A Message from Gary Christensen, Director of CatholicCare Social Services

At CatholicCare our mission is to listen and respond to the needs of local communities by working together to build a stronger, fairer and kinder society that values children, young people and families. Through Christ’s mission, we seek to provide opportunities for people to realise their full potential.

This year has been one of tremendous change within the social services sector. As with all change, it presented our organisation with great opportunities and a few challenges. As I reflect on the year that was I feel very proud of the CatholicCare team including our staff, carers and volunteers. I am particularly proud of how each team member has navigated the changes and the positive outcomes that have been achieved for vulnerable people. Our team is passionate, engaged and committed to undertaking the good works of the church. Throughout the year we have worked diligently to achieve the outcomes listed in our 2017-2020 Strategic Plan. The fruit of this work can be seen in the increase in the services we offer, after additional funding was secured in a number of program areas across the Diocese.

Some of our many highlights throughout the year include: the receipt of a new five-year funding agreement with NSW Family and Community Services to provide permanency support programs; our Brighter Futures early intervention child protection team becoming accredited as SafeCare practitioners; presentations from internationally acclaimed autism expert Dr Tony Attwood; the volunteers at the Taree Community Kitchen serving over 10,000 meals to our vulnerable friends in the community; the implementation of the MOJO mental health support groups in our Personal Helpers and Mentors program; a significant increase in clients accessing our clinical and counselling programs; and our ongoing collaboration with the Newcastle Knights, with players spending time with our NDIS participants and young people in the Supported Independent Living program.

Being responsive to local community needs is at the heart of everything we do and this is reflected in the opening of our Upper Hunter offices in Singleton and Muswellbrook, where we have received a new three-year funding agreement from NSW Family and Community Services for the provision of family preservation packages in the Upper Hunter. The opening of our Muswellbrook office is a demonstration of our commitment to be part of the local community, as we welcomed a number of non-government agencies to join us as co-tenants in our office to create a community hub of likeminded organisations.

Collaboration with parishes and agencies of the Diocese is an essential part of how we respond to the Bishop’s call for us to embrace Many Parts, One Body, One Mission. Our commitment to collaboration is reflected in our partnership with Holy Name Parish in Forster and St Patricks Parish in Singleton where we established offices in colocation with both parishes. Our collaboration with the Catholic Schools Office is reflected in the establishment of our newest program known as Beyond the Gates in partnership with St Mary’s College Gateshead, our parenting support programs at St Joseph’s Primary School in Taree and the involvement of students from St Clare’s’ High School, Taree at the Taree Community Kitchen.

As a recipient of government funds, provided by the tax payer, it has been essential that we demonstrate good financial stewardship to ensure our ongoing sustainability. This has meant making some difficult decisions about service direction, but our participant’s best interests always remain at the forefront of our thinking. The work that we do in service of the church would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Bishop and the CatholicCare Advisory Board and I thank them for their direction, guidance and support throughout the year.

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Gary Christensen

Gary Christensen is Acting Director, CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning. Please visit catholiccare.org.au.