Explore current and past projects that examine the benefits of pastoral care through collaboration with facilities, researchers and end users.

Current projects

Multi-site study to examine the benefits of Pastoral Care to hospital patients and aged care residents

While pastoral care practitioners are employed throughout hospital and aged care settings, evidence for the impact of their services is generally limited to case studies or single-cohorts. What is missing from the literature is a cross-context, large-scale study that provides generalisable and objective data on the impact of pastoral care. This evidence is important for presenting pastoral care as a distinct discipline and demonstrating its unique value to government agencies that fund health and aged care service provision. This study seeks to address this gap in the literature through an anonymous survey distributed to patients and residents in hospital and aged care settings who received pastoral care. The study is being conducted across more than 40 sites with the following collaborators: Mercy Health, St John of God, St Vincent’s Health Australia, Villa Maria Catholic Homes, Southern Cross Care and Cabrini Health.

Cabrini Vale Impact Study: Impact evaluation of a specialist bereavement program for older people

Ms Jacqueline Taylor, Coordinator, Cabrini Vale Community Bereavement Support, Cabrini

Cabrini Vale is a community based bereavement support program for older people. The aim of this research is to evaluate the impact of the bereavement support taken up by participants at Cabrini Vale since October 2015, when a regular fortnightly Drop In Group began. Potential participants will be bereaved men and women aged between 58-88 years, either living independently in the community, or who have moved into supported accommodation post taking up the bereavement support program. Vale participants can offer rare insights into the impact of a comprehensive, professionally led bereavement program that is the first initiative of its kind. This research will be useful for other organizations likely to replicate the program, and add to the discussion around the complexity of ageing, loss and bereavement.


Completed Projects

Understanding how pastoral care does and should fit into the youth justice system

Prof Sandra Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Engagement, Ms Chloe Gordon, Research Associate, ACU Engagement

There is an absence of research conducted on pastoral care in the juvenile justice context. Yet chaplains working in this context potentially play an important role in supporting juvenile offenders and breaking the cycle of delinquent behaviour. This research will include a narrative review of what exists in relation to pastoral care in the juvenile justice context. This will be followed by interviews with key organizations to gain a comprehensive understanding of chaplains’ involvement and impact in the juvenile justice context, and the gaps in knowledge and practice. A Delphi study will follow, and be used to facilitate consensus among experts in the field on the critical research questions to pursue.


Proposed Projects

Professional development and self-care: Identifying personal strengths and areas for development in pastoral care providers

Dr Joel Anderson, School of Psychology

Presumably, pastoral care requires characteristics that are qualitatively different to other types of social work and counselling. This research aims to apply psychometrics (the well-established science of measuring and understanding individual differences in people/employees) to the pastoral care context. Psychometrics is used to identify combinations of personality traits and individual differences to predict job success. The development of a psychometric tool in the pastoral care context can be used to identify pastoral care providers that are at heightened risk of burnout, provide guidance on expenditure of training costs and related resources, and facilitate effective self-guided professional development.

Benefits of pastoral care: Is it a two-way road?

Dr Carina Chan, School of Psychology

Most research has focused on the support and benefits “receivers” of pastoral care get. There is currently very little evidence on the benefits to pastoral care providers. This exploratory study will interview pastoral care providers and mentees in focus groups. The research questions are: (1) How may pastoral care predict better physical and mental wellbeing among the general population (e.g., students, aging cohorts in rest homes, refugees?) and (2) How may pastoral care providers and mentees benefit differently? The evidence or findings from Question 1 and 2 can inform future initiatives on pastoral care training for support in various settings (e.g., schools, rest homes, NGOs), and adoption of pastoral care across the lifespan.


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