By Eric Martin
Catholic Social Services Western Australia (CSSWA) held its Members Showcase last week, Thursday 14 November, bringing together a diverse range of agency directors from across the social services sector.
The showcase enabled the Directors to deliver a brief presentation on their agency’s activities, utilising the introductory videos that were recently produced for each organisation by the Archdiocesan Communications Office.
It also provided a valuable networking opportunity.
Unbeknownst to many, due to the incredible size, heart and reach of the Church, the Catholic Church is the largest provider of social services in WA, with a portfolio of agencies designed to cater to the different areas of desperate need identified within the community:
“Thanks to our social outreach organisations, the Catholic Church in Australia, collectively, is Australia’s largest employer with about 260,000 people,” Chief Operations Officer for the Archdiocese of Perth, Dr Terry Wilson, said during his opening remarks.
“Bigger than Woolworths, bigger than the Commonwealth Government.”
“And I think that the Catholic Church has been through some pretty tough times in the recent past, and in response, we’re really focussed back on our Good Works: not just preaching the Word, but by actually getting out there and doing some Good Works.”
“Work is our way back; it’s our means of redemption,” he said.
To support this works-based approach, the Archdiocese of Perth established CSSWA in 2018, an agency designed to provide a cooperative platform across social services that enables the identification and utilisation of synergies, breaking down ‘silos’ and working to build inter-agency communication and cooperation.
Under Director Steve McDermott, CSSWA is actively seeking to build these relationships through events such as the Members Showcase.
As was evident by the visible responses of many of the directors to the content presented, many were not fully aware of the range of activities and support services provided by the other agencies present.
“With leadership and governance, what we want to encourage in regard to the larger organisations, is around the area of compliance,” Mr McDermott explained.
CSSWA is keen to encourage more collaboration with other Catholic agencies, particularly in regards to governance and compliance.
“There’ll be a number of issues around compliance with smaller organisations, they will need assistance in that area and because the larger organisations already have the infrastructure in place: the smaller organisations will have something that they can plug into.”
Mr McDermott also commented on the upcoming Catholic Social Services Conference scheduled for July 2021 in Broome.
Not only were the agencies directly supported by the Archdiocese of Perth present, they were joined by the CEOs or representatives of other social services providers who operate in Perth: such as Mercycare, represented by Ms Vicki Burrows, formerly the director of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, and Ms Susan Rooney from The St Vincent de Paul Society.
Following the showcase, was the presentation of two awards, a new initiative in recognising the valuable contribution made by individuals working at the coalface in social service provision.
“Part of our work (at CSSWA) is also recognising the thousands of employees and the many thousands of volunteers with the presentation of (the newly introduced) Employee of the Year and Volunteer of the Year Awards,” Mr McDermott explained.
The Employee of the Year 2019 (the Archbishop BJ Hickey Award) was awarded to Ms Stella Lindsay from the St Patrick’s Community Support Centre in Fremantle.
Ms Lindsay has been an employee of St Pats for more than 30 years, after volunteering at her mother’s prompting.
“She started volunteering down at the Centre cooking meals and then as a young kid, I tagged along, and a job opportunity came up… and now, here we are, 30 years later,” Ms Lindsay said.
She shared with The Record just what it is that keeps her coming back each day:
“Feeling like I have a purpose and helping others out – knowing that (the homeless people of Fremantle) have a nutritious meal every day. I think that every day is a bonus working at St Pat’s.”
Ms Nada Clastres, from the Personal Advocacy Service (PAS), was awarded Volunteer of the Year 2019 for her work with Genevieve Tranter, whose father the award was named after, the Tom Tranter Award.
“This award, I was not expecting this at all: Gen is my friend, and she loves me unconditionally; she’s always happy to see me, and is always so genuine in what she expresses,” Ms Clastres said.
“It means a lot because I met Genevieve 27 years ago – I was in my 30s, and I had just arrived in Perth,” she explained.
“I was in Church with my mother, and my mother said to me: ‘This nun is asking for a volunteer, you have to go and see what it is’.
“And I’ve never looked back.
“The Tranters are very good to me; they treat me as part of their family.”