Take a slight detour from the Maths bus stop and you’ll find a bunch of people in the Education (V) building you never knew you needed. The Chaplaincy provides some handy services to current students- if you need some documents signed by a Justice of the Peace, want to play a game of chess or just someone to chat with – you can’t miss their bright blue shirts.
Head inside and you might see Greg Kerr. He’s the coordinator of the service and loves to strike up a conversation. I asked him some questions about the service.
To the students who don’t know about the chaplaincy, what is it and what do you offer?
“Our role is to provide support to both students and staff, whatever the reason is … it might be that [a student is] having difficulty relating to their lecturer or to their tutor, or they’re having difficulty coping with just being at university for whatever reason,” he said.
“It might just be that they want someone to talk to.”
Some people might be tentative saying hi if they’re not religious. Tell me about the spiritual and emotional support that’s on offer for everyone.
“The good thing is that several of us are trained as counsellors, so we’ve got the professional background to be able to provide support and services to anybody, but our role is not to try and convince somebody that they should follow a particular faith,” he said.
“Some people have a conception that that’s what chaplains will do, they’ll try and convince you that you’ve got to be religious … In fact, most of the people who talk to us are not religious.”
What sort of things do you offer as a Justice of the Peace?
“Six of us are Justices of the Peace in New South Wales … sometimes people will come in with their passport, but they haven’t got a copy of it … different documents require different statements on them about the certification,” he said.
Chaplains can help you with accreditation documents, certifications, verification of identity and other paperwork. If you’re ever confused about official documents, have a chat to a chaplain.
What would you say to people who might need emotional support, who are struggling with their university journey?
“Take the first step, be brave and ask somebody for assistance or guidance. Just walk in the door. We don’t bite, we don’t charge a fee, we don’t judge. That’s part of our role, to be a support person not a judgmental person,” he said.
In their cozy office, you might also come across Farooq Rah, a Muslim chaplain. He’s pretty into chess.
Tell me about chess at the Chaplaincy and other activities you run during the semester
When I started chess at the Chaplaincy, I didn’t know what I had in mind. Chess skill levels are so different … but it’s been quite a hit! There’s been a number of students that have come and regardless of their level they just have a game,” he said.
“A number of the things we’ve done in the past is through the student groups we’ve had religious discussions … Hopefully that’s something in mind that we will do in the various different faith bodies.”
What’s your favourite part of the job?
“I feel elated when I offer [students] something that they find beneficial, whether that’s a new way of looking at something. It’s very rare that we do discuss religion. … for my own faith I think that can be a source of maturation as well, intellectual and spiritual actually. Because ideas can be seen in so many different ways and sometimes when you’re engaging with someone else’s perspective, that adds another layer of perspective to your own,” he said.
So, in short, come along to the Chaplaincy if you want:
- Someone to talk to about life and other stuff
- A JP to witness a document
- Support finding services or getting in touch with the university
You can find out more about our chaplains on the university’s website.
Feature Image: Dan Gennari, Visual Communication student