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When the mission system is the bottom line! The governance of Catholic schools in Australia

Posted by ACU - La Salle Academy on 9 August 2021
When the mission system is the bottom line! The governance of Catholic schools in Australia

What is governance?

The Governance Institute of Australia provides a helpful and concise descriptor:

"Governance encompasses the system by which an organisation is controlled and operates, and the mechanisms by which it, and its people, are held to account. Ethics, risk management, compliance and administration are all elements of governance."

But is this descriptor enough? It is a descriptor that focuses on corporate governance and while such a context has much to offer those who govern Church organisations, we cannot rely on the corporate sector alone. The increased intentional focus on governance within Catholic Church organisations over the past decade, and the last few years in particular, has seen a flurry of activity, with many Catholic education authorities amending or introducing new governance arrangements. These new governance structures have drawn heavily on corporate governance practice and it is timely for us to consider whether our amended or new structures will serve us well into the future.

In addressing this issue there is some value in considering the range of governance arrangements currently in place across Catholic education in Australia. In this unique piece of work that she has undertaken for the La Salle Academy, Dr Maureen Cleary has identified twelve different governance structures or types across the 1 852 Catholic schools in the country. Each particular structure is a legitimate response to the civil and canonical requirements that govern the conduct of a Catholic school and each has been constructed so as to respond to the particular context in which they operate.

These relatively new or recently nuanced governance arrangements are not the 'be all and end all'. Every structure has its limitations and governance is an organic not a static activity. It is important that governors fully understand the governance structure and arrangements they have in place and within which they operate. It is also important for governors to be cognisant of other possible ways of governing, hence this publication. The publication is unique because this task has not previously appeared in one relatively concise publication.

What is offered in this publication is an attempt to describe the current scenario of governance of Catholic schools in Australia, along with the relevant civil and ecclesial issues that shape and influence governance.  We hope it offers the reader an opportunity to understand how their organisation is positioned within the fabric of Catholic education governance, and to consider the issues that will continue to shape their practice of governance. Most particularly, we hope this paper assists the reader to reflect on the effectiveness of their governance with attention to mission integrity.

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Professor Br David Hall fms - Dean, La Salle Academy

Author:ACU - La Salle Academy
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