The Bishops of Western Australia will incorporate Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA), Auxiliary Bishop of Perth Donald Sproxton announced last week at the Catholic Education Leaders’ Forum at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Effective 1 January 2020, the change is the result of several years of exploration and planning to improve and strengthen the governance of Catholic education in the State.
In its current form, CEWA is governed by the Catholic Education Commission of Western Australia, which was formed in the 1970s.
“Our predecessors in their wisdom and foresight identified then, that Catholic education would be best served by a Commission that catered for the enormous demands on schools that were in existence at that time,” Bishop Sproxton said.
“It was through [the CECWA] that the essential ‘character’ of Catholic education was preserved.”
In his address to Catholic education leaders from CEWA’s 162 schools and offices, , Bishop Sproxton said the Bishops of Western Australia have always maintained a continuous improvement approach to the governance of Catholic education.
“The Bishops of Western Australia and the Catholic Education Commission of WA (CECWA) have been on a journey for a number of years to improve and strengthen the governance of Catholic education in Western Australia,” he said.
With about 76,000 students and 13,000 staff under the care of the Catholic education system, Bishop Sproxton said necessary steps were to be taken to review and secure the system’s sustainability.
In 2018, the Bishops convened an Incorporation Steering Committee to review the governance of Catholic education.
The Steering Committee worked closely with current and former employees and external agencies to understand the impact of the potential change, including the consideration of property, workforce, finance and registration.
It was unanimously recommended that an incorporation be prioritised to best support the system of Catholic schools in WA.
He added that the move to a contemporary governance structure involves promoting greater clarity and transparency, saying the decision was not made lightly.
“This incorporation will see the existing CECWA governance structure transitioned to a public company, of which the four diocesan Bishops are shareholders, who in turn appoint a Board of Commissioners to provide strategic governance of the system,” he explained.
Bishop Sproxton said the Bishops of WA reaffirm the initial establishment of the Catholic Education Commission in supporting Catholic schools, and will continue to have oversight over this change of governance structure.
This will see the Bishops undertake thorough assessment and research into the governance model of the Commission moving forward and appoint members accordingly.
CEWA Executive Director Dr Debra Sayce echoed Bishop Sproxton’s sentiments about clarity and transparency being a focus of the change in the governance model in the future.
“The Bishops of Western Australia are confident the move to a contemporary governance structure will provide greater clarity and transparency, and will positively contribute to the sustainability of Catholic schools in the future,” she said.
“The three great hallmarks of Catholic education have been subsidiarity – decision making at the right level, participation – collegial and mindful of our relationships with parents, students, our own communities and broader agencies, and third, being co-responsible – looking at how we best be good stewards of our limited resources and to be good decision makers around expenditure and finance
“The Commission has been extraordinary in its support and service to our schools for providing directions on what we need to do to serve our school communities, serve our parishes and our Church in a proactive way, so thinking strategically about the future is of great importance.”