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A mission that endures

Suzanne Greenwood  |  21 August 2018

Cabrini nursesCatholic Health Australia was one of the original sponsors of Australian Catholics magazine. This year it celebrates its 40th anniversary. Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Greenwood reflects on how Catholic health has changed over the years.

My earliest memory of Catholic healthcare was as a nine-year-old admitted to the Holy Spirit Hospital in Brisbane. The verdict was that my tonsils and I had to part ways. I remember feeling alone in my hospital room, worried about the operation.

The joy I felt when one of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters came to my room was immeasurable. I did not know this sister, but I knew what her dress and veil meant as the kindly sisters at my primary school wore similar. By her smile, I knew that I would be OK.

Today, Catholic Health Australia represents the Catholic health and aged care services nationwide. The sector employs over 83,000 people across 80 hospitals, 25,000 residential aged care beds and 36,500 home care and support consumers. Together, these services form the largest non-government grouping of health and aged care services in Australia.

This year marks a major milestone for our organisation. In April 1978, the first National Catholic Health Care Conference was held in Melbourne. Historical records about the meeting state that it was ‘a successful meeting with some 300 delegates attending and many important issues were discussed’.

The major resolution which came forward from the conference was that a working party be established to seek the formation of a national Catholic health care association. The working party became the National Council of the Australian Catholic Health Care Association. Then early in 1982, the National Council, proceeded to the appointment of a full time Secretariat.

Many changes have occurred over time, including a relocation of the national office to Canberra and, in 1999, a name change to Catholic Health Australia. In 2018, we will celebrate 40 years since that first conference gathering as we again come together in Melbourne for our National Conference, 27-29 August 2018.

Looking back over these years, many things have changed. Advancements in clinical practice and medical technology have opened up new opportunities to achieve our vision for better health outcomes for all Australians.

Jesus was a healer. Catholic Health Australia hospitals, aged care services and community care programs walk in the healing mission and ministry of Christ. People entrust themselves into our care when they are at their most weak and vulnerable. We strive to deserve that trust through excellent clinical outcomes and care for the whole person.

Our members include St Vincent’s Health Australia, St John of God Health Care, Little Company of Mary Health Care (Calvary), Mercy Health, Cabrini Health, Mater Hospitals and Health Services, Southern Cross Care, Villa Maria Catholic Homes, Ozcare, Catholic Healthcare, MercyCare, Catholic Homes, and many more.

Our welcome is for everyone – you do not need to be Catholic to be cared for in a Catholic hospital, residential aged care facility or community care service. Some people may have doubts when they come to us about what it means to be cared for in a Catholic service. They may not understand our views on euthanasia, assisted suicide, abortion and so on. But the service they receive will be an expression of compassionate care and respect for their individual dignity and sacredness as a human being, and through this they will experience our mission.

For more about Catholic Health Australia, go to

Image: Cabrini nurses


Topic tags: thecatholictradition, valuesandmoraldecision-making

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