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Catholic voice at Jobs Summit a very good thing

An invitation to the Catholic sector to participate in the federal government's Jobs Summit came late in the piece. Thankfully, it happened and hopefully much will come of it

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NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during the Jobs and Skills Summit at Parliament House in Canberra, on Friday, 2 September 2022. Photo: AAP, Mick Tsikas

Events such as this week’s Jobs & Skills Summit are golden opportunities to ensure diverse voices who often don’t get the prominence warranted, are heard around the table.

During this two-day Summit, it was vital that a voice for the Catholic ministries, through Catholic Health Australia was present. Between them, CHA members employ more than 80,000 people, managing 25,000 home-support consumers, 25,000 residential aged-care beds and more than 13,000 hospital beds, supplying roughly 10 per cent of the nation’s health and aged care needs.

Our mission is very explicit – we are inspired by the ministry of Jesus and the work of Catholic congregations to bring healing, justice, comfort and hope for all, especially the vulnerable, disadvantaged, neglected and stigmatised in society.

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Church a significant employer

Our members are of course part of the wider Catholic firmament which is a significant contributor to both spiritual and temporal dimensions of society, employing as it does 222,000 people in more than 3,500 organisations.

Catholic Health Australia’s Pat Garcia, above, represented the Catholic healthcare sector at the federal government’s Jobs Summit from 1-2 September. In Australia, Catholic institutions and agencies, especially in education and health, employ an estimated 220,000 people, making the Catholic church the second biggest employer in the nation after the public sector.

At the Jobs and Skills Summit, we were just one of a few voices representing the faith-based not-for-profit sector who in turn work to ensure that the marginalised and the vulnerable in society are not left out of this important conversation.

While much of the debate and negotiations of the two days centred on  policy reform regarding pay awards, visa classes and funding, these are critical instruments through which we can fulfill our goals – which are to ensure our workforce is valued and treated with dignity. This in turn provides them with the resources and capacity to effectively care for the people they service, who are vulnerable and often at a sensitive stage of life.

Pride in common goals

The past three years have poignantly demonstrated how much we depend on health and aged care workers to heal us or accompany us in our later years. But they have also underscored society’s vulnerability. The elderly, and those with complex health needs, rely on us, but the system that serves them is susceptible to a range of pressures, not least a shortage of carers. The people who work in our network bring dignity to the those that they care for. They in turn should expect it back from providers and from their government in the form of fair remuneration and safe workplace environments that value their wellbeing as professionals and human beings.

It was a moment of pride for me when CHA stood shoulder to shoulder with other faith-based and not-for-profit delegates, as well as unions, from the aged care sector to put their name to a statement of common goals.

Eight initiatives emerged on which government and the sector can work together to improve workforce conditions and alleviate the intense pressure many of those people have been under since COVID arrived on these shores.

Catholic Health Australia members employ more than 80,000 people, managing 25,000 home-support consumers, 25,000 residential aged-care beds and more than 13,000 hospital beds, supplying roughly 10 per cent of the nation’s health and aged care needs. Photo: 123rf

Helping those on the margins

One of those is a commitment to find marginalised job seekers a place working in aged care and, once there, to support them in the development of a longer term career.

Another was a commitment to enter into discussions with all levels of government to ensure there are affordable housing options in communities for aged care workers, especially in regional and remote areas.

Representing a tradition is a privilege

We have a duty, not just to our charisms but to wider society, to innovate and adapt in the way that we look after the vulnerable among us. The statement of common goals demonstrated that we can and should work with others who share a common vision.

We are grateful to the Federal Government for inviting us to participate, and were acutely aware of our role at the Summit as a face the broader Catholic mission and ministries.

It was a privilege to be there to represent those Catholic ministries who one could argue were the pioneers of care early on in this country’s modern history. They are here more than a century later, leading from the front in line with our mission – and doubtless they will be here for centuries to come.


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