Frequently Asked Questions

Consultation, transparency and participation

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section is a way of maintaining a rolling consensus that both provides feedback to the ongoing consultations and a record of themed questions and answers. The responses that appear are gathered from a couple of sessions at a time. Should you wish to contribute a question, please fill out a contact form.

Governance

What underpins the governance reform?

The governance reform is motivated by an Archdiocesan understanding of mission; at the heart of which lies the evangelising and the educative mission of Catholic education.

Our parents and families of Catholic school students deserve the best and the safest learning environments we can offer for their children, and good governance is one of the ways we can ensure the future of Catholic education in the years ahead.

What type of company is being established?

We will be consulting into next year and at this stage we do not have a final structure to which we are committed.

A Steering Committee is being appointed with accompanying expertise to work towards a model that will support good governance in service of our mission.

The civil requirement is for an incorporated body to be established.

To meet requirements a not‐for profit company limited by guarantee is proposed. This form of incorporation best serves the needs of a faith-based school while satisfying the requirements of government.

What is a company limited by guarantee and why was it chosen to govern the schools?

A not‐for‐profit company limited by guarantee is an ideal civil vehicle for a Church ministry, as the Corporations Act (2001) requires the company to set forth in its constitution its mission as the reason for its existence.

The legal fiduciary nature of a civil company’s directors ensure they must be guided by the purposes of the company – to pursue the provision of Catholic education in the Archdiocese – thus are compelled to act according to principles from Catholic Social Teaching: the dignity of the human person, the common good, solidarity, subsidiarity and participation and preferential option for the poor.

What is the purpose of the company?

To provide, support and advance Catholic education in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Will all Catholic schools in Melbourne be affected by the governance change?

No, congregational and ministerial PJP schools fall outside the group of schools in the Archdiocese governed by the new company. They will however still be in a service relationship with CEM.

Why will schools now be governed by a civil company and not the church?

The mission of Catholic education in Melbourne, through the membership of the Archbishop in the company, remains the focus regardless of the governance structure. Indeed the mission can be strengthened by civil structures. Through incorporation, a civil structure can be adopted at the Archdiocesan level that is effective and safeguards the proper ecclesiastical role of those who have a canonical oversight of Catholic schools.

As the Archbishop has, according to Can. 806 §1 ‘the right to issue directives concerning the general regulation of catholic schools’ this is reflected in his ‘membership’ of the company limited by guarantee in the civil law.

Why now?

With legislative and compliance requirements rapidly becoming more complex for our schools, an unincorporated and sole‐person governance model is increasingly unviable. The new governance model seeks both to ease the administrative burden on our schools and parishes and also to allow the parish priest to focus on the mission of education in the parish.

The establishment of this company responds to the requirements of the Victorian Government which has accepted the Betrayal of Trust recommendation, whereby organisations receiving government funding for services to children must be incorporated and insured and similar recommendations by the Royal Commission accepted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).

What model of governance is being considered?

A not‐for‐profit company limited by guarantee has a strategic board at its heart to take governance responsibility for our schools. While the Archbishop will establish and be a member of the company, the board directors, in accordance with current best practice, have responsibilities in fiduciary oversight and strategic planning, which ensure they must be guided by the purposes of the company. Directors have legal responsibilities to govern so as to provide checks and balances in the oversight of the Company and go some way in mitigating the risk that a sole‐person governance model bears.

Thus a company is made up of member, board and constitution. The member’s responsibility is to establish the company, sets it objects and purpose, appoint the directors and ensure the board discharges its obligation under the constitution through an annual report to the members, stakeholders and through lodgement with the regulators with the community. So this is the role. The company member sets terms under which the board operates – “The provision of Catholic education in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne” – and makes sure board is accountable.

Does the governance model meet with legislative and government requirements?

Yes. The Steering Committee will ensure that the new civil entity meets all legislative and compliance requirements.

What is the role of the School Advisory Committee?

School Advisory Committees will be in place at each school to support the governance process in providing a forum for the community of the school to work effectively with its Church authority, which in most cases will be the parish or an association of parishes on which the school stands and the company. The term committee has been chosen so as to avoid confusion with the board of the company.

The parish and the school

What role will the parish priest play in a Catholic school after governance reform? As a Parish Priest I am welcomed in my school. Will this continue?

The role of the Parish Priest and the value of his leadership to the mission of Catholic education within the wider context of the parish community is crucial. In other dioceses a charter has been developed by priests, principals and other stakeholders to ensure that the roles, rights and responsibilities of all are properly understood and safeguarded. This is a model that will be considered in the Archdiocese.

Will land ownership change?

Land ownership will not change under the governance model, with the Roman Catholic Trust Corporation (RCTC), of the Diocese of Melbourne continuing to be the legal owner on behalf of the relevant public juridic person (PJP).

This means that the parish retains the beneficial ownership of the land. There would be a right of use agreement going forward for the school to have long term use of the land, which would help approve registration. At this stage, there is no acceptance, as articulated by the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) of the parish charging schools for that use, as that would also undermine the school’s charitable status as outlined by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

What about Shared Facilities?

The availability and use of shared facilities provides a tangible sign to the wider community of the strong bond and partnership that exists between the parish and the school, and helps nurture a spirit of goodwill and cooperation. 

Funding for the construction and maintenance of shared facilities has, and continues to be, derived from a variety of sources, including parishioner donations and government and school maintenance grants. Each site has their own context. A detailed mutual agreement (MOU) between a parish and school regarding the overall responsibility of coordinating the usage and maintenance of all shared facilities, as a part of the long-term occupancy rights agreement would be desirable. Government regulations place strict requirements on the use of school funds, such that they can only be used for educational purposes.