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New social services body launched

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Catholic Social Services NSW/ACT team
Robert George (Centacare Bathurst), Bishop Terry Brady (Sydney), Anne-Marie Mioche (Centacare Wilcannia Forbes), Michael Austin (CatholicCare Wollongong), Anne Kirwan (CatholicCare Canberra Goulburn) and Mark Philips (CatholicCare Sydney). PHOTO: Jacqueline McCormack/CatholicCare Wollongong.

New South Wales and the ACT now have their own dedicated peak Catholic social service providers’ group.

Speaking at the launch of Catholic Social Services NSW/ACT at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney this month, inaugural chair Michael Austin said the association represents 16 Catholic social service organisations from dioceses and congregational orders.

Mr Austin, who is the current director of CatholicCare Wollongong, said the association would work collaboratively with Catholic Social Services Australia, while providing targeted collaboration for issues specific to NSW and the ACT.

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He said services are operating at a time of great disruption in the sector.

Related article: Social services must start with God

“Our context now presents very new challenges and dangers for leaders in Catholic social service organisations – to operate viable and sustainable organisations and services in highly pressured, more volatile commercial environments, while being led by mission,” he said.

Bishop Terry Brady officially launched the association saying that the work of Catholic social services agencies in communities throughout New South Wales and the ACT “is a powerful expression of the Church’s ministry to the poor and those on the margins”.

The association’s deputy chair is CatholicCare Canberra & Goulburn CEO Anne Kirwan.

Mr Austin said that social service organisations today are largely operating more commercially-oriented enterprises.

“New players are entering the space, including for-profit providers, especially in aged care, and not all of these are necessarily motivated by values similar to ours, and the media is reporting incidents of exploitation by some providers,” he said.

“The extent of these changes and their implications are the moment we are now in. None of us really knows where this will lead.”

However, Mr Austin said Catholic social services had a very rich heritage to draw from and urged providers to not lose sight of their collective mission.

“We comprise the next generation of leadership and it falls to us to assume this important task of being the carriers of the heritage, the bearers of the story, the champions of the mission,” he told the group.

Mr Austin said Pope Francis provided a vision of radical engagement and call to mission when he said: “The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.”

The founding story of Catholic health and social services – the Parable of the Good Samaritan – was essentially the founding story from which all services derived their inspiration, Mr Austin said.

“That is where our new association, Catholic Social Services NSW/ACT, takes up its important role – in providing a forum for all our different organisations for connecting, for collaborating and for advocacy here in NSW and the ACT,” he said.

“This significantly enlarges the range of possibilities that are available than if we acted solely alone. We will work in partnership with CSSA, but our role here in NSW/ACT is a different and complementary one.

“This coming together is also very much about relationships. The good news is that we have some expertise in this area. We know that relationships have tremendous power for connection and positivity and truly great endeavours are always the work of people joining together.”

This is an edited version of an article originally published on the ACBC media blog. Used with permission.

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