This research aimed at evaluating the outcomes of school chaplaincy was commissioned by the National School Chaplaincy Association (NSCA) in 2018 and completed in 2022. It was conducted over four years by Dr Maria Harries AM, Dr Rosemary Cant, and Dr Anne Butorac, of the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Social Policy Practice Research and Development) and considered the student wellbeing outcomes chaplains achieve for government schools.
The outcomes reported are mapped into the Nest framework of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) – a wellbeing framework with international standing used nationally to promote youth wellbeing outcomes for the whole child in the context of family, education, health, and culture.
The study demonstrates that chaplaincy contributes to the six interlocking areas of wellbeing of the Nest framework as follows:
1. Being loved and safe – 87% of respondents felt that chaplains had made a positive impact on their student’s sense of being valued, loved and safe. Children and youth who are loved and safe are resilient, can withstand life’s challenges and respond constructively to setbacks and unanticipated events.
2. Having material basics – 76% of respondents felt that chaplains had made a positive impact on their students’ lives by supporting their basic material needs. Children and youth who have material basics have access to the things they need to live a ‘normal life’ and to participate in education and training pathways.
3. Being healthy – 78% of respondents felt that chaplains had made a positive impact on their students’ health. Healthy children and youth achieve their optimal developmental trajectories. They have access to services to support their growth and development and have access to preventative measures to redress any emerging health or developmental concerns.
4. Learning – 69% of respondents felt that chaplains had made a positive impact on their students’ learning. Children and youth learn through a variety of formal and informal experiences within the classroom and more broadly in their home and in the community. Children and youth who are learning participate in and experience education that enables them to reach their full potential and maximise their life opportunities.
5. Participating – 81% of respondents felt that chaplains had made a positive impact on their students’ participation. Participating includes involvement with peers and the community. In practice, participating means children and youth are supported in expressing their views, their views are taken into account, and they are involved in decision-making processes that affect them.
6. Positive sense of culture and identity – 75% of respondents felt that chaplains had made a positive impact on their students’ sense of culture and identity. Having a positive sense of culture and identity is central to the wellbeing of children and youth, and is particularly important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) children and youth.