A Brief History of the Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee (NSW)1


D. J. Gleeson 2 & Rev Harry J. Herbert 3

March 2005


2004 marked the 45th anniversary of Christian churches and other faiths officially working together in the provision and support of chaplains to hospitals, mental health services, correctional facilities and juvenile justice centres, through the NSW Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee (and its antecedent bodies).

Ministry to the sick, those in prisons and other institutions, has long been a primary concern of the churches. Prior to the formation of the CCAC in 1959 the work of non-military Christian chaplains was restricted by funding and resources, and there were few permanent chaplains in hospitals, prisons and other institutions. Local clergy of most denominations visited facilities as required, including the Salvation Army, which also had a special ongoing ministry to prisoners in NSW gaols.

In the early decades of the 20th century Anglican and Catholic ministers from local parishes who provided chaplaincy services to NSW mental hospitals received an annual subsidy of between £40 and £75.4 During the 1930s the Presbyterian Church appointed part-time chaplains to Royal Prince Alfred, Royal North Shore and Sydney Hospitals. The Anglican Diocese of Sydney prompted the question of ‘official chaplains when it appointed Rev Allan Pain as its first full time chaplain to Royal North Shore Hospital in 1939.5 Publicity surrounding this appointment led the NSW Hospitals Commission to re-assert its policy that the State government did not

appoint – or fund - official chaplains to hospitals.6

In 1941, after the merger of the NSW Department of Mental Hospitals and the Office of the Director-General of Public Health, mental health facilities discontinued making personal payments to selected clergy.7 While this move led to a more uniform approach in terms of payments, the provision of chaplaincy services remained haphazard across the state as health authorities declined to standardise policies and practices for hospital chaplains.8

Mental Health

Callan Park Hospital

The issue of permanent chaplains and uniform professional standards remained in abeyance until the end of the 1950s, when representatives of the Anglican and Methodist churches expressed concern about the needs of patients in mental hospitals and insufficient funding for chaplains in NSW psychiatric hospitals.9

Individual representation by these churches had failed to convince the NSW Government on these two issues.

W F Sheahan

NSW Health Minister 1959

Sydney’s Callan Park Hospital attracted a large amount of criticism in the late 1950s and early 1960s in relation to standards of care.10 In 1959 the NSW Health Minister, W.F. Sheehan, in response to questions in parliament candidly remarked:

…Ward Seven at Callan Park Mental Hospital is in a deplorable condition..it should have been demolished 20 or 30 years ago.11

Over the next few years continuing allegations forced the NSW Government to establish a Royal Commission into Callan Park. The Commissioner, in part, concluded that the facility:

…is too big, too overcrowded, its standards of accommodation low, its emphases mainly custodial owing to lack of staff and amenities…there is little active treatment or rehabilitation.12

This was the background to a meeting initiated in December 1958 by Rev Winston O'Reilly, a minister of the NSW Methodist Church, with his counterparts from the three other main Christian churches: Bishop Ronald Kerle (Anglican), Rev Douglas Cole (Presbyterian) and Monsignor Frank McCosker (Catholic). Rev O’Reilly and Mons McCosker knew one another well through their collaborative efforts in marriage education programs and their social work studies at the University of Sydney a decade earlier.13 Monsignor McCosker, a former army chaplain and previously the director of the Catholic Welfare Bureau (Centacare) held the position of Director, NSW Catholic Charities, which gave him scope to co-operate with other community and church welfare providers.14 (When Mons McCosker retired from the CCAC in 1994, he had served the committee for 35 years, including being chairman, vice-chairman and secretary.15

The four ministers at their December 1958 meeting discussed the needs of patients in mental health facilities, which they felt could not be properly met under an ad hoc system of chaplaincy services. They expressed concern that despite several recommendations from the NSW Medical Superintendent of 'Mental Hospitals' for the appointments of full-time chaplains the Inspector-General of Mental Hospitals had not acted on the proposal.16 The clerics also identified that a new Mental Health Act due to come before the next session of parliament could cause an increase in both the number of 'voluntary patients' in psychiatric hospitals and the number of patients 'on leave' from these facilities.17

Standing Committee on Hospital Chaplaincies

The ministers agreed to formalise their meeting into the Standing Committee on Hospital Chaplaincies (SCHC). Each minister gained the endorsement of their respective churches for a 'united churches approach' to government, although in the Catholic case, Cardinal Gilroy had some misgivings about the committee, rather than himself, recommending chaplains’ appointments. On 15 December 1958 the SCHC put their case to the Inspector General of Mental Hospitals.18 Over the next few months the ministers lobbied the government and their views struck a chord with the director general of public health, Dr Cyril Cummins, who had a ‘…keen interest in mental health’.19

In early 1959 Mr Sheehan approved the formation of the SCHC, with the proviso that the Inspector-General of Mental Hospitals attend their meetings.20 The SCHC held its first meeting on 10 February 1959 at the Department of Public Health’s office in Sydney. In July 1959 the Department of Public Health advised that the Premier and Treasurer had approved subsidies for four full-time chaplains to Callan Park and Broughton Hall.21 The churches had responsibility for identifying and appointing suitable candidates for these positions, the first of which commenced in November 1959.22 A government review in February 1960 positively reported on the benefits of chaplains within this short period.23

From the outset the SCHC had a broader role than merely gaining subsidies. The SCHC had a strong interest in the appointment of suitable chaplains and their ongoing professional development. Mons McCosker, for example, advised the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Gilroy, that a chaplain should be an ordained minister, about 40 years old and most importantly capable of relating well to medical staff, social workers, patients and their families.24 Over the next few years the other three churches also prepared formal guidelines for the appointment of chaplains.

Hospital Chaplaincy Advisory Committee

On 14 April 1961 the SCHC changed it name to the Hospital Chaplaincy Advisory Committee (HCAC), bringing it in line with ‘changes in administration in the Health Department’. Bishop Kerle was formalised as chairman and Rev O’Reilly, as secretary.25 Following favourable reports about the work of the four chaplains at Callan Park and Broughton Hall the HCAC sought to extend chaplaincy services to the North Ryde Mental Hospital and the Geriatric Hospital at Lidcombe.26 Their representations to Dr Cummins received a supportive response and Rev Fred Turvey, a Presbyterian Chaplain, was appointed to Lidcombe State Hospital and Hospital in 1963.27 Within a year the Catholic Church had also appointed a chaplain and in ecumenical spirit they shared their accommodation.28 It would be another year before chaplains were appointed to acute hospitals, such as Royal Prince Alfred.

Prison Chaplaincy

John Mannix

Minister of Justice NSW


From 1960 the HCAC began to express an interest in prison chaplaincies. In January 1962 the HCAC met with the NSW Minister for Justice, Mr Mannix, and discussed the appointment of prison chaplains, commencing with Long Bay Gaol. The plan for three prison chaplains – Anglican, Catholic and a representative of the Methodist or Presbyterian Churches – had several stumbling blocks to overcome. The first issue concerned the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches agreeing to alternate their chaplains. Rev O’Reilly of the Methodist Church had a pragmatic view that either a Methodist or Presbyterian could fill the position as a representative of Other Protestant Denominations (OPD).29 Rev O’Reilly’s successor, Rev W.J. Hobbin, however, was more cautious and deferred a decision pending approval from the Methodist Conference.30 By July 1962 it had been agreed that the ‘first appointee to represent OPD churches’ would be a Presbyterian Minister.31

A second issue involved the Salvation Army which previously had held a major role in prison ministry. When the HCAC and government agreed to appoint official chaplains to gaols, the Salvation Army responded with some alarm. The HCAC sought to reassure the Salvation Army that its work in prisons could continue to members of its own faith. Bishop Kerle and Rev Cole met with Commissioner Coutts of the Salvation Army and pledged that any denomination ‘retained rights to visit prisoners of their particular persuasion’32. The parties, however, did not reach agreement on the broader issue. In mid 1963 the HCAC resolved that the:

Salvation Army be treated on the same basis by the prison authorities as the St Vincent de Paul Society.33

This resolution may have helped to bring the Salvation Army back into discussions. At about this time, also, the HCAC sought to broaden its membership and invited a representative of the Baptist, Churches of Christ, Congregational and Lutheran Churches, and Salvation Army denominations to join the committee. In 1964, Colonel Pack of the Salvation Army was appointed on behalf of these five churches, a move that improved relations between the various churches.34 (In 2004 the Salvation Army agreed to come completely within the arrangements of the Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee (CCAC), the successor to the HCAC, a move that was welcomed.)

The third issue restricting prison chaplaincy was an attitude by some government officials that ‘chaplaincy work could be done in the future by ministers and priests, classified as “Public Servants”.35 Since their inaugural meeting in 1958 the founding ministers had steadfastly resolved that chaplains would not become employees of the NSW Public Service. Throughout the 1960s the HCAC saw no reason to change this policy - the ‘independence of the clergy must be jealously guarded by the Advisory Committee.’36 In 1964, for example, when the Minister for Health appointed Dr Alfred Fabian to the HCAC, the committee rejected the appointment, advising the minister that:

…the functions of this Committee now run beyond the role envisaged for it in earlier discussions with the Department of Health and that nominations to it would now only be made by the member Churches themselves.37

Finally, the financial details of gaol subsidies remained problematic. The Minister for Justice, Mr Mannix committed £1,500 per annum for each chaplain appointed to Long Bay Gaol, but no other allowances, such as housing, were offered.38 In October 1962 the HCAC agreed to appoint one Church of England, one Roman Catholic and one OPD (Presbyterian) chaplain and to make further representations to government.39 When negotiations reached a stalemate, the HCAC resolved in early 1963 that the government’s refusal to pay a modest travelling allowance for chaplains was not acceptable, Bishop Kerle began direct discussions with the Chairman of the NSW Public Service Board, Sir John Goodsell.40 The negotiations resulted in an increased payment of £250 per annum per chaplain, and a small travelling allowance of up to 50 miles per week per chaplain.41

Some other issues during the 1960s included debates about the provision of chapels in both mental hospitals and general hospitals, and the appointment of chaplains to non-metropolitan facilities including Kenmore Mental Hospital and Goulburn Training Centre.

Juvenile Justice

Taking up a suggestion from the Gosford Ministers Fraternal in 1962, the HCAC began discussions with the Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare for the appointment of chaplains to juvenile institutions, such as Mt Penang, in 1963.42 There does not appear to have been much response by the government.

When the detention of persons under the age of 18 became the responsibility of the Department of Community Services, resources for chaplaincy were provided, as well as chaplaincy to people with disabilities living in institutions and group homes. Rev Peter Carmen, a Church of England minister became the first full-time chaplain appointed to the NSW Department of Youth and Community Services in April 1974.43

When the Department of Juvenile Justice was established it continued to support chaplaincies and provided specific resources for chaplaincy to detainees of Aboriginal descent. However, chaplaincy to people with disabilities was discontinued by the Department of Community Services.

Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee

In May 1972 the HCAC established a formal constitution and the new name Civil Chaplains (soon after Chaplaincies) Advisory Committee (CCAC), the word civil to distinguish the chaplains from military chaplains. At the CCAC’s first annual meeting in 1972, the chairman, Bishop Frank Hulme-Muir (Anglican) spoke of the meeting as ‘historic’ because:

…it constituted an inter-church committee duly approved by the major churches of the Christian faith to promote chaplaincy oversight and pastoral care in hospitals, corrective establishments and centres dealing with delinquent children.44

The chairman also highlighted the important work that had been undertaken by the ‘voluntarily constituted committee’ between 1958 and 1972.45 Mons McCosker was elected the committee’s vice-chairman and Mr.S. Kerry as secretary/treasurer. In late 1972 a meeting between the CCAC and representatives of the Health Commission, Corrective Services and Child Welfare Departments resulted in an increase in subsidy for full-time chaplains from $5,800 to $6,600 p.a. Gaining parity for part-time chaplains, though, was not resolved.46

Nick Greiner

Premier of NSW


General Hospitals Providing resources for general hospitals was largely left to churches and other religious groups. In a few instances Area Health Boards (which had subsumed the roles of former individual hospital boards) recognized the significance of chaplaincy and provided subsidies. Feedback from other hospital staff has often been positive about the relevance that patients consider chaplains in NSW Hospitals. During its history the CCAC has invested significant time into lobbying governments for appropriate subsidy increases. In 1989 the CCAC secured a major change in the subsidy provided by the NSW Government. For the first 40 years of the organisation’s history the subsidy had been a fixed amount with no provisions for increases. In November 1991, during the term of Premier Nick Greiner, the CCAC secured agreement with the NSW Government for a chaplain’s subsidy to be increased to $40,000 p.a. and thereafter eligible for annual increases in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).47 This important agreement continues until the present day.

Graig Knowles

NSW Health Minister


In 2003 the CCAC, following a deputation to the then NSW Health Minister, Craig Knowles, was requested to submit a Strategic Plan. Under this plan the CCAC envisaged the provision of 120 hospital subsidies. Regrettably, the NSW Heath Department provided 30 only subsidies.48 Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph highlighted the issue with an article headed ‘Chaplains fight for their rites.’49

New Member Organisations

From its early years the CCAC encouraged other churches and faiths to join its ranks. In 1963 Bishop Kerle invited representatives of the Congregational, Baptist, Churches of Christ, Lutheran and the Salvation Army to agree on one representative for these five organizations.50 Over the years each of these churches became full members. In late 1993 the Assemblies of God requested membership, which was agreed to by other members.51 Another milestone has been the inclusion of representatives of other faiths. In November 1993 the Islamic Council of NSW applied for membership.52 Their inclusion required amendments to the CCAC Constitution, which previously had a specific Christian emphasis. At the March 1994 meeting notice was given that the new constitution would be moved at the next meeting, thereby allowing the Islamic Council to join the CCAC. Following the usual protocol of consultation with each of the member churches, a recommendation for admission was agreed upon in November 1995, and the word ‘churches’ was replaced by ‘member religious organisations.’53 In 2000 the Buddhist Council of NSW joined the CCAC, followed more recently by the Jewish Board of Deputies.


Appendix 1

NSW Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee, 1959-2005


  • Standing Committee on Hospital Chaplains, 1959-1961

  • Hospital Chaplaincy Advisory Committee, 1961-1965

  • Chaplains Advisory Committee, 1965-197254

  • Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee, 1973-present



    1. Research for this article was funded by UnitingCare NSW.ACT. The extant records of the Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee Archives (CCACA) are located at UnitingCare NSW.ACT Archives (UCNAA). Fr John Usher allowed access to the Monsignor J.F. McCosker Collection, which is held at Centacare Sydney Archives (CSA)

    2. D J Gleeson works in communications and is undertaking post-graduate studies in the School of History at the University of New South Wales. Correspondence to gleesonfamily@yahoo.com.au

    3. Rev Harry Herbert is a Minister of the Uniting Church, the Executive Director of UnitingCare NSW.ACT and has been Secretary of the Civil Chaplains Advisory Committee since 1987. Correspondence to harryh@nsw.uca.org.au

    4. J.D. Rimes, Under-Secretary, NSW Department of Health to J. Kerry Secretary, CCAC, 17 April 1973, CCACA, UCNAA

    5. Sydney Morning Herald 29 November 1939, p 12

    6. Hospitals Commission Meeting 15 January 1940, Appointment of Chaplains to Public Hospitals File, G3566, Box 10/43006, State Records of New South Wales (SRNSW).

    7. J.D. Rimes, Under-Secretary, NSW Department of Health to J. Kerry Secretary, CCAC, 17 April 1973, CCACA, UCNAA,

    8. Secretary, Hospitals’ Commission to Fr W. O’Flynn, Catholic priest, Windsor, 13 November 1941, Appointment of Chaplains to Public Hospitals File, G3566, Box 10/43006, SRNSW

    9. Rev George Stewart, Chaplaincies in Schedule V Hospitals and Community Services. 21 May 1986, p 1, man. CCACA, UCNAA

    10. See for example the Sydney Morning Herald 9 August 1958; 17 March 1959

    11. New South Wales Parliamentary Debates, Third Series, Session 1959-1960, Volume 111, p 2568

    12. Parliament of New South Wales, Royal Commission Report of the Hon Justice McClemens into Callan Park Mental Hospital (Sydney, Government Printer, September 1961) p 7.

    13. Rev O’Reilly was Chairman of the Standing Committee of Marital Guidance established by the NSW Council of Social Service in 1950; Mons McCosker was the Catholic Church’s representative.

    14. D.J. Gleeson, 'An unparalleled welfare advocate and leader – Monsignor McCosker’, Miracles June 2001.

    15. Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee, 10 November 1994, CCACA, UCNAA.

    16. Mons McCosker to Cardinal Gilroy, 4 December 1958, McCosker Collection, CSA.

    17. loc. cit.

    18. Under-Secretary, Department of Public Health to Mons McCosker, 27 January 1959, CSA.

    19. K. Moore, ‘Medic with a passion for public health: Cyril Joseph Cummins, 1914-2003’, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 October 2003.

    20. It is unknown how many meetings the Inspector-General attended. By 1961, when the committee had changed its name to the HCAC there was no record of any public servants attending meetings.

    21. Mr Cameron to Mons McCosker 28 July 1959, McCosker Collection, CSA.

    22. McCosker to Gilroy 10 September 1959, McCosker Collection, CSA.

    23. n.a. Report on Chaplaincy Service - Callan Park and Broughton Hall, 16 February 1960, CSA.

    24. Mons McCosker to Cardinal Gilroy, 20 August 1959, McCosker Collection, CSA.

    25. No minutes of the HCAC could be located amongst the CCACA.

    26. Minutes of the Meeting of the Hospital Chaplaincy Advisory Committee, 14 April 1961, CCACA, UCNAA.

    27. ibid., 1963.

    28. Ibid., 8 April 1964.

    29. Ibid., 19 January 1962.

    30. Ibid., 27 April 1962.

    31. Ibid., 13 July 1962.

    32. Ibid., 6 September 1962.

    33. Ibid., 12 July 1963.

    34. Ibid., 24 June 1963.

    35. Ibid., 15 July 1965.

    36. loc. cit.

    37. Minutes, 13 November 1964.

    38. Ibid., 8 June 1962.

    39. Ibid., 31 July 1962.

    40. Ibid., 8 February 1963.

    41. Ibid., 12 July 1963.

    42. Ibid., 6 September 1962; Ibid., 18 April 1963

    43. Third Annual Report, Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee 31 October 1974, CCACA, UCNAA.

    44. First Annual Report of the Chairman of the Civil Chaplains Advisory Committee November 1972, CCACA, UNNAA

    45. loc. cit.

    46. Second Annual Report, Civil Chaplaincies Advisory Committee 22 October 1973, CCACA, UCNAA.

    47. CCAC Minutes, 13 November 1991.

    48. CCAC, 2004 Annual Report.

    49. Sunday Telegraph 20 February 2005, p 27.

    50. First Annual Report of the Chairman of the Civil Chaplains Advisory Committee 29 November 1972, CCACA, UCNAA.

    51. CCAC Minutes, 9 February 1994.

    52. loc. cit.

  1. Ibid., 15 September 1994

  2. Chaplains’ Advisory Committee: Representing all the Churches in New South Wales, Minutes of Meeting, 16 September 1965