Our History

Metropolitan Cathedral Of The Immaculate

The organisation now known as Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA), began in 1956 as the National Catholic Welfare Committee (NCWC).

Established by Monsignor Frank McCosker, with modest funding, the NCWC made significant inroads in influencing government policy with enduring outcomes.

Working alongside many others, McCosker worked to end poverty in Australia. He engaged in interfaith dialogue and collaborated with other religious groups to build broader community support and amplify the social change needed to uplift the lives of many vulnerable Australians – from securing subsidies for vulnerable children to increasing maternity allowance.

Throughout its 67 years in operation, NCWC evolved into three other identities and had several leaders at its helm. Even with its name changes, its primary role remained as the national peak body for Catholic providers of social services.

We continue to work alongside our Member Agencies and like-minded organisations to bring about enduring solutions to uplift the lives of vulnerable, impoverished Australians. Our vision remains to shape a fairer, more inclusive Australian society that reflects and supports the dignity, equality, and participation of all people.

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CSSA and Australia’s major faith-based charitable service networks unite to support Voice to Parliament.

In an open letter to the Federal Government, Monique Earsman, Executive Director of CSSA, stated,” CSSA stands with the Catholic community and other faith-based peak bodies in supporting a YES vote to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. A YES vote will be a step towards a better, and more just society where genuine reconciliation becomes possible”.

CSSA, its members, and the Australian National University produced Mapping the Potential 2020. The research aimed to understand the drivers for persistent disadvantage in Australia to inform community change.

Dr. Ursula Stephens served as the CEO of CSSA (2019‑2021).

Dropping Off The Edge

CSSA continued to advocate for disadvantaged Australians and worked towards the establishment of an independent commission to advise the Federal Government on the appropriate level of welfare payments to ensure people can have access to basic requirements.

Two critical research works were produced – New Budget Standards for Low-Paid and Unemployed Australians Report (2017), and Dropping off the Edge (2015).

Fr Frank Brennan, CEO (2017‑2019)

Marcelle Mogg, CEO (2017‑2019)

Jackie Brady, Ag Executive Director (2013‑2014)

Paul O’Callaghan, CEO (2011‑2012)

Closeup Hands Of Medical Doctor Carefully Holding Patient's Hands.

In 2001, the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission and Centacare merged to form the Catholic Welfare Commission – the third name change.

Frank Quinlan served as Executive Director from 2004‑2011.

Signed Copy Of A Newsletter By The Former Prime Minister Paul Keating
To Father Cappo and Commissions Staff, with recognition of our heroic campaign for the Australian Community. Paul J Keating. Prime Minister

A policy in the 90s of significance to note is the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Introducing the GST was a massive political issue for two decades before its introduction by Prime Minister John Howard in 1999. A large part of the final legislation opposing GST on food and other necessities is attributed to the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission’s work and influence, with the desire to protect impoverished and vulnerable Australians.

Fr David Cappo, National Director (1992‑1996)

Toby O’Connor (1996‑2004)

Parliament House

In 1984, a new entity, the National Council of Marriage and Family Counselling Associations, was formed. The National Council eventually became Centacare Australia.

The Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission (ACSWC) moved to Canberra from Sydney in March 1985.

Sr Agatha Rogers, National Director (1980‑1984)

Fr Kevin Cadwell (1984‑1992)

Thank You Note From Gough Whitlam

Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, the then Deputy Opposition Leader, wrote to Monsignor McCosker (on Qantas notepaper) and inferred a paper submitted to his office by the NCWC as something he would draw on in Parliament. The paper was called A Case for Graded Child Endowment and Increased Maternity Allowances.

Child endowment refers to government payments made to families to assist with the costs of raising children, and maternity allowances typically provide financial support to mothers during pregnancy and after childbirth.

In 1974, the NCWC was renamed the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission (ACSWC).

Fr John Davoren, Secretary (1974‑1980).

Frank McCosker (painting)

The National Catholic Welfare Committee (NCWC) was established in 1956.

Monsignor Frank McCosker was pivotal in CSSA’s history and shaped its path in the Catholic social services sector. He had a way of putting the spotlight on the causes of long-term poverty, challenging attitudes to welfare provision to enhance the dignity of the impoverished.

Monsignor Frank McCosker, Secretary (1956‑1974).

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