From southern Nigeria to the southern border of NSW

Chaplain Kene Onwukwe at the joint NSW Police/ADF border control headquarters in Albury, NSW. Photo: Lieutenant Commander James Thompson

From southern Nigeria to the southern border of NSW

Growing up in Nigeria, West Africa, Chaplain Kene Onwukwe never thought he would work in the ADF. 

The padre arrived in Australia at 33 as a Catholic missionary 12 years ago – one of three Nigerians selected to be a missionary in Tasmania.

He said the church had been a central part of his life for as long as he could remember.

“My family and I are from the Igbo tribe who are mostly Christians, so Christianity and living a religious life is an important part of our cultural heritage,” Chaplain Onwukwe said.

“We would help out at church on the weekends and eventually my mother encouraged me to go into the seminary.”

Chaplain Onwukwe said his journey into the Australian Army started after he moved to Sydney at the end of his missionary activities in Hobart.

“I moved to Sydney to study a Master’s in Education Psychology where I met [long serving Army] Chaplain Robert Hayes who introduced me to the opportunity to serve God in the military,” he said. 

“The rest is history.” 

Chaplain Onwukwe is supporting ADF personnel helping NSW Police on border checkpoints.

The Commander of Operation COVID-19 Assist on the NSW/Victoria border, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew White, said Chaplain Onwukwe had played a vital role in his team.

“We have many young soldiers, sailors and airmen and women on this operation. Chaplain Onwukwe has been able to talk, comfort and inspire many of these personnel and provide the important emotional, psychological and spiritual support,” Lieutenant Colonel White said.

Chaplain Onwukwe said serving in the military was a life-changing experience.

“I love spending time with these impressive young men and women. I am ever thankful to God for this amazing opportunity,” he said.

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