CatholicCare partners with parishes and schools

Acting Director, CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning, Gary Christensen, outlines his approach to his new role. Gary is a Novocastrian who was educated in local Catholic schools and has considerable experience in the areas of child protection, out of home care, mental health and disability services.

I accepted Bishop Bill’s request to become Acting Director knowing that a key aspect of the role is ensuring that we become part of local communities so that we are part of local solutions to community need. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the leadership and dedication of former Director, Helga Smit. 

During my tenure as Acting Director for the next twelve months, we will be opening offices in Singleton and Muswellbrook. Here a range of services will be offered including out of home care (OOHC), disability services through the NDIS, autism and cognitive assessments and counselling and psychological services.

I have spoken with Director of Catholic Schools, Dr Michael Slattery, and we are both committed to seeing CatholicCare and Catholic schools work more closely together. One example is a partnership with St Mary’s High School, Gateshead, that will see CatholicCare employ a Community Outreach Worker to work as part of the school community to support vulnerable students and families. We will be increasing our outreach to parishes, building on our work with Holy Name Parish in Forster where we are establishing a satellite office.

Like many social service agencies, we are dealing with an ever-changing landscape. Change is challenging − and it brings opportunity. As we are now preparing for the recommissioning of OOHC in line with NSW Family and Community Services reforms for both foster and residential care, it is time to analyse whether our current OOHC structure and processes, including clinical services and early intervention, leave us best placed to optimise our position during the recommissioning process. This is coupled with the transition of our disability supported accommodation services from the current model to an ‘end to end’ therapeutic care approach that has already commenced.

I value the work of each team member and I look forward to working closely with all as we navigate change, keeping the needs of the vulnerable people whom we support at the centre of our thinking and planning.

CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning spans the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. Our mission is to listen and respond by working together with communities to build a stronger, fairer and kinder society that values children, young people, families and individuals. Echoing the gospel, we seek to provide opportunities for people to 'have life and have it to the full'. Please visit our website

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Gary Christensen

Gary Christensen is the Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning. Please visit

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