The formative years - discovering MacKillop Family Services

Posted on 02 July 2017 by Anna Masci

Team photo, taken from MacKillop Annual Report 1997-98

In 1997, MacKillop Family Services launched with over 100 individual services delivering residential care, foster care, education, disability and family support across Melbourne and Geelong.

Within the first year, a strategic planning exercise was launched to inform the future direction of the new organisation. In the CEO report of MacKillop’s 1997-98 Annual Report, MacKillop’s first CEO Paul Linossier said the process of establishing the strategic plan bought staff and stakeholders together in the crucial formative first year.

“The strategic planning exercise of early 1998 has particular significance for the organisation. Characterised by a strong consultative approach, our strategic planning enabled a wide range of staff and other stakeholders to shape and influence how the new organisation may develop over the next few years.”

MacKillop launched with over 200 staff, most of whom worked across the seven agencies that formed the organisation. It was recognised that to grow and establish the culture and identity of MacKillop, staff needed the opportunity to meet their colleagues from other locations and learn about the commonalities within their services.

The first Chair of the Board Mary Duffy said providing staff with opportunities to meet and engage in the development of the organisation was a key priority in the early years.

“As staff moved into MacKillop from seven existing agencies, great efforts were made to draw on their experience as they merged their vision and practice with that of other colleagues. The involvement of staff at all levels in the process to develop the Mission and Values of MacKillop Family Services was a truly life-giving experience for many and shaped the vision for the future.

In the first six months, staff with similar responsibilities and roles were brought together from the nine sites across Melbourne and Geelong to hear about the work of their colleagues, share their experiences of the transition, and learn more of the story of the founders of the three congregations – Edmund Rice, Catherine McCauley and Mary MacKillop. These events helped staff to understand their role in delivering upon the mission of the new organisation.

Staff were further supported by Pastoral Care workers who provided a valued service to staff for over 10 years. Pastoral Care workers supported individual staff members, assisted with reflections and celebrations, and helped the spirit of the founding Congregations find its shape in MacKillop Family Services.

As the identity and culture of the new organisation was being established, significant work was being undertaken to consolidate services, respond to government policy and establish a focus on advocacy and research. 

When MacKillop Family Services was established it was envisaged that the new organisation would play a significant role in improving policies that shape our society. Within the first year, a major research project was initiated in partnership with the Catholic Education Office and the Department of Human Services to look at the educational needs of at risk children and young people. Today, MacKillop continues its focus on research and is linked with universities and peak bodies to advocate on policy issues that best serve the vulnerable people it works with every day.

Another strong focus of the organisation was to acknowledge its history and preserve the records of its former services, in particular the orphanages that ran for close to 100 years between the 1850s and 1970s.

Jenny Glare, who formerly worked for the Sisters of St Joseph, established a Heritage and Information Service. The service started from day one and began with computerising close to 170,000 records.

“The development of the outstanding heritage and archive area was highly significant in the refounding process,” Mary Duffy said.

20 years later, Jenny continues to operate the Heritage and Information Service and Display. The innovative approaches Jenny has developed to allow people to access their records, and the support she and her team provide during the process, have been recognised as international best practice.  

As MacKillop Family Services moves into its 21st year, the focus on providing high quality individual support remains. As the sector continues to evolve and change, we continue to work with government on policy and reforms, and advocate for the people we work with.