Response to Sydney Morning Herald Statement on Laity

Sep 7, 2018 | Featured

Working with the laity is more than simply a slogan at St John of God. Lay men and women have played an important part in mission, serving critical, caring roles over many decades.

The late Dr David Armstrong, an honoured academic before being appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser to head Australia’s Bicentennial Authority, went on to take the senior leadership role of all the Victorian services of St John of God.

Dr Michelle Mulvihill also played a crucial pioneering role, in an advisory capacity and as case manager for the Order nationally and in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. St John of God was one of, the first Catholic religious order to voluntarily form its own Professional Standards Committee, which continues to be made up of a wide range of experienced women and men drawn from academia, the legal fraternity, particularly human rights lawyers, psychologists and psychiatrists, each of whom is completely honorary.

In the 1960s in Victoria, the two group homes for young people with disabilities at Mentone would not have managed so well without the continual involvement of a suitably qualified and compassionate House Mother. Similarly at Yarra View, Lilydale during the 1970s, where St John of God provided upwards of 20 group homes, each had its requisite number of religious and lay staff, including a House Mother.

The same policies and procedures were adopted at the five group homes built on the campus of Kendall Grange, Morisset (NSW) in the late 1970s and during the 1980s. Lay men and women fulfilled crucial roles at St John of God hospitals at Burwood and Richmond (NSW) and Christchurch (NZ), both within the hospitals themselves and at the associated group homes – for adult patients with mental health issues at Richmond, and for adult physically disabled people at Christchurch.

For all of its more than seventy years in Australia and the wider region, with such a broad range of services and programs, each with its own particular focus on helping severely disadvantaged people, St John of God has relied on competent lay women and men to assist in the administration of the Order in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.