Jesuit Social Services and Cabrini Health Australia: a partnership

partnership picWhen two organisations with similar missions and values align, the result can influence genuine change.

Such is the long-standing relationship between Jesuit Social Services and Cabrini Health Australia. Jesuit Social Services is a social change organisation with a big vision of building a just society, and since the 1970s has worked with some of the most marginalised members of the community.

Cabrini Health Australia is a private, Catholic, not-for-profit health service which supports and operates programs addressing unmet need, while all of the organisation’s surpluses are used to develop services and facilities to provide the best possible care for patients, residents and families, as well as benefits for the community.

The relationship between the organisations was born out of a mutual commitment to improving outcomes for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

Jesuit Social Services has an office in Alice Springs and helps build capacity among local communities in the Northern Territory. Cabrini has been involved with the health clinic and Santa Teresa community since the mid- 1990s and Intjartnama Aboriginal Corporation, a family-operated outstation in the Western Arrente region, since 2000. Twice a year, approximately 20 Cabrini staff members travel to the Territory as part of Cabrini’s reconciliation story. They spend time learning about Aboriginal culture and help maintain the Intjartnama outstation. “As both organisations have long-standing relationships with communities in central Australia, we decided to meet to discuss our mutual work and the gaps that we saw,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

“We had been invited to work with local Indigenous people to strengthen their voices about their needs to government and other stakeholders. We had received a one-off donation from a private donor that had allowed for us to have a staff member for one year. This allowed us to better understand what was needed – but we had no money to build on this first step. After our initial discussions, Cabrini gave us a donation which allowed us to think longer-term about our engagement there,” says Julie.

Through work with Elders in Alice Springs, Jesuit Social Services became aware that there was also concern among the community that valuable photographs and historical artefacts were being damaged by being stored in neglected buildings.

“We understood this really mattered to the local community and brought this need to Cabrini. They were very responsive to a heartfelt need,” says Julie.

Cabrini funded the hiring of a photo archivist who consulted with the community and helped establish a database, which stores photos and narratives and was accessible to locals.

Cabrini has financially supported Jesuit Social Services’ work in the Northern Territory for three years and recently recommitted for another five years.

The latest partnership between the pair is the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), which was jointly founded by Jesuit Social Services and Cabrini Health. This Alliance aims to influence the hearts and minds of Australians to show greater compassion for people seeking asylum. CAPSA recently launched a website – – featuring the stories of people who support asylum seekers, useful resources and practical ways that everyone can help to fight indifference (ranging from volunteering with a local group, writing to people in detention to visiting a local MP).

Julie says without Cabrini’s valuable and ongoing support, this important work would not be there making the valuable contribution that it does.

“Our organisation knows that relationships are central to what we do – and that they take time to build. Cabrini looked at our track record and gave us the freedom to build relationships, work with people who need our support and stay the distance.

“We are focused on improving outcomes for people and when you venture into new types of work, you need that type of freedom.

“We love sharing this with an organisation that shares our views.”