New Zealand Defence Forces and Spirituality

What Does it Mean? What Are Their Spiritual Needs? How is Spiritual Health Care Practised?


  • Emily Hill Dunedin School of Medicine, Otago University, New Zealand
  • Richard Egan Dunedin School of Medicine, Otago University, New Zealand
  • Rebecca Llewellyn Dunedin School of Medicine, Otago University, New Zealand
  • David McBride Dunedin School of Medicine, Otago University, New Zealand



Military chaplain, padre, New Zealand, spirituality, spiritual care


In the context of military chaplaincy changing alongside a fluid global and New Zealand spiritual environment, this study aimed to elucidate the nature of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) chaplains’ (Padres’) role as providers of spiritual care to military personnel. Twelve NZDF Padres were interviewed and the transcripts thematically analysed. Three overarching themes emerged. Firstly, definitions and understandings of spirituality were informed by a Christian framework, however this often remained unspoken in their approach. Secondly Padres’ pastoral approach was holistic and relational as they actively lived and trained with other personnel. Thirdly, Padres acknowledged various role tensions, for example between their Christian values and the defence force mandate to use lethal force. Padres clearly professionally navigate the multi-cultural, multi-faith and non-faith needs that arise in the contemporary NZDF.

Author Biographies

Emily Hill, Dunedin School of Medicine, Otago University, New Zealand

Emily Hill is a New Zealand medical student and artist.

Richard Egan, Dunedin School of Medicine, Otago University, New Zealand

Richard Egan is a Senior Lecturer in the Cancer Society Social and Behavioural Research Unit, Department of Preventive & Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, New Zealand. He teaches health promotion and has a range of research interests including spirituality in health, supportive cancer care and health promotion.

Rebecca Llewellyn, Dunedin School of Medicine, Otago University, New Zealand

Rebecca Llewellyn is a public health research fellow and health promoter whose interests include topics in wellbeing and mental health, aging and death, and the ethical underpinnings of public health practice.

David McBride, Dunedin School of Medicine, Otago University, New Zealand

David McBride is an occupational and environmental physician with interests in epidemiology and military health. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Otago Dunedin School of Medicine. A Reserve Officer in the Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and has been deployed to Timor Leste and Afghanistan.


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How to Cite

Hill, E., Egan, R., Llewellyn, R., & McBride, D. (2016). New Zealand Defence Forces and Spirituality: What Does it Mean? What Are Their Spiritual Needs? How is Spiritual Health Care Practised?. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 4(1), 71–90.



Research Article

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