Rod Moore says authenticity is they key ingredient in his line of work.
And in that regard, he was as authentic as they come.
"I grew up in a housing commission home in the western suburbs of Sydney, left home at 15, started using drugs and alcohol, hanging around an outlaw motorcycle gang, had run-ins with the police ...
"I was headed for trouble."
For a man who would find God and go on to become a prison chaplain, it was the 'real life' experience that would shape his career.
Now the retired 66-year-old has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the community through chaplaincy roles in corrective institutions - "it's surreal, I'm very proud".
But the East Maitland man is keen to take the opportunity to highlight the good work of prison chaplains across the state, rather than be the sole focus of attention.
"It's a tough gig, it really is, but they do wonderful work," Reverend Moore said.
And he should know because he went on to become Coordinating Chaplain for Corrective Services NSW for 16 years - the head man, with 90 chaplains across 36 prisons under him.
Rev Moore's life turned around when, age 21, a Christian group reached out to him and he found faith.
Before long he was a youth worker in Muswellbrook and met his wife Lee, who is now a teacher in the Maitland area. While he enjoyed the job, the call of the ministry was strong.
He joined the anglican priesthood and was ordained by the Bishop of Newcastle in 1986, age 33.
For the next few years he worked across parishes in Wallsend, East Maitland and on the Central Coast, but had a yearning to work as a prison chaplain where he wanted "to make a difference".
When the job came up for Maitland and Cessnock, he contacted the bishop immediately.
"My early life, and then time as a youth worker counselling street people, it was an ideal grounding for what was needed."
And what was that?
"They want honesty, authenticity. You need to build the relationship and be trusted. Be a good listener. If you're distant or too moralistic, if you're judgmental, they'll respect you all right, but they'll never open up to you.
"I think with my early life, I had that authenticity. And I'm a good listener. I also had the backing of an understanding wife which made things a lot easier."
Rev Moore is proud of the role prison chaplains play.
"State Governments have tended to cut prison funding, but we have had an increase in chaplain funding," he said. "That's because they accept the role chaplains play - and not just to inmates but staff as well. They make a big difference."
He says it's hard to describe the pleasure a chaplain gets from seeing a life turned around in prison.
"You deal with all sorts of people, from serial killers to gang members, from those who commit domestic violence to drink drivers," he said.
"If you can get someone to turn their lives around - and I don't necessarily mean finding God, although that's ideal - it's incredibly rewarding.
"Some find faith and end up in churches, but for others it may be to stop beating their partner, or reconnect with their family, or get a steady job ... "
Rev Moore has also:
- Been president of the International Prison Chaplains Association since 2015, and vice president for five years before that.
- Coordinating Chaplain, Corrective Services NSW, 2002-2018.
- Chaplain, Corrective Services NSW, 1993-2018.
- Chaplain, Cessnock and Maitland Correctional Centres, 1993-2002 (through CCACNSW).
- Ordained Priest, 1986-1993
- Founder, Friendship House, Newcastle (now run by Samaritans), 1995. Founder, Home for Good, Newcastle, 2007