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Rich life experiences shape new director


Forming his Catholic faith and values as a student, working closely with remote Indigenous communities in the police force, and providing support for people quarantining during COVID have provided some important life lessons for Adam Cartland.

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The Archdiocese’s recently appointed executive director for Integrity and Safeguarding told The Southern Cross that he believes everything in life “happens for a reason” and was certain he would be drawing on past experiences to help him in his new position.

“When I saw the position advertised I guess I had never stopped to think there would be roles within the Catholic Church for me that didn’t involve ministry – I didn’t think of the big machine that sits behind it to allow the pastoral work and outreach to occur,” said Adam.

“Faith has always been a big part of my family’s life. I’m sure all the belief systems and lessons I’ve learnt through my church life and my Catholic schooling have shaped me into the person I am.

“This role really aligns with my faith, my skill sets, my experiences and my desire to do more and give back.”

Raised in the Dernancourt parish where his family attended St Pius X Church, Adam always held a “really strong stance and belief on what is right and wrong”.

He attended St Francis of Assisi School at Newton, followed by Blackfriars Priory School in Prospect, where the Dominicans reinforced his aspiration to be “part of something that is bigger than myself”.

After graduating he joined the South Australian Police Force, with his first posting to the Port Adelaide/Parks region. After four years he was appointed as one of the first two permanent police officers to live in the APY Lands, working in remote Indigenous communities.

His workplace covered a vast 100,000 square kilometres and he quickly learnt how to embrace the remote lifestyle.

“I probably couldn’t change a tyre before I went there,” he laughed, adding extreme weather conditions were another challenge.

“One minute it was 50 degrees and the next you were preparing for a flood.

“You really had to fend for yourself as there wasn’t the availability for additional resources and support like here in the city.

“Communication was critical – having honest and transparent relationships with people so they were believing you and who you were. Those trusting relationships were certainly valuable in de-escalating serious incidents and forging strong connections.

“Non-verbal communication was a really important aspect to learn due to the language barrier.”

Adam’s ethos towards his role was an understanding that “unfortunately you can’t necessarily go back and undo the historical trauma some of our community had suffered; but you can acknowledge, offer support and a caring response, and try to make sure the future is better for the next generation”.

Following his time in the APY Lands, Adam made his way “down the highway” working in Marla, Coober Pedy, Port Augusta, Murray Bridge, the Adelaide Hills and then police headquarters in the city.

There he managed the Internal Investigations area within the Professional Standards Branch, investigating allegations of abuse of public office. Adam said he sought to improve the organisational culture through early identification, training and education, and reinforcing expected standards.

When COVID hit in 2020 his career took a different direction.

“I received a phone call from the deputy commissioner at 5pm on a Friday asking me to set up a medi-hotel as ‘we’ve accepted a plane of repatriated citizens from India’. I asked when they were coming and she said, we have 305 people arriving on Sunday afternoon,” he recalled.

This new role running the medi-hotels program brought an end to his 20-year career as a police officer as he moved to the Department of Health and Wellbeing. He worked closely with the chief and deputy chief public health officers, leading a team of about 900 police, nursing and hotel staff.

“That was an amazing experience. We were learning more about this disease daily and when things changed, we had to adapt. It was truly a ‘one team’ approach.

“In total we had around 45,000 people come through the hotel quarantine program, from all walks of life including returning Australian citizens and family groups, celebrities, international students, seasonal workers, NASA, the Australian cricket team, and were even able to facilitate the hosting of an international tennis event all while complying with our strict quarantine requirements.

“Even now when I travel with my family I definitely look at hotel rooms differently. I walk in and think this is so spacious – and then I think two weeks, with three kids? Maybe not!”

Most recently Adam was working for the Environment Protection Authority delivering new strategic directions for the agency, with a strong focus on ‘people’ and wellbeing.

He is now responsible for Integrity and Safeguarding at the Archdiocese, which also incorporates some work for the Port Pirie and Darwin dioceses.

One of his first tasks will be to ensure consistency across the services delivered by the three sections in the branch – the Professional Standards Office, the Screening and Verification Authority and Child Protection Unit.

“I am quickly discovering the title of the unit doesn’t do justice to the myriad of important tasks and risk and accountability levels they hold on behalf of the organisation,” he said.

“So early on it’s about bringing people together under one banner and developing a strategy for our new branch. Ensuring we know how does what we do contribute to our strategy but importantly, how does it contribute and actively support the strategy the Archbishop has for the Archdiocese? Building relationships and working together with other agencies within the Archdiocese to achieve valuable outcomes that support the overall mission.”

Together with Kathy and their three young daughters – Bella, Lucy and Molly – the family has recently moved into a new home at Somerton Park and has joined the Brighton parish.

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