Corrective Services NSW

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This page contains information about how the chaplaincy service functions in NSW correctional centres and international conventions that address correctional centre issues as they relate to chaplaincy services.

Chaplaincy Services Coordination Deed and Chaplaincy Service Agreements

In February 2020, CSNSW and the Civil Chaplaincy Advisory Committee signed a Chaplaincy Services Coordination Deed, which superseded a Memorandum of Understanding that had been jointly signed in 2006. The Chaplaincy Services Coordination Deed outlines the roles and expectations of both CSNSW and the CCAC and includes the details of what both organisations are committed to. As well as the Coordination Deed, individual Chaplaincy Service Agreements were created to formalise the relationship between CSNSW and individual Religious Member Organisations and/or their Nominated Agencies. 

Legislation in NSW

Part 4, Division 6 'Spiritual and pastoral care' of the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Regulation 2014 contains the provisions for chaplaincy services in NSW correctional centres.

International conventions

Basic to the NSW Government’s rationale for providing and subsidising chaplaincy services to inmates in its gaols is the human right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as recognised in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Australia on 13 August 1980. Article 18 contains the following provisions:

‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

‘No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

‘Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitation as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.’

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has made it clear that prisoners enjoy all the rights in the ICCPR, subject to 'restrictions that are unavoidable in a closed environment'. (General Comment No.21). It was described in these terms:

‘Persons already subject to certain legitimate constraints, such as prisoners, continue to enjoy their rights to manifest their religion or belief to the fullest extent compatible with the specific nature of the constraint.’

The Australian Human Rights Commission has also argued that Article 18 protects not only the ‘traditional’ religious beliefs of the major religions, but also non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief.

The government rightly takes responsibility for honouring the above articulated rights, and it does so admirably by providing subsidy support for chaplaincy services in NSW.

Note also that Minimum Standard Guidelines for Australian prisoners has been based on the United Nations standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners and related recommendations.

‘So far as is practicable, every prisoner shall be allowed to satisfy the needs of his or her religious life by attending the services provided in the institution and having in his or her possession the books of religious observance and instruction of his or her denomination.

‘If the institution contains a sufficient number of prisoners of the same religion, a qualified representative of that religion shall be appointed or approved. If the number of prisoners justifies it and conditions permit, the arrangement should be on a full time basis.

‘A qualified representative appointed or approved shall be allowed to hold regular services and to pay pastoral visits in private to prisoners of his or her religion at proper times.’  …….

Last updated:

14 Jun 2023

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

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