Minister for Education Jason Clare MP, chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education the Archbishop of Sydney Anthony OP, Senator Deb O’Neill, NCEC executive director Jacinta Collins and NCEC chair Nicholas Moore.

The National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) welcomed representatives and supporters of Catholic education from across Australia in Canberra last week for the Catholic Education Forum.

The three-day gathering brought together around 70 Catholic education directors from across the 28 Catholic dioceses as well as state and territory commissioners, Religious Institutes and Ministerial PJP School Authorities and principal and parent association representatives.

“We came together in a unified way to discuss national strategic priorities, to engage with and advocate our message and mission to government, while demonstrating a strength of purpose and commitment to mission,” NCEC executive director Jacinta Collins said.

“We had a very positive meeting with the Assistant Minister for Education and Assistant Minister for Regional Development, Senator Anthony Chisholm at our the Regional, Rural and Remote Director’s forum.

“We were also privileged to be joined by more than 110 supporters of Catholic education a reception at Parliament House on Wednesday evening.”

Parliament House, regional, rual and remote directors

Regional, Rural and Remote Directors outside Parliament House Canberra before their meeting with the Assistant Minister for Education and Assistant Minister for Regional Development, Senator Anthony Chisholm.

Representatives from across the parliamentary sphere included the Minister for Education Jason Clare MP, the Assistant Minister for Education and Assistant Minister for Regional Development, Senator Anthony Chisholm, Shadow Minister for Education Senator Sarah Henderson and Senator Deb O’Neill. Former Education Minister Dan Tehan MP, Michael McCormack MP, Bob Katter MP, the Department of Education secretary Tony Cook and deputy secretary Meg Brighton also attended along with the chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education, the Archbishop of Sydney Anthony OP.

Minister Jason Clare

Minister Clare (pictured left) thanked Catholic education leaders for their contribution to the education of students in schools across Australia and said he looked forward to working with the sector to build a better and fairer education system for all Australians.

“Education has the power to transform people’s lives and you have dedicated your life to this mission, which is more important today than ever before,” the Minister said.

“You make the keys that can change children’s lives, the keys that help them to open the door of opportunity. We as a nation are truly grateful for your service, thank you very much.”

The Minister discussed reforms to raise student learning outcomes across the nation including the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan, changes to initial teacher education and the government’s campaign to elevate the teaching profession.

In his address to Catholic education leaders, NCEC chair Nicholas Moore (pictured right) stressed the importance of good governance and the need for clarity around the goals set for Catholic schools in terms of its strategic priorities of faith, excellence and access. “It is important that we collaborate, share and learn from the experience and knowledge across our dioceses and schools,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas Moore

Archbishop Fisher commended the forum as a way of ensuring Catholic education is closely involved in the national conversation about education and educational reform, working with government in developing our education systems for the better.

“Your presence here in Canberra this week speaks to the seriousness with which you take the mission of Catholic education in this country, and our joint determination to make the education that we offer the best that it can be,” Archbishop Fisher said.

The Archbishop said it was critical to maintain a space for religious freedom, allowing parental choice and respecting the rights and wishes of families to have their children educated within a particular faith tradition and its values.

Catholic leaders also had the privilege of being addressed by Father Frank Brennan SJ AO on religious freedom and the upcoming referendum.

NCEC directors Robert Tonkli and Anna Howarth addressed the NCEC’s strategic priorities, concluding with a productive workshop reviewing those priorities.

NCEC also farewelled three directors: Executive Director of Catholic Education in Sandhurst Paul Desmond, Director of Catholic Education for the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese Peggy Saab, and Director of Schools in the Armidale Diocese Chris Smyth. 

Together they have served education for 138 years! We congratulate and thank them for their outstanding contribution to Catholic education.

Parliament House reception

Images: Giovanni Portelli.