Together with Catholic Social Services Australia, Catholic Social Services Victoria has hosted a number of national conferences over the years, which provide a gathering space for participants from across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, to get up to date with the latest issues affecting our sector nationally, to strengthen relationships and working partnerships, and to be inspired and challenged by leaders in the sector.

Each conference has focussed on a different theme with guest speakers challenging and information participants through a range of keynotes, panel discussion and intensive workshops. Following each conference, a detailed book is published in order to capture the key messages, themes and learning from the conference. This is an invaluable resource for every Catholic social services organisation, including those working in education, health and parish settings.

“We need to dream of an engaged, vibrant and relevant church that is reflected not just in its outreach, but more importantly, in its manner, disposition and basic humanity. … Only a heart-driven church will have any chance of relating beyond its increasingly narrowing base. Only a church that walks along with victims, and risks becoming a victim, with them, can resonate the spirit of Jesus and the dream of the Gospel.”

Francis Sullivan, Chair of Catholic Social Services Australia, speaking at the 2020 national Catholic social service conference

2024 Commons, Commonality, Common Good

The 2024 Catholic Social Services National Conference at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne aims to strengthen and advance our shared work in Catholic social services as part of the social mission of the Church – connecting with colleagues across social services, health, parishes and education. It provides a moment to share expertise, and take pause to think and imagine our place within a broader mission.

This conference desires to contribute to creating true communities out of a common effort for the common good.

Its keynotes and workshops will include focus on our theme:

For Pope Francis, everything is interconnected and justice is ecological, inclusive of both social and environmental justice. All our relationships are sustained within our common home. A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

No matter our differences, we share a common humanity. There is more that unites us than divides us. People have shared needs for thriving – social, spiritual and material needs. It is important that we hold the opportunity to build relationships and cooperation with others who see the world differently, and in a spirit of solidarity find ways to support each other — no matter age, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, political beliefs, race, religion, nationality or marital status — so that all may flourish.

Common Good:
Now is a time for reinvigorating the politics of the common good. The Common Good and the “greater good” can be confused. They are very different. The utilitarian approach of “the greatest good for the greatest number” exists in contrast to the principle of human dignity which lies at the heart of a Catholic ethic. All people are inherently valuable and unique. This requires that we do not reduce them to a mere statistic.

The common good incorporates the principle of a preferential option for the poor. This “is an uncompromising and unequivocal taking of sides in a situation of structural conflict. It is not a matter of preaching to some people rather than to others, or a matter of being generous to the ‘under-privileged’, or a judgment about the personal guilt of the rich, or even, in the first instance, a matter of life-style. It is the assertion that Christian faith entails, for everyone and as part of its essence, the taking of sides in the structural conflict between the oppressor and the oppressed” (Albert Nolan OP).

The 2024 Conference provides an opportunity for future leaders (<30) to participate via a two for one ticket. Leadership, governance and program staff will all benefit from the program. We look forward to seeing you there.

The program includes:

Keynote Speakers
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv    
Professor Mark Considine AM
Dr Julie Edwards, OAM

Mary MacKillop Oration – Conference Dinner (Wednesday 21 February 2024)
Ms Claire Victory

2020 Serving Communities with Courage and Compassion

Francis Sullivan delivering the opening keynote, Margin Call – The Risk of Integrity; Debra Zanella delivering the closing keynote, Mission on the Margins: The Call to Uncommon Courage;  Dr Ursula Stephens presenting the Mary MacKillop Oration at the conference dinner; A panel with young Catholic professionals sharing their perspectives of working in the sector; A special forum focussing on how to Mobilise Media to advance Mission and Advocacy; and much more! 

2018 Hearing Healing Hope

More than 200 participants from across Australia attended the 2018 Catholic social services national conference, Hearing Healing Hope, from Wednesday 21 February to Friday 23 February, at the Catholic Leadership Centre, in East Melbourne. The conference brought together Catholic social service agencies from all over Australia, including some representatives from the health, education and business sector. It focussed on the Church’s delivery of social services, looking at the implications for us as individuals, for our Church organisations and for our Catholic sector, parishes in particular.

2016 Review, Reimagine, Renew: Making a Difference in a Changing World

More than 250 participants attended the 2016 conference: Review, Reimagine, Renew: Mission making a difference in a changing world. Speakers were insightful and challenging, and helped participants focus on key issues, including family violence, how we behave as organisations, and our alignment with the Pope’s lived narrative of mercy. 

Keynote Speaker John Allen Jr discussed how Pope Francis’ papacy provides a Magna Carta for Catholic Social Services. Julie Edwards, CEO of Jesuit Social Services, also delivered a keynote on Hearts and Minds together for action. Barrister Julian McMahon delivered the Mary Mackillop Oration on the theme of courage and speaking truth to power. His narrative around the final days of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran was deeply moving and inspirational. A panel consisting Jocelyn Bignold, Paul Linossier, Sr Michelle Reid, Donella Johnston and Charlie King disussed Confronting Family Violence: A Challenge for the Church to make a difference.

2013 Listening Learning Leading – a conference on the impact of mission and idenity on what we do and how we do it

Listening, learning and Leading – a conference on the impact of mission and identity on what we do and how we do it was held on 9 and 10 October 2013. Keynote speakers included international author and speaker, Chris Lowney; CEO of Jesuit Social Services, Julie Edwards; Sr Margaret Mary Flynn and Bishops Eugene Hurley.

2011 The Influence of St Mary MacKillop on Catholic Social Services

Mary MacKillop was a trail blazer in the development of services in Australia. Mary is now recognised as a Saint. Those who gathered for this conference in Melbourne on 13 and 14 October 2011 engaged more deeply with her life and the work that she inspired and explored her influence today and beyond.

Mary’s strengths were legion: innovation and ability to inspire others, organisational skills, ability to read the signs of the times, etc. Her faith, hope and love were exemplary, and all were required for her to make the contributions that she did, particularly in light of the ecclesiastical and other difficulties that she faced. Speakers and respondents picked up on these themes, and her better-known aphorisms – never see a need without doing something about it; there where you are you will see God, etc – as they reflected on the principles of preferential option for the poor, professionalism, formation of the heart that inspire and guide us today.

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