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Expo to showcase past and present


An expo showcasing Centacare Catholic Family Services’ history, achievements and services will mark the 80th year of the organisation.

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Archbishop Patrick O’Regan will lead a liturgy following an address by the Minister for Human Services Nat Cook. To be held on October 11 at St Aloysius College, it will be Centacare’s first expo since 2018.

Past and current staff will join representatives of government, church and community services groups at the event.

A feature of the expo will be a pictorial timeline beginning with the organisation’s establishment in 1942 as the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau.

With increasing demand for services run by religious orders, including orphanages, homes for the aged and for unmarried mothers, Archbishop Matthew Beovich created the Bureau as a coordinating agency. He appointed a young social work graduate, Hannah Buckley, as its head.

Intelligent and social-minded, Hannah was enrolled at Loreto College where she was encouraged to pursue further education. Hannah studied economics and then enrolled at the newly-formed Board of Social Service Training (part of the University of Adelaide) in 1935, becoming one of South Australia’s first trained social workers.

Hannah took important initial steps in reforming the care of children in alternative care, and in providing essential services to families.

Helen Healey took over from Hannah in 1946 and spent a year consolidating the welfare role of the office. For the next 40 years, the leadership moved to priests who were also educated and trained in social work.

In the immediate post-war years, resettlement of refugees from Europe was one of the main areas of social concern. Fr Luke Roberts served in the director role from 1948 to 1960. His work in Catholic welfare and his concern for migrants later led him to establish the National Catholic Welfare Committee (NCWC) in 1957.

Fr Terry Holland was appointed director in 1960. Over the next decade he aligned the agency with new social legislation and introduced an advocacy role for the bureau. Like Fr Roberts, he was active in developing Catholic social work services at the national level and chaired the NCWC in 1974.

Legislative changes allowed the Bureau to partner with government in marriage counselling, with staff and volunteers trained by the Marriage Guidance Council. The 1960s also marked the beginning of the de-institutionalisation of orphanages, with children moved into ‘cottage homes’. The organisation’s social workers regularly visited these homes to work with children and families, marking the start of a home-visiting service model.

In 1972 Fr Peter Travers was appointed director. With a Master in Social Administration, he established the Family Support Unit along with specialised migrant support, childcare and family service units.

During the 1980s, the organisation diversified into two distinct areas: the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau team focused on counselling and children’s services while the Catholic Family Life Services team, led by Fr John Swann, was dedicated to migration, family planning and marriage education.

In 1989, Dale West was appointed director of the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau and oversaw a period of significant growth.

Renamed Centacare Catholic Family Services in 1996, the organisation grew from 18 to 600 staff, delivering $52.6 million in programs supporting 30,000 clients each year.

Mr West was instrumental in expanding disability, alternative care and foster care services, to name only a few, and nurtured Centacare’s growth and relationships within the welfare sector in South Australia.

He provided Centacare’s mission-based platform and was pivotal in negotiating the political policy of the day which he astutely balanced with Catholic Social Teaching principles.

In 2021, Mr West retired after 32 years at the helm and Pauline Connelly, Chancellor in the Archdiocese and a long-serving Centacare leader, was appointed director.


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