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New director ready to face challenges


A cut to the Jobseeker payment, increasing domestic violence and drug use are some of the major challenges facing Centacare Catholic Family Services in the months ahead, according to its new director Sarah McRae.

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Speaking to The Southern Cross only a few days after stepping into the role, Ms McRae said Centacare was getting ready for the fallout from the reduction of the coronavirus supplement, which will undoubtedly create financial pressure on many families.

“We are always preparing for those that are in times of need, and it will be about working through that at the given time,” she said, adding that the pandemic had resulted in increased demand on other services offered by Centacare.

“We’ve seen a big increase in domestic violence as a result of COVID…hopefully once the pandemic is over we will have the ability for people to speak out more but we have to give them that safe environment for them to do that.

“Drugs are a real issue… and it’s not going to change and it is going to continue to grow. We are going to have to have some strategies about how we can support that – not just for the individual but for those around them as well, the parents, the families.

“Homelessness is another area (of concern).”

Joining Centacare at the start of February following the retirement of long-serving director Dale West, Ms McRae is no stranger to dealing with complex and challenging issues.

Her most recent role was as chief operating officer of the Women’s and Children’s Health Network, where she was responsible for 150 sites covering children’s mental health and wellbeing, and also domestic violence. At Centacare she leads nearly 600 staff who deliver 74 community services to more than 34,000 South Australians from 34 sites in metropolitan and regional areas.

Starting her career as a nurse and then moving into management, education and research, Ms McRae said being at Centacare aligned with her values and the social justice teachings from her Catholic upbringing and education at Loreto College.

“I am a caring person, and I know that sounds cliché, but you actually do have to care about others to be a nurse,” she said.

“I have always wanted to give back and make a difference – I think that is what I learnt through my schooling and family; about social justice and providing for others and not thinking that I have a right.

“That’s what attracted me to Centacare as I had got to a stage in my career that I was just a decision maker and I didn’t see the results of my decisions because I was up the hierarchy. Centacare has that family feeling, that you are part of it all together, you are in it as a team.

“And it doesn’t matter who you are, what walk of life you are from, what religion or gender you are, Centacare will always have the door open for you.”

Married to Sean, the couple has two children, a son who attends Star of the Sea School and a daughter at St Michael’s College. Ms McRae said they are “very active” in the local community, with the children participating in various club sports and the family all heavily involved with the Grange Surf Life Saving Club.


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