Coming together: MacKillop's formation

Posted on 01 July 2017 by Anna Masci

Leaders from MacKillop's early years gather to celebrate 20 years.

Leaders from MacKillop's early years gather to celebrate MacKillop's 20th anniversary. From left to right: Brian Mitchell, Paul Linossier, Penny Noonan, Sr Kath Tierney, John Hurren, Sr Mary Duffy, Sr Joan Healy, Sr Helen Delaney, Brian Luby, Sr Cath Quirk, Margaret Burke, Sr Colleen O’Dwyer, Anne Condon, Br Trevor Parton.

In 1997, seven child and welfare agencies, managed by the Christian Brothers, the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of St Joseph, came together to form MacKillop Family Services. These seven agencies were:

  • Mercy Family Care Centre, North Geelong
  • St Vincent tie Paul Child & Family Services, Black Rock
  • St. Augustine's Adolescent &: Family Services, Geelong
  • St Joseph's Homes for Children, Flemington
  • St. Vincent's Boys Home, South Melbourne
  • St. Anthony's Family Service, Footscray
  • St Joseph's Babies & Family Services, Glenroy

In the 1970s and 1980s, in the decades before MacKillop’s formation, these agencies were experiencing change. There was a shift from large residential institutions to smaller units, home-based care and family preservation services. The sector was evolving and change was afoot.

In the early 90s, the Directors of the agencies recognised an increasing need for welfare services. On top of this, government policies were changing, funding was constrained, and more resources were required to undertake research and advocacy. There was a clear understanding that significant change was required to be sustainable and continue to provide high quality support to vulnerable children, young people and families.

The Christian Brothers Congregational leader at the time, Michael Godfrey said change was needed to ensure the congregations could continue to support vulnerable children, young people and families.

“The three Congregations each had a growing awareness that they could not continue to offer valuable services indefinitely into the future within the existing structures. The Congregations conducted similar ministries, but felt that new initiatives and greater coordination and cooperation was needed if the services offered were to continue to benefit countless people across Victoria,” Michael said.

And so the process to form MacKillop Family Services began. Over the next two years, the Directors approached the Congregational leaders with the idea of a union, proposals were formed, independent research was conducted, and a thorough review was undertaken. The benefits of coming together became clear. It was decided a new organisation would be established as a re-founding of the three congregations.

In 1995, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, proposing the new organisation, yet to be named, would commence operations on July 1, 1997.

In early 1996, a Transition Officer, Brian Luby, was appointed to project manage the transition process. Brian was a trained social worker and bought his considerable experience in management, organisational review and transition processes to the role.

The Mercy congregational leader at the time, Helen Delay said equality and partnership were important principles throughout the transition process.

“We worked together as equals, even though we were not equal in size,” Helen said.

The transition process spanned over 18 months. In this time, sub-committees worked through the mission programs and structure, finance, property and legal issues, workforce and industrial relations and the information techonology needs of the new organisaton.

In July 1997, MacKillop Family Services was launched under the leadership of its first CEO, Paul Linossier. Paul’s leadership focused on consolidating the organisation and strengthening its ability to continue to provide dedicated and high quality support to children, young people and families. 

In his first Annual Report CEO message, Paul wrote “As a child learns from the experience of day to day life, so must an organisation.”

Read about MacKillop’s early years here.