A prophetic voice for the needy

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Much of the work of Church agencies which care for the human person because of their intrinsic dignity made in the image and likeness of God goes unseen in an increasingly self-centred society.

Catholic health and welfare agencies quietly carry on

Much of the work done by Catholic welfare, health and aged care providers for the most disadvantaged in our communities is done behind the scenes.

It includes everything from funding affordable housing to providing medical aid, financial counselling, prison visitation, personal care, free English tutoring, counselling, mobile food services and much, much more.

Now the peak body for Australia’s Catholic health and aged care sector, Catholic Health Australia, has launched a new social justice focus to help these organisations working in community and social services to not only let their light shine but make their voices heard on behalf of those who are often forgotten by policy writers and lawmakers.

A significant aspect of this work will be to advocate for better social services for the poor and vulnerable.”
Ms Burdick Davies

CHA represents Australia’s largest non-government grouping of health and aged-care providers, and its new Social Justice Committee will provide direction, guidance, and intelligence to shape the organisation’s social services justice policy and advocacy agenda.

The new committee will give voice to a number of key organisations including St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, CatholicCare, St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland, MercyCare, Centacare, and St Vincent’s Health Australia.

CHA Director of Strategy and Mission Rebecca Burdick Davies. PHOTO: Supplied

Chief executive officer of St Vincent de Paul Society NSW Jack de Groot said he hoped the new committee helps advance equity of access to healthcare. “The social determinants of health – things like a person’s income, access to housing and transport, level of social inclusion, education and health system literacy – can provide barriers to good healthcare,” he said. “This is true even in places like Australia with strong public health systems.

“Vinnies encounters people every day who have found it hard to access healthcare for one reason or another. People experiencing poverty, First Nations Peoples, people with a disability, and more can often have their healthcare needs go unmet for systemic reasons.

There are plenty of things we need to fix, to ensure equity of access to a necessary service like healthcare.”

Rebecca Burdick Davies recently took up the newly-created role of CHA’s director of strategy and mission and is spearheading the organisation’s fresh social justice focus.
She says most CHA members already have a significant philanthropic role and voice in seeking justice and inclusion for society’s most vulnerable.

“The social justice committee will set in place the structure we need to achieve our Mission goal of serving as a prophetic voice for the poor, vulnerable and marginalised. A significant aspect of this work will be to advocate for better social services for the poor and vulnerable. We will advocate on issues that support the services of our members, their workers and those they care for.

CEO St Vincent de Paul Society NSW Jack de Groot. PHOTO: Supplied

“The committee reflects our strong commitment to Catholic social teaching on the need to prioritise the poor, work for the common good, and the inherent dignity of the human person, no matter their social or health status.”

Through the committee chief executives and senior managers involved in social services delivery will provide direction, guidance, and intelligence to shape CHA’s policy and agenda.

Ms Burdick Davies told The Catholic Weekly that much attention has been recently focused on campaigning against assisted suicide in Queensland, with New South Wales now the only state not to have legalised the practice.

Other priorities will be working with member organisations to improve their environmental sustainability practices, and supporting new research highlighting the inequities resulting from the pandemic and the pandemic response, she said.

Related: