From our recent Board meeting

Rachel Smith, Education Officer: Social Justice

Rachel joined the meeting to share the intention of the statement: Australian Catholic Bishops Conference ‘Responding to the Cry of the Earth’ and Laudato Si, which is to provide a theological foundation to inspire effective action. The statement calls us all to respond with shared wisdom and knowledge towards ecological conversion.

Rachel encourages everyone to reflect on the Laudato Si action goals and consider what responses may be possible. Further information can be found here.

The Board will review the Laudato Si action goals and consider how and what it can do to achieve these goals.

Kate Lawry, Leader: Catholic Identity and Mission (Interim) & Senior Officer: RE and
Jim Waight, Education Officer: Formation and Mission

Kate and Jim presented an informative session on Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI), Formation and Mission. The presentation touched on professional development formation opportunities for early career teachers, identification of formation needs and development of resources and the Awakenings curriculum. Catholic Identity, culture and community are key elements of the Board’s obligations to Bishop Paul and to our school communities. This session assisted the Board in its review of the current committee structure and how to ensure that the Board is receiving the information it needs and whether the Board can do anything further to support this important work.

Gina Bernasconi, Education Officer: ECSI

Gina spoke to the board in regard to ECSI, including background information about ECSI, an overview of the ECSI survey instruments, and CEB’s advice and support to schools to understand their ECSI data. Given the importance of the ECSI data to monitoring Catholicity in our schools, this was an important session for the Board.

Marita Wright, Governance, Risk & Compliance Consultant

Marita worked with the Board to discern a way forward for the Audit, Risk and Finance Standing Committee. Discussion centred on the Board’s awareness of critical risks that are rated high and appropriate controls for these risks, the line of sight to and from schools and CEB, and new and emerging risks. The Board are continuing to work with Marita in ensuring that our committee structure provides key information and data with respect to risk to the Board to ensure that the Board’s decision making manages risk appropriately.

For more information

If there is something that DOBCEL can assist you with understanding better, please contact the Executive Officer, Janine Hillman, on

From the Chair

On behalf of the Board, I again express our gratitude for all of the ongoing hard work, dedication and flexibility of our school staff and Catholic Education staff in dealing with the complexity brought about by COVID-19 and now the mandatory vaccinations. 

We are disappointed that we have not been able to travel to the regions and visit schools very much this year but we hope to be able to travel next year and we look forward to thanking you personally then.  Irrespective of whether we visit schools in person or not, school communities are always at the centre of everything we do and every decision that the Board makes.

I think in these difficult times we can all take some advice from St Mary MacKillop, whose words to her sisters were recalled in the opening session of the Plenary Council: ‘Let us move forward being calm and full of hope.’

Recently the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia was held online.  The topics of discussion are very relevant to our school communities: considering the place of Indigenous Australians in the church and in society, reflecting on church renewal, governance, ministries, faith formation for families and young people, parish organisation, and social services. Each group was asked to develop a concrete proposal for improving church life.

Tracey O’Neill
Diocese of Ballarat Catholic Education Limited

From Our Recent Board Meeting

DOBCEL Board Formation Retreat With Sr Karon Donnellon

The Board recently gathered with Sr Karon for a peaceful and engaging morning focusing on topics such as our Vision, Mission and purpose and unique qualities of the DOBCEL Board. This was an invaluable experience for the Board, enabling it to focus on the role that the Board plays in Catholic Culture in our schools and within CEB.

DOBCEL Standing Committees

Standing Committees of the Board play an important role in ensuring that the Board is fully informed and can make a decision that is in the best interests of the schools that it governs. The Board is reviewing the current Standing Committee structure to ensure that each Standing Committee is providing the Board with the required information and data required for good governance. Our starting point is the mission of Catholic Schools and Catholic community, faith and culture and how that is reflected in the ECSI Standing Committee.   

When considering each Standing Committee, some of the important questions we ask ourselves are:

  • What information/data does the Board need from the Standing Committees to govern effectively?
  • What do we currently have – historical perspective of Standing Committees?
  • Will they serve a Board with a new direction?
  • Is there a gap in that information? If so, where is it?
  • Foremost in our minds was Catholic Identity and ensuring that it is in everything that we do and a part of every Standing Committee.

Consultation with each Standing Committee and Principals will be very important in this space, and we look forward to having those discussions.

The DOBCEL Board is grateful to all those who serve as members, executive officers and administrative support for our current Standing Committees, Working Parties and Reference Groups. Your wisdom, expertise and practical advice ensures that our growing responsibility around policy and governance is enhanced by the participation of all our partners. The Board looks forward to continuing in this work with you in the future.

International Studies in Educational Administration

Journal of the Commonwealth Council for Education Administration and Management:
An Adaptive Leadership Response to Unprecedented Change’.

Congratulations to Helen Goode, Rachel McGennisken and Emma Rutherford on the publication of this article. It is an excellent article and great exposure for Catholic Education Ballarat.

Cyber Safety – Kevin Brodie

Kevin presented the Board with an explanatory commentary on Cyber Safety within DOBCEL and explained the IT Support that is currently available in our schools and at CEB, and how we are evolving into a highly connected ecosystem. We have great opportunities to provide powerful data solutions at a school and system level.

For More Information

If there is something that DOBCEL can assist you with understanding better, please contact Executive Officer Janine Hillman on

From the Chair

Last week we celebrated the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, known in the Catholic Tradition as the parents of Mary, and grandparents of Jesus. Pope Francis declared 25 July World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. We remember and pray for all Grandparents and the Elderly, particularly in these difficult times of COVID-19. 

We also acknowledge Family Week which will be held from 8-14 August, and is a time to celebrate the important role families play in Catholic education and our school communities. Family Week coincides with the Feast Day of Australia’s First Saint, Mary MacKillop, who was a passionate educator and advocate for children and families. 

On behalf of the Board, I again express our gratitude for all the hard work, dedication and flexibility of our school staff and Catholic Education staff in dealing with the complexity brought about by COVID-19 and this latest lockdown.

When we travel for our meetings this year, we are continuing to invite members of local School Advisory Councils and Boards to share a meal with us. We have found the dialogue and table fellowship to be a source of practical wisdom for our work together. Please contact us to invite us into your community.

Tracey O’Neill
Diocese of Ballarat Catholic Education Limited

DOBCEL Board Report

During this month’s DOBCEL Board Meeting Directors completed a training module facilitated by Dr John Harte, Managing Partner of Integrity Governance with Australian Institute of Directors.  John’s focus was on ‘Strategy and risk for the not-for-profit Director’. 

McLaren Hunt Financial Group presented the Audited Financial Report for the Diocese of Ballarat Catholic Education Limited (DOBCEL), which comprised the statement of financial position as at 31 December 2020, the statement of comprehensive income, statement of changes in equity, and statement of cash flows for the year ended 2020. In addition, the auditors presented the financial position of each of the 56 DOBCEL schools identifying areas of strength and areas for growth.

Other agenda items included SIMON, ICON and the Victorian Association of Catholic Primary School Principals.

In the ever-evolving COVID-19 landscape, know that you will be in my thoughts and prayers as we face the unknown again this week.

Tracey O’Neill
Diocese of Ballarat Catholic Education Limited

National Reconciliation Week

May 27 to June 3 is National Reconciliation Week. The theme for 2021, ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action.’, urges the reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action.

We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories, cultures and futures.

According to the 2020 February census, the Ballarat Diocese has 423 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in the 64 Catholic schools and colleges; that is 182 indigenous students enrolled in our secondary colleges and 241 indigenous students enrolled in our primary schools.   

Catholic Education Week

Last week we proudly celebrated Catholic Education Week. The theme for 2021 is ‘Faith in the Future’, which speaks of the essence of hope in faith, essential against the backdrop of this year. 

In celebration of 200 Years of Catholic Education in Australia we were delighted to welcome approximately 200 students, staff, parents and community from across the Diocese of Ballarat to celebrate Mass in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat last Monday. 

Representatives travelled from:

  • Alfredton – St Thomas More Primary School
  • Ballan – St Brigid's Primary School
  • Ballarat – St Patrick's Primary School
  • Ballarat East – St Alipius Primary School
  • Ballarat East – St Francis Xavier Primary School
  • Ballarat North – St Columba's Primary School
  • Camperdown – St Patrick's Primary School
  • Clarke's Hill – St Mary's Primary School
  • Colac – Sacred Heart Primary School
  • Colac – St Mary's Primary School
  • Coragulac – St Brendan's Primary School
  • Creswick – St Augustine's Primary School
  • Delacombe – Lumen Christi Primary School
  • Dunnstown – St Brendan's Primary School
  • Hopetoun – St Joseph's Primary School
  • Lucas – Siena Catholic Primary School
  • Maryborough – St Augustine's Primary School
  • Murtoa – Our Lady Help of Christians Primary School
  • Mt Clear – Emmaus Catholic Primary School
  • Redan – St Aloysius Primary School
  • St Arnaud – St Patrick's Primary School
  • Swan Hill – St Mary's Primary School
  • Warracknabeal – St Mary's Primary School
  • Ararat – Marian College
  • Ballarat – St Patrick's College
  • Ballarat – Loreto College
  • Colac – Trinity College Colac Inc.
  • Hamilton – Monivae College Ltd
  • Swan Hill – St Mary MacKillop College
  • and St Patrick's Primary School, Nhill, where Olivia told us she had to get up at 5am to travel to Ballarat

It was a long way for many students and staff to travel and we appreciate and thank them for their attendance.

Tracey O’Neill

Diocese of Ballarat Catholic Education Limited

Summary of the DOBCEL Board Meeting held Tuesday 22 April by Video

John Meneely informed the Board that Consent Education in schools has received media attention lately following Minister Merlino’s announcement that from Term 2 this year the teaching of consent will be mandatory in all government schools.

John reiterated that Catholic anthropology underpins respectful relationships across the curriculum. Programs and initiatives we have in place already incorporate consent education and additional work will provide further background for teachers.

Risk Management was again on the agenda. Julie Duynhoven elaborated on the DOBCEL Risk Management Overview Policy and Procedures and the HINT dashboard.

Tim O’Farrell, Safeguarding and Standards Manager reported on Child Safety in Schools. Tim explained that CEB and Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV) use Polonious as the preferred reporting platform.  Polonious is a company established in Australia to provide a secure way of managing and recording information.  Tim monitors and addresses complaints and explained that most cases are directed back to school level for resolution where it is appropriate to do so.

Summary of the DOBCEL Board Meeting held Tuesday 23 March in Hamilton

The DOBCEL Board had the pleasure of meeting in the impressive new Cricket Pavilion at Monivae College.  The Pavilion, Chevalier Indoor Cricket Centre and the oval upgrade were part of a major project completed in 2020.

DOBCEL Board Directors visited the following schools on the way to Hamilton; All Saints Portland, St Malachy’s Edenhope, Sacred Heart Casterton, St Joseph’s Coleraine, St Joseph’s Penshurst and St Mary’s Hamilton.

Hamilton network Principals and School Advisory Council members joined the board for dinner and took the opportunity to discuss the role out and implementation of the DOBCEL Policies.

Ms Sandra George, a Risk Consultant with Catholic Church Insurance provided a workshop on Risk Management within our organisation.  The Board will consider the development of risk appetite statements which will assist with managing accurate risk ratings.

Julie Duynhoven presented the updated Risk Register and Hazard Incident Reporting Tool which will be rolled out to schools in coming weeks.

The Executive Director’s report included:

  • A progress report on the recently acquired Gillies Street building which Ballarat based CEB Staff hope to move into in July-August this year.
  • School visits have been an excellent way of getting to know principals and school communities and understanding what individual school priorities may be to assist in decision-making.
  • Gender Dysphoria issues – Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) will release a statement later in the year. Catholic Education Ballarat is seeking and obtaining support from Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) for current students. Other resources are being explored.

The following Policies and Procedures were presented to the board for consultation and recommendation for ratification by Bishop Paul:

  • DOBCEL Anti-Slavery Policy and Procedures
  • DOBCEL Procurement and Purchasing Policy and Procedures
  • DOBCEL Celebrating Outstanding Service and Leadership Policy

Message from the Chair, Ms Tracey O’Neill

The transfer of governance of parish schools to Diocese of Ballarat Catholic Education Limited (DOBCEL) has resulted in changes in the formulation and promulgation of policies across diocesan schools. While in the long term it is anticipated that the uniformity necessitated in policy development will result in a significant lessening of the burden for school leadership, it is acknowledged that this period of transition has necessitated an increase in workload.

The DOBCEL Board recognises the demands this has put onto school administration and appreciates the efforts of many members of school communities to meet these requirements in the first half of the year.

At this special time set aside to honour mothers and other women who nurture children, we pray for each one of them. May each mother in our community be granted a special blessing - that the work of her hands show the love she has for the children and young people in her care, that her example be a guiding force in their lives and that her wisdom be passed to the next generation of those who nurture our children. May those mothers who are no longer with us be remembered with fondness and live on as a positive influence in our lives.