There is no doubt in my mind that the message of the Gospel is an absolute imperative in our society today. CRA's role is to address issues of importance to religious, to the Church and to society through the lens of that Gospel message and express the prophetic voice of religious.
This is grounded in CRA's Canonical Statutes which state that its purpose is:
"to promote and support religious life in the Australian Church. By combined effort, it works to achieve more fully the purpose of each institute, while respecting the autonomy, nature and spirit of each. It deals with affairs which are common to all and works to establish suitable coordination and co-operation with Episcopal conferences and with individual Bishops (cf Canon 708)".
When, in 2016, the Assembly voted to merge the state bodies with CRA, making it the single, national peak body for Religious, the leaders resolved that the 'new' CRA should prioritise:
leadership and providing support to religious institute leaders, to ensure that religious life in Australia is animated and enriched;
collective advocacy in key areas, such as justice, education, the environment and other emerging fields, to support leaders and to influence church and society; and
working in a manner that enables the distinctive charism of religious life to evolve, keeping alive the unique identity and independent prophetic voice of religious life within the Church and beyond.
The past year has been a fulfilling and successful 12 months of doing just that. I believe that this Annual Report demonstrates that CRA is fulfilling its mission and maintaining its commitment to the priorities so clearly articulated when it was reimagined four years ago, as a truly national organisation designed to meet the needs of the future.
The gift of CRA, as an ecclesial community within the universal Church, is that it is a collaborative and inclusive organisation. We actively collaborate with a range of Church entities and agencies. Independently and through our strategic collaborations, we shape Church responses to developing issues, we give voice to the Gospel message and speak out about matters that are meaningful to religious, such as justice issues and professional standards. We are sponsors of ACRATH, CPSL, IAG and the newly established CERA and this requires continuing engagement with these groups, their leaders and staff. We have collaborated with AMPJP on matters of mutual interest as PJPs are an increasingly important part of Church.
Implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission continues to be a focal point and signals the determination of religious leaders to do everything possible to keep young people and vulnerable adults indeed all people safe with a promise of a better future. Through Anne Walker and our Professional Standards Committee, CRA has offered bespoke advice to Leaders, delivered relevant and timely information, convened meetings and seminars and helped to bring clarity to complex matters, with care and respect for the many differences in size, charism and resources of member congregations.
CRA has worked closely with the ACBC in these areas and in those related to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. 3 Together we established the Steering Committee which was charged with devising a streamlined national approach to safeguarding. Its recommendations were tabled for discussion by CRA Council and the Australian Bishops in May 2020 and were accepted. The next stage of implementation has commenced.