The Bishop’s Many Parts. One Body. One Mission. Project has seen an intense focus on the way the many parts of the diocese work together and collaborate to deliver more effective services. The project seeks to utilise the full array of skills across the church and leverage the benefits of being a diverse church. We want to do more with the limited resources available whilst satisfying the governance requirements of the funds entrusted by the Catholic community, government and other funding sources.
Developing centres of excellence in the support services that are common to all agencies should improve services and free up resources to help our schools, CatholicCare, St Nicholas Early Education and parishes do what they do best – support our communities.
Governance has been and is likely to remain an area of continued expectation for the diocese. There is no doubt that the community has heightened standards which need to be met. This will mean greater transparency and disclosure. We have taken steps in recent times to provide the community with more information regarding church finances and activities. This has been welcomed and will continue, even though at times it is uncomfortable.
Meeting the diocese’s obligations to survivors of abuse has been extremely challenging over the past year. The Royal Commission has been an intense time for the people affected and this has meant greater support to meet this need. This responsibility has been met but has put pressure on other activities. The finances of the central Curia are having to be closely managed to ensure that services continue whilst meeting the significant obligations of compensation.
The finances of schools and CatholicCare remain strong and well resourced. The challenge is to ensure that these services are well connected to each other and the broader diocese.
On a more uplifting note a further two affordable housing projects have been delivered in Maitland and at Booragul. The Mount Hutton project is close to finalisation. This will bring the number of dwellings available to 86.
The Catholic Development Fund (CDF) continues to provide an important funding source for the diocese and its many projects. In the past year it has funded the building of childcare centres, housing, school projects and the purchase of new CatholicCare offices at Muswellbrook. The CDF has put off seeking a licence from APRA in favour of an Australian financial services licence (AFSL). This will strengthen the compliance and security for supporters of the CDF. This means some changes to the arrangements of lay depositors but the personalised service will remain unchanged.
St Nicholas Early Education has been an outstanding initiative. The demand for the high quality child care provided by St Nick’s has been overwhelming. We can’t build centres fast enough! In late 2017 three new centres at Cardiff, Lochinvar and Chisholm will be ready to open. The model of linking St Nick’s centres to Catholic primary schools has proven a huge attraction to families. The single drop-off and transition programs make the St Nick’s offering convenient and an earlier starting point for building Catholic communities. More centres are being readied and we expect that families will soon be able to access services at Maitland, Branxton, Gillieston Heights and Raymond Terrace. A training centre is also being planned.
We also launched DARA (Development and Relief Agency) with the community van being relaunched and a ground-breaking partnership with Orange Sky Laundry established. These revitalised activities assist the most marginalised in our community. We expect that these initiatives will bring greater community engagement and participation.
Overall the past year has seen many highlights. The positives have provided a source of great encouragement. The green shoots of regrowth have given everyone involved a sense of expectation and satisfaction. The work will be in delivering even more projects at a faster pace.