Enhancing Catholic

School Identity 

Governance

On 4 October 2019, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli announced that a new governance model was required.

The new model was needed to ease the administrative burden on our schools and parishes, and ensure a focus on mission to enhance the future of Catholic education in the years ahead.

Motivated by an archdiocesan understanding of mission, the governance reform will ensure that Catholic schools provide families with the best and safest learning environments for their children.

In December 2019, a School Governance Steering Committee was established to guide the process towards a new governance model, which is proposed to come into effect by 1 January 2021.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, through the work of the Steering Committee, will have overall responsibility for the stewarding of the mission by developing and implementing a model of incorporation for Catholic primary, regional secondary and diocesan schools in the Archdiocese.

With legislative and compliance requirements rapidly becoming more complex for our schools, an unincorporated and sole‐person governance model, as currently found in our parish schools and regional colleges, is increasingly not viable.

The establishment of this company meets the requirements of the Victorian Government and the Betrayal of Trust report (2013) recommendation that organisations receiving government funding for services to children must be incorporated and insured.

A firm foundation

Consultation events with the diverse set of stakeholders were established as an expression of the commitment to develop a governance model that not only complies with government requirements, but also sets in place arrangements that sustain and strengthen Catholic education in Victoria for the long term.

Twelve consultation events took place from October to December 2019, generating 941 responses. These responses established the basis for the Steering Committee to shape a series of important threshold issues that in turn form the foundation of a Position Paper.

At the same time, seven work streams were created to ensure that the theological, legal, financial, employment and asset management issues are managed.

Catholic Education Melbourne aims for both a seamless transition into the new model and clarity around the work of Catholic education so that it can continue to contribute to Victoria’s future. The structures and processes that support Catholic education will enhance that mission for all concerned, including students and families, principals and teachers, and parish and school communities.

A Governance Update email is sent out regularly, and the project website continues to communicate information about the process and invite the engagement of stakeholders in the development of key concepts associated with the proposed new governance arrangements.

What difference will it make?

The governance journey is an opportunity to:

  • revitalise current partnerships, such as between parish priests and principals
  • review and update a variety of system policies and procedures
  • search for and embrace efficiencies, and strengthen reporting and accountability measures.

A transition to a new governance model allows Catholic education to be governed consistently with both a focus on mission and ‘best practice governance’. The governance model will incorporate the principles of ‘transparency, accountability, consultation and participation’, which the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) declared ‘desirable’ in a national review of the governance and management structures of the Church.

Who will be affected?

In the first instance, the governance arrangements for schools and colleges owned by parishes or the Archdiocese will shift from their current church authority to the company being established by the Archdiocese. While the governance arrangements for schools owned by religious institutes or ministerial public juridic persons will not change, a key goal of the change process will be to nurture the collaborative relationships and continue to deliver services effectively.

In the proposed model, employment of staff within parish primary schools, regional secondary and archdiocese‐owned schools, and Catholic Education Melbourne would be transferred to a new company on the same terms and conditions with prior service being fully recognised. Consultation with the Independent Education Union and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) will be ongoing to ensure this transition will be smooth. The Steering Committee will ensure that the new civil entity meets all legislative and compliance requirements.

The parish and the school

The role of parish priests, and the value of their leadership in the mission of Catholic education within the wider context of parish communities, is crucial. In other dioceses, a charter has been developed by priests, principals and other stakeholders to ensure that the roles, rights and responsibilities of all are properly understood and safeguarded. This is a model that will be considered in the Archdiocese.

Change

While acknowledging the complexity of the legal and operational issues involved in moving to a new governance model, what we will all be involved in is, first and foremost, a change process. This change process is a positive opportunity to further enhance the evangelising and educative ministry of Catholic education with the focus on the faithfulness to God’s mission, and the school as an educational expression of that mission within the parish.