Caritas Australia started in the early 1960s among lay Catholics who wanted to make a difference on issues of social justice. To tackle the issues of hunger and poverty, they created the Catholic Overseas Relief Committee in 1964.
The same year, parishes collected money to assist a Diocesan Priest working in Peru, Latin America, and the Newman Institute conducted a parish-based Lenten appeal across Adelaide, raising nearly £1000 for a deep-sea fishing boat for First Australian communities off Bathurst Island.
Today, Caritas Australia is part of one of the largest humanitarian networks in the world, Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 165 national Caritas organisations, with over one million staff and volunteers.
Caritas Australia’s humanitarian assistance and long-term development programs have supported communities in nearly 120 countries across Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Latin America, as well as First Australian communities.
Over the decades, Caritas Australia has also worked to achieve God’s vision of a just and compassionate world by deepening public understanding of poverty, aid and development in Australia. This work has enabled supporters to care, love and partner with the world’s most marginalised in the name of Jesus.
Caritas Australia’s CEO, Paul O’Callaghan, said that Australian Catholic schools and parishes have been instrumental in achieving significant change with partner organisations in First Australian communities and overseas.
“For 50 years, our volunteers, supporters, partners and staff have worked alongside some of the world’s poorest communities. All human beings are part of God’s family and each of them is worthy of respect and dignity. We work with them on that basis,” he said.
“When the community is at the centre of decision-making, positive change becomes possible. Caritas Australia fosters partnerships with communities that are most vulnerable to extreme poverty and injustice and supports them to be the architects of their own sustainable development. We have also sought to educate and inspire fellow Australians to act for justice in this regard,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
The story of this support can be found in a new film on the agency’s website, along with other films that focus on work in specific regions. And in this 50th Jubilee year, the story will also be celebrated in a special Celebration Mass with Australia’s Catholic Bishops at Mary MacKillop Chapel in North Sydney on 26 November.
“It is the shared faith, compassion and commitment to act for justice in solidarity with the poor that marks out Caritas Australia’s role in transforming lives within our First Australian communities and in more than 30 countries,” Mr O'Callaghan said.
PHOTO: Front row centre, Roy Boylan one of the founders of Caritas Australia with fellow supporters in the early years. Photo courtesy of ACR/Caritas Australia.
For more information visit www.caritas.org.au/50years to explore Caritas Australia’s interactive timeline, maps and videos, and discover the many faces of Caritas Australia.