Publication Details

Camilleri, P. & Winkworth, G. (2004). Mapping the Catholic social services. Australasian Catholic Record, 81 (2), 184-197.


Faith based agencies are the major providers of social services in Australia (Lyons, 2001: 34-35). The Industries Commission into Charitable Institutions in 1995 was the first major review of the role of charities (most of which are faith-based) within the Australian social welfare system. The role of charities has always been of central importance to the social welfare system. In 1995 according to the Industry Commissions Report on Charitable Services, around 11,000 community social welfare organisations received government funding in Australia. The same report recognised that there were an unknown number of other organisations, which relied entirely on volunteers and private donations to finance their social welfare activities (Industry Commission, 1995:XV11). An earlier study undertaken in 1981 (see Graycar and Jamrozik, 1993) estimated that between 25,400 and 48,500 Non- Government Welfare Organisations (NGWO) existed in Australia with about 37,000 being the estimate. It should be noted that they also estimated that about two thirds of these received some government funding. Perhaps most importantly more that thirty five per cent had an income of less than $5,000 per year. Since these two studies the social welfare sector has undergone considerable changes. There have been fundamental shifts in funding arrangements between government and non-government providers including a move away from grants based funding to contractual arrangements with an emphasis on improving quality, accountability and value for money. The issue of separation of Church and State has been a 'sleeper' in Australian social policy debates. The scope and extent of services provided by the large faith based agencies is not routinely reported. This paper reports on one of the faith based sector - the Catholic Church. It is estimated that the Catholic Church is the largest provider of social welfare services in Australia (Cleary, 1994). The paper reports on an attempt to map this 'sector'.