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Message from the CEO

We may be less religious, but is there more to the story?

“Abandoning God” and “Losing our religion” are just a few of the headlines I have seen since the release of the ABS Census data for 2021. Everyone has reported on the increasing numbers of Australians ticking the ‘no religion’ box (from 30% in 2016 to 39% in 2021), and of course, the fall in numbers of people identifying as Christian (from 52% to 44%). These changes continue the trends we have now been seeing for decades, and include increasing numbers of those identifying as Hindu, Islam and Sikh.

What is going on under the surface of these changes? Is there more to the census story that needs to be told?

On a recent episode of The Drum, Dr Liz Allen, demographer and social researcher, described the data from the census as like a big “census family photo”. This is a great analogy. I think most of us can identify with the ‘happy family’ photo at Christmas, or some other family gathering, and we know there is often so much more to the family story that sits behind those smiling faces.

The census tells us something, but it doesn’t tell us everything. It is easy for the ‘no religion’ category to be understood as no faith or no beliefs, and therefore to conclude that there is a growing secular ‘family’ in Australia. However, the ABS describes the category as including ‘Secular Beliefs and Other Spiritual Beliefs and No Religious Affiliation’. This is a story that is about more than religious affiliation.

How are we to understand the relationship of Australians to spirituality in this context? In their 2017 report, McCrindle Research noted the increasing numbers of Australians identifying as ‘spiritual but not religious’[1]. More recently SHA released The Future of Spiritual Care in Australia: A national study on spirituality, wellbeing and spiritual care in hospitals, with data from a survey of 2,501 people from across Australia and four focus groups. The results break down the myth perpetuated in conversations, media, and policy across the nation that Australians are not interested in spirituality.
Our report showed that Australians believe spirituality is essential to wellbeing, and that it is connected to their mental wellbeing (55%), relational wellbeing (43%) and their physical wellbeing (41%). Australians are also able to describe what spirituality offers to them including peace (50%), values (49%) and a sense of purpose (39%).

These results are significant at a time when people are experiencing increasing mental health issues that have only been exacerbated throughout the pandemic, as shown in the ABS National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing
A recent article in The Australian was titled, “We’re mentally unwell and losing our religion”. It is worth considering whether there is a correlation between these two phenomena, an idea that has been explored in-depth by Dr David Tacey in his book Gods and Diseases: Making sense of our physical and mental wellbeing. There is hope in the growing attention given to spirituality. If, as the data suggests, spirituality offers peace, values and purpose, and it is connected to peoples’ mental wellbeing, then surely this is an area that needs further investigation and investment.
This investment is needed as part of the current reforms happening across aged care, mental health, and the healthcare systems.
We continue to call for action that will make healthcare whole.
[1] McCrindle, M. (2017). Faith and Belief in Australia: A national study on religion, spirituality and worldview trends. Retrieved from Baulkham Hills, Australia:

Cheryl Holmes, CEO
SHA Updates

Offering spiritual care to an exhausted workforce.

SHA hosted an exhibitor stall at the ‘Working Better Together’ conference on Monday 18 July, hosted by The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) and Mental Health Victoria (MHV). It was the perfect opportunity to share some of SHA’s resources with our industry partners and to get a sense of how front-line workers in these critical sectors are meeting the challenges of service provision. Read more.

SHLEAC delivers a great presentation at VTMH event

The Spiritual Health Lived Experience Committee (SHLEAC) were guest presenters at Victorian Transcultural Mental Health's (VTMH) monthly seminar series on 20 July which attracted 91 audience participants to explore Spirituality, spiritual care, and mental health: What’s the correlation? Individual presentations were followed by a robust Q & A session. We are so appreciative of the SHLEAC members who shared so generously with the engaged audience, from a range of sectors including major tertiary health providers In Melbourne, private hospitals, community mental health agencies, higher education facilities, assorted specialist agencies and private practitioners. Click here to read the full event summary.

Canberra Health Services project

Canberra Health Services (CHS) reviewed their Spiritual Support Services between April and July 2022. Christine Hennequin, SHA Quality and Development Leader was part of the project team providing advice on best practice spiritual care, including informing them on the latest research. CHS recognises that there have been many changes in the provision of spiritual care and the project team have developed a review report and a model of care document after comprehensive consultation with external and internal stakeholders. The reports are awaiting approval from CHS executive and we hope that the new model will be funded and implemented in the near future.

Jobs in spiritual care 

SHA keeps a list of the latest employment opportunities on offer across Australia in spiritual care in the health sector.  Click here to view the employment list.

Become a member

Membership of SHA has continued to grow and we welcome enquiries from health services, faith communities and other eligible organisations. 
Find out more about member benefits here.

Russell, J., Quaack, K. R. and Nunez, J. Chaplain reported plans for end-of-life care conversations: role clarity for the spiritual care specialists. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy (2022): online ahead of print, 6/26/22. This article explores how chaplains plan and approach "conversational engagement" in end-of-life cases and how chaplains' goals figure into "curated plans". The intent here is to gain insight into the role(s) chaplains may play on palliative care teams and the "conversational quality" of their work. Contact Alicia Stafford at for further details.
Thursday 18 August- Researchers in Spirituality meeting
The Researchers in Spirituality forum is run by Dr Megan Best-University of Notre Dame Australia. At the next session, Susanne Schmidt will present her research Analysis of the use and adaptation of the Chaplaincy Taxonomy within an Australian Context. Email Dr Kate Jones to register for the zoom session.
Contribution Call Out
National Rural Health Alliance is seeking contributions from healthcare workers, researchers and policymakers for Partyline, Issue 80, Rural women’s health and wellbeing. Key areas will include perinatal mental health, working towards eliminating gender-based violence and reproductive rights. Contributions are due 18 August. Contact for details.
Online Learning
Wednesday 10 August, 1.30-3.30pm AEST
Multicoloured threads in ritual: Meeting diverse cultural and religious needs across different care settings
SCA's PD program reconvenes in August for a facilitated panel disussion about ritual with people from different spiritual care settings.
Register Now
During August Heart of Life is offering sessions to strengthen your resilience and re-energise your spiritual journey. Via zoom or in-person, join Integrating our Shadow-side; Treasuring our Later Years; Assertiveness; or join a Taster session for our part-time 2023 formation programs for supervisors, spiritual leaders or spiritual directors. Click here for more information.
Self-directed palliative care courses have been added to Spiritual Care Association's (U.S) Learning Center. Based on latest research, topics include:
Conferences and Events
21-24 August - ANZACPE Conference.
Hear from keynote speaker Dr Cath McKinney and guest speaker Aunty Janet Turpie-Johnstone at the 2022 conference, which will be held at the Catholic Leadership Centre, East Melbourne.
Click to view the conference flyer.
Register Now
Click here to download the 2022 Multifaith religious and cultural calendar in full.
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