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Our history

Our story began during the Great Depression, when one in three Australians were out of work. Life was hard and parents struggled - too many mouths to feed meant children ended up in institutions.

At a time when few women were educated, Norma Parker and Constance (Connie) Moffit travelled abroad to the United States to study social work. When they returned, they were the first professionally qualified social workers in Australia!

In 1935, Archbishop Mannix employed Norma and Connie to help establish the Catholic Social Service Bureau – now CatholicCare. 

At the time, the main function of ‘The Bureau’ was to admit children to over-crowded children’s homes in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Nine homes housed a total of 1,500 children, many of whom were wards of the State. 

Norma and Connie believed that removing children from their families and homes was not a solution to the social problems of the era and bravely challenged the practice of putting children in institutions. 

They showed Archbishop Mannix a new model - based on the successful Family Counselling Agency in the United States - which prevented children from being institutionalised on the basis of poverty or disability. 

Thanks to Norma and Connie, families were offered a new kind of support. With the right assistance and safety nets from the Bureau, children remained with their parents and siblings; families stayed intact.

Since that time, CatholicCare has been at the forefront of providing community services. We have worked closely with successive waves of migrant communities and adapted to meet changing social needs - around marriage and relationship education, family and relationship counselling, family support, employment, and drug and alcohol issues.

Norma went on to develop the social work department of what is now St Vincent’s Hospital and Connie was a founding social worker at what is now the Department of Human Services. 

Their courage and compassion shaped who we are and still motivates us today.

Timeline 

In the beginning

  • In 1935, the Catholic Social Service Bureau was established to administer to children’s homes throughout the Archdiocese of Melbourne.
  • The Bureau established a counselling program for birth mothers wanting to relinquish their babies for adoption.

1940s – 1950s 

  • We began by offering counselling for people dealing with post-war trauma and loss of family members.  
  • The flood of post-war migration bring an increased need for counselling servcies.
  • The Bureau changed its name to the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau.

1960s

  • We were accepted as an approved adoption agency under the Victorian State Adoption Act.
  • The Bureau was recognised by the Commonwealth government as an authorised marriage counselling organisation.

1970s

  • We opened offices in Geelong (1972), Footscray (1973), Dandenong (1973), and Ringwood (1979) – to respond to the needs of growing families in these regions.  
  • New programs were launched including: family therapy, a pregnancy support telephone service, a Vietnamese Refugee program, and emergency housing for families in crisis in the western region.
  • Father Gerard Dowling's begins his radio counselling program on Radio 3UZ.

1980s 

  • The Rainbows for All God's Children grief program commenced and the School Counselling Unit opened.
  • The Bureau pioneered the first Adoption Information Service in Australia.
  • A multicultural service for migrants and refugees opened at the Footscray branch.
  • The FOCCUS couples open communication program began.

1990s 

  • In 1998, another name change – we would now be known as Centacare Catholic Family Services.
  • A joint venture with Cabrini Hospital began and just look at how that partnership has strengthened and grown.
  • Pre-marriage education extended its courses to cater for couples seeking to enrich their marriage.

2000s

  • The GodStart post baptismal program was launched.
  • The Mary of the Cross Drug and Alcohol Centre was integrated into CatholicCare.
  • The Cool2b@School (school refusal) Program and the Developing Healthy Relationships Program for Year 11 and 12 students began.
  • The Kids Parenting Orders program and the Family Dispute Resolution program began.
  • We opened a branch in Bundoora and at the Geelong Family Relationship Centre.
  • The Victorian Family Law Pathways Network commenced.
  • The African Dads and Kids, Cross Cultural Parenting, Vietnamese Couples and Bringing Your Baby Home programs began.
  • The Prison Ministry, Youth Justice Ministry, HIV/AIDS Ministry, Mental Health Chaplaincy and Healthcare Chaplaincy were incorporated into CatholicCare.
  • The Bushfire Community Recovery Service was created after the Black Saturday bushfires.

2010 onwards

  • The Asylum Seeker Support Program began.
  • The Clemente Fitzroy program began.
  • In April 2011, we officially changed our name to CatholicCare.
  • In 2013, we commenced management of CatholicCare Gippsland for the Diocese of Sale.
  • The Family Wellbeing Support Service began in Melton.
  • We consolidated our Mitcham, Malvern and two Dandenong branches and launched our new Dandenong office.

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