Former diesel mechanic, Brad Hartland, had job offers rolling in after completing his degree in Business Management, but instead he felt the call to school chaplaincy at Seville Road State School.
Instead of closing deals, today Brad is breaking down cultural barriers, bringing communities together and making a positive impact in the lives of the children he serves.
Located next to the Holland Park Mosque, Seville Road State School is home to a school population that is approximately 50 per cent Muslim. As such, the prospect of a Christian chaplain at a largely Muslim school initially raised a few eyebrows.
But for Brad – who has lived and travelled throughout Africa, volunteered in India, and travelled the world – he saw the role as the perfect fit.
“The school was described as ‘extremely multicultural’. The role description talked about the need to be sensitive in order to work effectively in that environment. I thought, with my overseas experience, this opportunity was just perfect for me,” he says.
His principal, Cheryl Rowe is also a big supporter, having seen a major cultural shift in the school since Brad took on the role as the school’s first ever chaplain.
“We are a small school community, we have just 126 children. But it’s also a community with some big social issues, including financial hardship. We have many families who have come from a refugee background and have experienced trauma.
“So Brad has come into this community and the change has been profound. We once had something of an unspoken divide here between non-Muslims and Muslims. But I don’t see that anywhere near what it once was. There is now more of an acceptance of a variety of different faiths,” Ms Rowe explains.
Brad also plays an invaluable role in meeting the needs of the school’s staff.
“He’s a wonderful person for the teachers to just come and talk to, whether they need to debrief after an incident in the classroom or just to be a listening ear. He does a great job for teacher morale because he genuinely cares about them and their welfare,” Ms Rowe adds.
Chappy Brad’s Monday mornings kick off early with Breaky Club for the students. After that, he’s buzzing about the staff room organising coffee orders for the teachers to help ensure they start their week off right too.
“For me, that’s so important that they’re in the right frame of mind,” says Brad.
“If I have a really good day, I can have a positive impact on seven children. But if I get even one teacher going well in the morning and in a good frame of mind, then they’re going to positively impact on 20 to 30 kids in a day,” he adds.
It’s clear from talking with Brad and anyone associated with him that he has embraced chaplaincy and in turn, it’s fair to say that he has been equally embraced by the school communities he serves.
“He’s a wonderful role model for the kids to look up to. His family is also an important part of our school. His little girls, who are not yet school age, all the students and the mums love them.
“By involving his family in the school, this has meant our families get involved too. So our staff will now bring their children along. He has just opened up so many doors for this community. For that, I can say that school chaplaincy has been an invaluable asset to this school community. We wouldn’t be without it,” says Ms Rowe.
We are so grateful for the incredible service of school chaplains like Brad, serving in schools throughout Queensland and bringing hope to a young generation. This Chappy Week SU QLD wishes to honour their vital service and we thank you too for the part you play in keeping school chaplaincy alive.