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2016 ARCHBISHOP’S CHRISTMAS APPEAL FOR LifeLink: Dignity at the heart of Centacare’s 40-year mission


Centacare Employment and Training Executive Director Lee-Anne Phillips cuts the cake to mark the not-for-profit organisation’s 40-year anniversary. Photo: Rachel Curry

By Rachel Curry

“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.”

With these words, Centacare Employment and Training Executive Director Lee-Anne Phillips wrapped up the celebrations for the not-for-profit organisation’s 40-year anniversary at its West Perth training centre on Friday, 18 November.

It was a fitting sentiment for an organisation that has always had at its core a Christian ethos which supports the worth and dignity of every person and their right to gain the skills and qualifications for participation in the workforce.

Founded in 1976 as an agency of the Archdiocese of Perth, Centacare has survived numerous changes in government and funding models over the past four decades to become the thriving organisation it is today.


Centacare Employment and Training staff Claire Willis, Doug Bell and Kallan George enjoy the celebrations at their West Perth training centre. Photo: Rachel Curry

This fact was not lost on Ms Phillips, who addressed staff, volunteers and special guests, including board members Pat Doody and Ann Anderton and Archdiocese of Perth CEO-Administration, Greg Russo, at the celebrations.

“Not many not-for-profit organisations stay the course of time to celebrate 40 years of service to the community, but this is exactly what Centacare Employment and Training has been able to achieve,” she said.

“It seems to me that the 40 years of Centacare have been like a relay race, with individuals and teams picking up the baton, running with it for some years, sometimes many, and then handing it on.

“It is a tribute to the many staff, volunteers, the board and supporters who have run this race with us.”


Gwen Wood, Chair of the Board of Centacare Employment and Training, addresses staff, volunteers and special guests at the celebrations on Friday, 18 November. Photo: Rachel Curry

Chair of the Board, Gwen Wood, also spoke at the celebrations, recalling how she first discovered the devastation unemployment could wreak on young people and families in the early 1970s.

She was working as a Commonwealth Employment Officer at the time and said the impact of the economic recession was clear to see.

“I remember that unemployment was very high and the office used to be crowded all morning with people looking for work and very often, the queue would be out the door and down the street and down another street even,” she said.

“The queues just went on, day after day, of people looking for work. I was a young woman, just graduated, and this was a new side for me.”

It was at this time that Centacare Employment and Training was founded under the name Centrecare Youth Information Centre, opening its doors at Aberdeen Street in Northbridge.

Today the organisation has six metropolitan locations, including Gosnells, Cannington, Mirrabooka, West Perth, Joondalup and Midland, and offers flexible education and fully accredited industry training programs to students from a wide range of backgrounds.


Centacare Employment and Training staff Susan Gant, Lisa Lee, Marie Bellinger, Kate Richardson and Renae Nyasvimbo are happy to be part of the not-for-profit organisation’s 40-year history. Photo: Rachel Curry

Concluding her speech, Ms Wood said she was proud that the primary focus of Centacare had never changed over the years.

“It’s always been the belief and the mission and the aim of Centacare that people are best able to look after themselves and make a good life for themselves and their families, and to contribute to the community and to the welfare of Australia, if they are able to participate in the workforce,” she said.

“If they are ready and able and wanting to have a job, then it’s our duty really to help them prepare for that.

“They deserve the opportunity, and that is what we are trying to provide here: to give people the opportunity to benefit themselves.”

LifeLink agencies such as Centacare Employment and Training reach out to help more than 34,000 Western Australians in need each year, through the provision of accommodation, food, clothing, emergency assistance, counselling, and the protection of women and children escaping domestic violence and abuse.

The Archbishop’s Christmas Appeal for LifeLink was officially launched in parishes throughout the Archdiocese on the weekend of 19-20 November 2016.

This is the only appeal conducted in parishes each year to help support welfare delivery in the Archdiocese of Perth.

To help ‘heal the wounds and warm the hearts’ of people in need this Christmas, you can donate securely online at