A GROUNDBREAKING study shows the huge community contribution of the Catholic Church across south east Queensland.
The Archdiocese of Brisbane makes a $2.5 billion contribution to the Queensland economy through its parishes, schools and agencies, employing 22,000 staff to carry out its work and has 14,000 volunteers.
“I think even our own aren’t aware of how significant our contribution is and the extent of the work we do,” Brisbane Archdiocese director of government relations Cathy Uechtritz (pictured) said.
It’s the first time a socio-economic study of this size and scope has examined the community role of the Church, stretching across south east Queensland, taking in 17 local government areas, 24 federal and 70 state electorates.
The study is now available on the Archdiocese of Brisbane website included as part of a demographic snapshot and community contribution of the Church.
Information is broken down into easy to read infographics that quantify the direct contribution and flow-on benefits from spending and employment through its social services and education agencies across its 98 parishes, 144 Brisbane Catholic Education schools with 72,492 students, and more than 27,000 participants in early education care.
There are 12,992 aged care and disability clients, support for 8362 seniors to live well in their home and community, support to 23,000 people affected by domestic violence and help for more than 4,000 people living with mental illness.
“Being Catholic and an employee of the Archdiocese I understand the extent of the work the Catholics do, but no one had actually quantified it,” Ms Uechtritz said.
“The study is a really good education tool, not just for the politicians with whom I work, but for all our employees, all Catholics and the general public.”
Ms Uechtritz said telling the “whole Catholic story” was an important step forward – a project she had been working on since taking up her government relations position a year ago.
The breakdown of information allows her to quickly show politicians, government officials and major stakeholders what the Church contributes in their particular region, electorate or suburb.
For instance, in Dickson, the federal electorate of Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, the total Catholic contribution to the economy through education and social services delivery is $87 million, there 800 full time jobs and 807 volunteers.
In Dickson, a total of 498 local businesses benefit from Catholic services.
In the state seat of Inala held by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, $19 million is spent on Catholic social services and education delivery, there are 201 full time jobs and 323 volunteers, and 85 local businesses benefit from Catholic contribution.
These figures are compelling when putting a case for government funding Catholic services.
“It’s such a powerful tool when you talking to people about funding these services. They are big numbers and if the Catholic’s weren’t doing this work the government would have to – and it’s significant,” Ms Uechtritz said.
The new AOB study focuses squarely on the good work of the Church, a “story” that has rarely attracted mainstream media attention in recent years.
Instead, much of the spotlight on Church affairs has revolved around the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, and on high profile Church leaders and their legal battles.
“There haven’t been too many good stories about the Catholic Church of late,” Ms Uechtritz said.
“The whole story should be told. The Church has always done this work, it just hasn’t been very good at telling it as it humbly carries on going about the amazing work it does.
“I think the time has come to start talking about scope, depth and breadth of the work our agencies do, because there are a lot of people out there who have no idea as to the extent of it.
“This study is just what the Archdiocese of Brisbane agencies do – it doesn’t include all the other not for profit Catholic services such as the Mater Group, St Vincent’s, Caritas, OzCare and the Religious independent schools that operate outside of Brisbane Catholic Education such as Nudgee (College), Stuartholme (School), All Hallows’ (School) to name a few.
“The next step is to get every other Catholic entity within the Archdiocese of Brisbane and do a similar study.
“Just the Archdiocese of Brisbane’s contribution is substantial – can you imagine how massive the ‘whole’ Catholic story would be?”