Preparing the Digger's soul for moral injury: A Chaplain's role in developing spiritual resilience for future ready Australian soldiers

Author: Matthew Stuart

Stuart, Matthew, 2020 Preparing the Digger's soul for moral injury: A Chaplain's role in developing spiritual resilience for future ready Australian soldiers, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Maybe there is an inevitability to moral injury within soldiers due to the horrific reality they must be prepared to face while trying to maintain the standards of values and behaviour required by their country. The digger’s character has been developed from sacred stories out of the trenches of history.

The identity of the digger is planted at recruit training and is fostered by the deep bonds formed with fellow soldiers, understood as mateship within the Australian Army. The soldier family, more critical and unlike any other family, fosters the digger id entity that is interwoven within a larger identity. Drawing from works across disciplines an understanding and articulation of this mateship can be understood in terms of a spirituality for the digger.

The definition of spirituality, endorsed in the Australian Defence Force, identifies a deep concern from which purpose and meaning is drawn. In the West as we have become more comfortable materially, the position of spirituality has declined resulting in a restlessness of the heart. Within Australia we have adopted an idealistic notion of common sense in regards to spirituality. This in turn suggests an element of self transparency that in modern society we generally lack, and even fear.

Modern scientific thought has accentuated the segregation of the heart and mind, resulting in a morally hollow language providing only a ' without a ' to the moral ambiguity of life. The moral component of fighting power is identified, by the Australian Army, as the most crucial component for mission success. Yet its development is prioritised below the physical and intellectual components, due in part to a lack of language; a result of forgetting sacred stories. This prioritisation has a negative impact upon diggers to deal healthily with morally ambiguous events.

Much can be learnt from the significant re search and treatment advancement around Moral Injury that can be bought to the left of bang. This thesis doesn’t look to unpack moral injury or its cause but to begin wondering by drawing from many disciplines how Chaplain s may contribute to preparing the soul of the digger for the moral dissonance they will encounter.

The Christian chaplain has a vocabulary that enables them to journey with the digger in their story. They offer a gift of discernment to the digger struggling for a better understanding of what is happening to their heart and soul. The Christian chaplain helps the organisation in remembering their own sacred stories in the face of the growing trend to draw vocabulary from fictitious and romanticised stories from foreign contexts.

Rather than the digger being seen as lacking faith, theirs is a spirituality that has awkwardly never fitted into the traditional paradigms of the Christian church. The reality for the chaplain is that their role carries the responsibility of being the voice of memory; reminding the organisation of its core identity. The chaplain must have the courage to name and, if necessary, confront the occasions where the sacred has been segregated from the mission at the cost of the spirit of the digger. The Christian chaplain is placed within the units of the Australian Army to help prepare the men and women in uniform to face the morally challenging requirements of their service. There may be no preventing the spiritual wounds of military service, tho ugh the Christian chaplain can help the digger develop their spiritual language so they may maintain their grasp of the hope that is essential to resilience.

Keywords: Digger, Moral Injury, Spiritual Resilience, Future Ready, Soldier, Chaplain, Character Development, Australian Army, Moral Resilience

Subject: Theology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2020
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Duane Larson