Townsville Catholic Diocese’s not-for-profit agency, Centacare North Queensland, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. What began as a small, volunteer-driven organisation has grown into one of the largest regional, rural and remote services in the state. Nowadays it has more than 170 staff delivering 40 programs across 33 percent of the state.
Newly appointed Centacare North Queensland Executive Director Paula Washington says that Centacare North Queensland has been ably led by strong, compassionate and committed leaders for 40 years and she hopes to continue in this tradition.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to step into the Executive Director position and have the benefit of working for, and learning from, three former Executive Directors here, as well as another in my former role with the Centacare Rockhampton diocese,” Paula says.
“Coming into the role at a time when our communities were experiencing social, economic and environmental hardship was challenging but I’ve been both amazed and reassured by the community resilience, care and cohesion that has arisen after the floods across Queensland.
“I will always remember the incredible support of Centacare Far North Queensland, who managed to secure 1000 litres of vinegar for the Townsville post-flood clean up and get it transported to us for distribution. Centacare North Queensland staff came together with good spirits and humour to distribute the vinegar in community and Recovery Centres. This is the kind of collaboration and goodwill that makes for extraordinary outcomes and reminds me of my good fortune leading an organisation with so many remarkable people on staff.”
Mindful of the massive geographic area that Centacare North Queensland covers as part of the Catholic Diocese of Townsville, Paula is committed to maintaining a strong presence in these communities.
“We have offices and staff north to Ingham, south to Bowen and west to the Northern Territory border,” Paula says.
“I have worked and lived in these communities. I understand them and respect their individual needs. Investing in local communities and delivering services there is our point of difference. Being recognised for our capability, compassion, professionalism and responsiveness to local need is crucial.
“As a not-for-profit organisation we have limitations on our capacity at times but I have a strong leadership team at Centacare North Queensland who look to creative ways to support the work we do. Whether it’s collaborating with other services and offering office space to stretch our combined service footprint or seeking new funding to address emerging service needs, we do everything we can.”
An emerging area of growth for the organisation is increasing its profile in the provision of professional development, training and employee assistance services.
“We have qualified and experienced staff providing EAP services to local organisations across the region as well as internationally recognised training such as Mental Health First Aid and ASIST Suicide Intervention Training,” Paula says.
“We’re seeing a steady growth in demand for these services as employers and the broader community recognise the importance and impact of mental health.”
Whatever challenges the future brings, Paula is here for the long haul.
“My motivation for working in this sector is lifelong – I’ve made a deliberate career choice to work with people in the provision of social and support services,” she says.
“This year marks my 25th year of working in the community and social services sector and I still feel as energised and committed as I did all those years ago.”
Centacare | North Queensland
For Townsville, Mount Isa, Bowen, Burdekin, Ingham, Charters Towers and surrounding locations
Call 1300 672 273