles