Murdoch University has become the first tertiary institution in Australia to offer a diploma in chaplaincy, in response to growing demand from the resources industry for more spiritual and emotional support for fly-in, fly-out workers.
The one-year graduate diploma course will begin next year and educate students on a "multi-faith environment", involving Christian theology, chaplaincy theory and workplace learning.
Murdoch University chairman of theology James Trotter said the course was prompted in part by demand from business, including mining and resource companies seeking ways to deal with worker dissatisfaction.
"There is a large demand for chaplains, certainly in industry there is a growing awareness that you don't just provide for material needs, but emotional and spiritual needs," Dr Trotter said.
"With FIFO, there are particular situations that can be quite difficult and (chaplains) can be very useful in this context."
Senior lecturer in systematic theology at Murdoch Alexander Jensen said as well playing a role in hospitals, schools and prisons, chaplains were becoming common in aged-care facilities and mining and transport companies whose staff were often away from home for long periods.
"Companies are recognising that they have to look after the whole person to have a productive and stable workforce," Dr Jensen said.
He said a move by the Federal Government to require training for chaplains in State schools was also behind the decision to introduce the diploma.
Currently, aspiring chaplains can complete a Certificate IV course at TAFE. The Rev. Philip Raymont, senior chaplain at Guildford Grammar School, has been recruited as an adjunct lecturer. He said the course would add credibility to the profession.
Dr Raymont said FIFO workers struggling with family breakdowns or isolation would benefit from having someone to talk to.Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group is among the resource companies to use a chaplaincy service.