A week in the life of …

Rev Craig Madden does a power of work as a senior chaplain within Melbourne prisons.


I am up at 5.10am and begin preparing for the day ahead and the journey to Dhurringile Prison in Shepparton.

I also prepare a prison bag (a plastic clear bag which is passed through by security at prisons) with printed items for service and communion at Dhurringile. On the way I stop at Tatura township, and buy two rolls for our communion service, as well as a small plastic bottle of juice which resembles grape juice or wine (I choose not to use wine for my communion services.

It is just a conviction that I have in regards to this, although I am perfectly fine with our chaplains using actual wine as per the guidelines from Corrections Victoria).

I am at Dhurringile Prison at 8.15am, when I sign the chaplain’s register and get my white pass register, which allows me in to all prisons in Victoria.

I make my first journey around the actual perimeter (via concrete pathways) of the entire prison. I am the new chaplain here, so I must wander the grounds and see who I encounter, and can begin to establish relationships with. It is an artform to approach prisoners in their living areas (not living quarters or rooms as these are now out of bounds to all chaplains).

I drop by the Programs area, where I say hello to staff and program managers. At 10.30am there is a football game on the oval for all prisoners. It is a long walk from the chapel area, but worth it as a part of my chaplaincy work. I use that as a touch base to meet residents who might be attending on the sidelines and I stay and talk for an hour or so.

I arrive back at the chapel area and set out the table for communion. I take out all our special cloths and accoutrements that I have purchased to make a beautiful table and chapel setting.

A few minutes after start time one man arrives, then another, then two more. The men sign an attendance list and take their seats. I lead us in our service of worship which includes communion, and my reflection on the week’s Lectionary readings. I always have men wanting to speak further with me following a service, about their lives and what is happening in them.

I encounter some men on the way out of the chapel and tell them to come along next time I am there for a service, or to just talk. I leave the prison at 3.30pm and head back home to the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

At home I check my UCA emails, set up my calendar and close off for the day.


I wake up at 5.10am before walking to Greensborough train station for the trip into the Melbourne Assessment Prison in Spencer Street.

I sign on using the computer in the office that I share with the Muslim chaplains, before I visit Programs where I request a copy of the “prisoner list by religion”. I look in our received area for any requests that have come through to see the Christian chaplain.

At 8am the call comes through from Programs saying they are leaving shortly for prisoner inductions, which are performed every morning. If chaplains are available it is expected that they will talk at this induction, and this is something I do every Tuesday morning at the MAP. I talk about what chaplaincy is, and what it offers on behalf of all faiths, not just Christian or UCA. I advise prisoners that their conversations with me are confidential … unless they are going to hurt themselves or others. I advise the new group of prisoners that there is a service every Wednesday held in one of the (tiny) prison cells, and that I am there every fourth Sunday to hold a Christian service.

At 9am I head up to the third floor to see people on the “prisoners by religion list” who are new. I introduce myself to them and, if allowed, I converse with them some more about their lives. I see four men in one unit at separate times, all in lockdown for differing reasons.

Services conducted by Rev Craig Madden are a source of comfort for many prisoners.


I am up at 5.10am to begin preparing for the day ahead, before leaving for the drive to the Metropolitan Remand Centre in Ravenhall.

I was informed late last night that the Anglican chaplain is unable to hold services today, so I agree to take their service.

By 7am I am at the reception area at MRC, where I am scanned and provided with a duress alarm. I check the chaplain’s book to see if there are any specific messages for me, where there is a complaint from another senior chaplain about prisoners smoking Bibles.

I set up the chapel, which involves placing items from the storage area into place, such as a large cross table set up with cloths, candles and special accoutrements for the services.

I call up control to ask for an announcement to be made through the prison that there will be a multi-faith service from 9.30am, and by 9.35am there are seven men in the chapel area. I lead the service of Bible readings, confession, community prayer, reflection and communion.

At 11am I conduct another service, at which 15 prisoners attend.

At 1.45pm I begin pastoral visits around the yards, seeking out people on referrals and others I know from previous visits.

I leave the prison at 4pm and head home, knowing that at 7pm I have a board meeting at Coburg Uniting Church, where I am on the board as an elder.


I am on the road early to be at the Metropolitan Remand Centre by 6.45am.

I wait for our new volunteer chaplain to arrive at 7am, and once he does we are ready to get going, and we head to the chaplain’s office, ready to talk about and plan out the day.

We begin to set up the chapel, print off service sheets, and set out prisoner attendance lists, before I call to control to request the announcement of a Christian service for 9.15am.

I have time for a further chat with the volunteer chaplain about how he might be feeling following four or five visits. He is extremely positive but tells me how different it is to the world of business he came from.

At 10am the service is finally under way, with almost 30 men attending. As the men arrive they are full of life and upbeat, and most are smiling widely. They joke and laugh in a most cheerful way and it is clear they have built a community much the same as you might find in any church in suburban Melbourne. Many times during our community prayer, the men will pray for me and my family, yet none of them act like they are in any way “spiritual superstars”.

The service runs well and the responses from the men during the liturgy and the community prayer are extremely touching, as they pray for their families, about upcoming court cases, and even ask God’s forgiveness in our community prayer.

Later in the day I ask to see a prisoner who has asked me to come and see him following our service from last week. Our meeting is long and gratifying for us all, despite several interruptions by men saying hello, or asking if we could see them next. We are taken aback by the depth of conversation we can have in a semi-secluded spot.

I leave the prison and return home to put in a few hours on email responses, as well as my reflection that I have delivered to the men, which I will deliver on Sunday at Coburg Uniting Church.


I am up at 5.10am ready to tackle a day of administration.

At 8am I meet with one of our chaplains at a café in Preston and during our 90-minute meeting I ask questions and we share stories. I enquire about how she is going, and ask what her current challenges and needs are. All in all it’s an extremely rewarding meeting for us both, and her often different take on things is really wonderful to hear. We are diverse, and we find so much to share from our faith and our journeys within the prison system.

At the end of our meeting I take a walk across the road to the Preston Market, before I head home and clean my very messy desk to find my UCA portable computer. I settle in for a day of responding to emails. Some days I ring around all of our chaplains as we are spread throughout Victoria.

I take out my hand-written list of things to do that set me up for the week ahead.

Over the weekend I take the service at Coburg Uniting Church, and on Sunday I perform my program on a local radio station. This takes several hours of administration, but the music part of it is absolute fun, and the longer than normal timeslot of three hours is easily filled.


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