THEY deal with kids traumatised by family violence, help teens who are self-harming, pick up the pieces after car crashes and suicides, yet sometimes they feel completely alone and misunderstood.

Despite all they do, school chaplains have become almost demonised by some - labelled Bible-bashers even though they are not allowed to share their Christian faith, unless asked about it by kids.


Matt Brady has been working as the chaplin at Burnside State High School.
Matt Brady. Patrick Woods

For Matt Brady, who has been in youth work for 30 years, the world young people are growing up in today is far different to what he experienced.

"I grew up in a time where families stayed together," he tells a combined church service celebrating what chappies do.


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Burnside state high school Chaplain Matt Brady gets behind the counter for McChappy day at McDonalds Nambour with team member Tia Cavanagh
Photo: Jason Dougherty
In 2010, Burnside State High School chaplain Matt Brady gets behind the counter for McChappy Day at McDonalds Nambour with team member Tia Cavanagh. Jason Dougherty

Today, young people live in a world "filled with fear", where young people feel incredible pressure, often fuelled by their incessant use of social media.

He says there is a lot of negativity and judgment, and one in four will experience some form of depression.

And bullying can be relentless.

"Do you know our young people take their bullies to bed with them?" Matt says of the menacing messaging kids receive on their mobiles all hours of the night.

Last year, Matt dealt with five deaths at Burnside High, including that of Jade Dixson.


Matt Brady (with beard), surrounded by some of the Sunshine Coast's school chaplains.
Matt Brady (with beard), surrounded by some of the Sunshine Coast's school chaplains. Contributed

A Dulong crash took the 17-year-old who had been due to spend the past week with her twin sister Georgia at the Gold Coast, celebrating the completion of high school.

"It was a very hard year for our school," Matt says.

"I was just very happy I could be there ... (but) I was very tired at the end of it.

He admits there are times when being a chaplain is tough.

"Chaplaincy can feel like a very lonely place at times," he says.

"We are in an environment that's not hostile but we are a little misunderstood.

"Some people think we are there to preach at them or drag them off to church kicking and screaming."

Instead, chaplains spend much of their time just listening to the problems of young people, or being involved in various activities ranging from free breakfasts for students to trekking through the bush.

Matt has some simple advice for parents wanting to help prepare their young people for the world they live in.

"I would tell every parent to tell their kids that they really love them, especially dads," he says.

"Dads have a hard time saying that.

"Kids need to hear that dad loves them. It's so important."

He says sometimes parents don't even know that their kids are battling issues including low self-esteem, depression or suicidal thoughts.

Despite the controversy around chaplains in education, on the Sunshine Coast many schools want more chaplains available but are hampered by a lack of funding.

The Federal Government funds some chaplain hours, but schools, communities and churches have to fund many more.

Chaplains themselves often have to organise fundraisers to pay their own wages.

"No one does chaplaincy for the glory or the money," Matt says.

The reward is often hearing from children years later who are grateful that "chappie" got them through one of their darkest times.

For the wider community, opportunities are available to help chaplains through activities such as free breakfast programs, being a mentor to students through the Kids of Hope program, helping with arts and crafts, gardening and other ventures.

If you want to support chaplaincy on the Sunshine Coast, make a donation via the Scripture Union Qld chaplaincy page at

Chaplains in Qld schools

* More than 67 per cent of Queensland state schools have a chaplain.

* About 400 state schools are without a chappy.

* SU QLD has placed chappies in 63 per cent of all Queensland state primary schools and in 88 per cent of all Queensland state high schools.