SHA Farewells Beloved CEO Cheryl Holmes

28 March 2024

Yesterday’s farewell party for our CEO, Cheryl Holmes, was a truly momentous occasion! The room was brimming with individuals from the spiritual care sector, including current and former SHA staff and board members, representatives from faith communities, health services, education providers and other key organisations, as well as Cheryl’s family and close friends. 

Our Board Chair, Luke Bowen, shared a heartfelt tribute. Here are some excerpts from his speech: 

 “We gather here today, not just as colleagues and peers, but as a community united in gratitude and respect for one remarkable individual, Cheryl Holmes. As we bid farewell to Cheryl, we also celebrate her incredible journey, leadership and contributions to Spiritual Health Association. 

Cheryl has been the heartbeat of Spiritual Health Association, leading the sector for over 20 years, forming relationships, developing and implementing approaches to transform spiritual care, and through this Cheryl has touched many lives and organisations. Cheryl your dedication to integrating spiritual wellness into healthcare has not only shaped our practice but has also illuminated the path for future generations in our field. 

Your unwavering belief in the power of compassionate care has left an indelible mark on all of us. Your impact extends beyond these walls, into the lives of those we serve, leaving a legacy of kindness, resilience, and connection.”

Interim CEO, Craig Exon, also represented the team in thanking Cheryl for her compassionate and empowering leadership.  

Over the last two decades that Cheryl has served as CEO of Spiritual Health Association, she has guided the organisation fearlessly through multiple restructures, identifying opportunities for growth and evolution at each step. She has advocated tirelessly for the provision of compassionate, person-centred spiritual care in health services, submitting funding proposals and successfully securing funding from the government. Cheryl has initiated and led the strategic development and growth of spiritual care services through key partnerships with faith communities and health services. Her collaboration with national and international stakeholders has positioned SHA as a global leader in the promotion of research and the professionalisation of spiritual care services. 

Outside of SHA, Cheryl effectively led the process of organisational change when the Australian Health and Welfare Chaplains Association became Spiritual Care Australia (SCA), serving as SCA’s first National President in 2010. In 2023, she completed a PhD exploring the narratives shaping the future of spiritual care in Australian public hospitals, contributing to numerous publications and books during that time, and enriching the discourse on spiritual health.

In recognition of her extensive contributions, Cheryl was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2015, for her services to spiritual care in Australia. 

Cheryl’s dedication and innovation in spiritual care have not only shaped our organisation but have also earned her national and international recognition. It is with great pride that we announce that Cheryl has been honoured with this year’s
HealthCare Chaplaincy Network’s
Pioneer Medal for Outstanding Leadership in Health Care
. The HCCN, which is based in the United States, introduced this award in 2011 as part of the organisation’s 50th anniversary celebration. The Pioneer Medal recognises the singular accomplishments of an individual whose seminal research and/or innovative practice shape the way we think about and understand the complex and critical issues in contemporary health care. 

Congratulations and thank you for everything Cheryl!