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The beginnings of Prison Chaplaincy in the colony of New South Wales (NSW) lie in 18th century England when the First Fleet was assembled. The Reverend Richard Johnson, an Anglican, was sent as the first Chaplain. Rev. Johnson preached beneath a large tree where Castlereagh, Hunter and Bligh Streets Sydney now intersect. This marked the beginning of Pastoral Services by Chaplains for prisoners and prison officers in NSW. Then followed a period when officially subsidised Chaplains worked in the prisons of NSW, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land. This came to an end and there were many years of unsubsidised pastoral care provided by the Churches and Religious Orders on a part-time basis.
In 1962 the NSW Controller of Prisons (currently called Commissioner) initiated the move which led to the appointment of three full-time Chaplains to the Long Bay Penitentiary. These Chaplains represented three strands, the Church of England, Roman Catholic and other Protestant denominations. They were the only full-time Chaplains in the state. The original plan envisaged by the Controller was that within the decade each Correctional Centre in the state would be serviced by at least one full-time Chaplain. In 1970 an additional Church of England Chaplain was appointed, bringing the number to four.
In 1988 a full-time Administrator was appointed and was located at Long Bay. The Chaplains shared the role of coordinating the service until a Chaplain was appointed to half-time coordination and half-time chaplaincy. In 1995 the Department then provided funds for the appointment of a full-time Coordinator by the Civil Chaplaincy Advisory Committee.
Corrective Services Minister Mr John Akister of the Unsworth Labour Government approved a rapid expansion of Chaplaincy positions. Both major political parties in NSW continue to support the appointment of Chaplains in NSW Correctional Centres and this is encased in legislation.
Chaplaincy services continue to expand through increased subsidies as new Centres open and inmate numbers increase. Included is funding for the Muslim, Buddhist and Eastern Orthodox faiths. The Jewish and Seventh Day Adventist inmates are also cared for by local faith communities and Churches.
While Chaplains remain steadfast to the tenets of their individual faiths, they approach their ministry in an ecumenical and interfaith sensitive way with a strong emphasis on teamwork.
directory of chaplains for contact details and availability of chaplains attached to each correctional centre in NSW.