A Vital Connection to the Outback

The gap between metropolitan areas and the bush is widening, becoming a deep area for concern for Frontier Services.

Currently resourced with 13 Bush Chaplains, Jannine Jackson, the National Director of Frontier Services would like to see this grow to 25.

“There has never been a greater need for chaplaincy in Australia’s outback,” Ms Jackson said.

Airlines flying from Sydney to Perth recently announced they could supply WiFi for travellers.

What they didn’t announce was the impact this will have on those living in remote locations.

With greater connectivity in the air, broadband connectivity is reduced in the bush, reducing access for those who rely on technology for a wide variety of activities crucial to life in remote Australia.

A bush chaplain provides a different connection for those in the outback who have been devoid of ‘real-life’ contact for significant periods of time.

This face-to-face contact allows people to share their pastoral struggles, whether it be lifestyle – mental health or family concerns, or pressures with the harsh conditions the outback can bring – drought, flood, fire or similar.

“Bush chaplains are SES chaplains, mental health chaplains, school chaplains – all rolled into one.” Ms Jackson said.

“They play a significant role in remote Australia which is being increasingly challenged with limited access to services, particularly with mental health help and support.

“Bush chaplains are often the first people to identify issues and offer referral services where necessary. Collaboration with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) – two arms of Flynn’s legacy – has never been more important for us and those living in the outback.”  

The Royal Flying Doctor Service was recently boosted with $20 million of additional funds to attribute towards dental care and mental health, meaning vital services would not have to be wound back for the not-for-profit. The funding allows for the employment of qualified mental health nurses, and psychologists by the RFDS.

This financial boost is something Frontier Services hopes to replicate.

Frontier Services and Ms Jackson are working hard to communicate the work of bush chaplains more widely – not just focusing on the church, but looking to attract new groups of givers including millennials and secular groups.

“We feel confident that the increase we are seeing in sponsorship and funding will continue the more we are able to share the stories of our incredible bush chaplains,” Ms Jackson said.

An article profiling the traumatic experience of outback mother, Nina Betts, in the May 2018 edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly has provided a significant step forward in the organisation’s desire to reach the wider community. The crucial work of bush chaplaincy has been proudly highlighted in this article, and provides a springboard for more articles and stories that connect with readers and demonstrate the vital work of our bush chaplains.

To learn more about Frontier Services Bush Chaplaincy Program visit the frontierservices.org website or contact the National Office on 1300 787 247.