Tackling disadvantage a priority
The urgent need to tackle generational poverty and dis-advantage was highlighted by the South Australian Minister for Human Services Nat Cook at the celebration of Centacare Catholic Family Service’s 80th anniversary.
Past and present staff, clients and community leaders came together for a liturgy and expo at St Aloysius College, Adelaide, on October 11.
Referring to the “important work of Centacare with people in our community who are marginalised”, Minister Cook said one of the “biggest issues in our society” was generational poverty.
“If I could wind the clock forward and in three and a half years I was able to stand with the Premier in front of South Australia and say one thing, it would be that we have made inroads into tackling generational disadvantage and poverty,” she said.
“It is so important and while I acknowledge there must be handouts – I acknowledge there is crisis and we must do that, but Centacare’s willingness to work to strengthen and use that strengths-based approach in family services is something that I think we can grow, and I think we can do more to make sure families in the future are stronger and can remain together with the requisite supports that need to be offered.”
Giving special mention to Centacare’s Breathing Space program, which supports young women who have experienced removal of a child or children from their care, Minister Cook said she was the child of a 16-year-old mother.
“I am an adopted baby, I have reconnected with my birth mother and we have had those very difficult conversations,” she said. “She didn’t get that opportunity…”
“So all of these programs that have a focus on the interruption of generational disadvantage and poverty are very close to my heart.”
Minister Cook thanked Centacare for its work with the marginalised, “those people who with bad government policy simply slip over the edge into vulnerability, people with disability, people living in poverty, older people, people who perhaps sometimes have made the decision that has left them wanting, left them needing and left them vulnerable”.
“We together need to not judge those decisions or their origin, we need to look at the journey and then judge ourselves for what we did along the way, and I will be part of that with you,” she said.
The expo included a Welcome to Country by Centacare Aboriginal Services manager John Lochowiak and an address from director Pauline Connelly.
Ms Connelly acknowledged the “tens of thousands of people who needed Centacare’s assistance over the years and who still do”.
“It is an honour to be in that space of vulnerability with them,” she said.
“It is often an intense experience for us all but…it is in those moments where we most deeply live our mission, and experience what our calling really is.”
She thanked past staff whose influence had “a ripple effect of positive change, memories and stories being passed on” and paid special tribute to Dale West, the longest-serving director (32 years), and Bernie Victory, assistant director for 35 years, who were present at the expo.
Archbishop Patrick O’Regan led the liturgy which included the blessing of a cross previously located in Centacare’s former head office at Fennescey House.
“Thanks be to God for this wonderful work of mercy, thank you to those who had the vision
80 years ago, and those who through thick and thin, difficult times and happy times have sustained that vision and made it real for the times in which we live…may the good God continue to bless the work of Centacare in its next 80 years,” Archbishop O’Regan said.
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