Five minutes with Jacinta Collins
The Catholic Education office of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn celebrated the 200 years of Catholic education in Australia with a Mass said by Archbishop Christopher Prowse at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Manuka. The Catholic Voice spent five minutes with Executive Director of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) Jacinta Collins.
The Archbishop said in his homily that we are in a time of perpetual change – what are your thought on this?
One of the challenges is the pace at which life now changes, and in this past year, particularly with the pandemic, people’s lives are changing from one day to the next. The hope is we will move past the pandemic and be able to give our families and staff more security and certainty in their lives, and the skills to live in a world which is constantly changing.
How has COVID affected your role?
As my role is a national role, it involves some travel, so each time borders close we have new challenges to face. In one week I could be entering three different states which mean I have three different COVID restrictions to deal with.
What are some of the challenges Catholic education faces?
The advantage of Catholic education is that we have funding certainty. Over the last couple of years we have had some challenges to achieve that. The challenges going forward are how to best harness these resources, how to improve student outcomes, and how well we are able to meet students’ needs.
How does your background in politics help you in your role?
I started in this role in early 2019 after spending nearly 25 years in parliamentary politics. I have been able to bring the skills I’ve developed in other spheres into my role as NCEC Executive Director to help the church meet some of its challenges.
In what way is Catholic education different to secular education?
Our families see the importance of Catholic values in their children’s education. Catholic education is not just about academic learning, but supporting the development of our students in both faith and character to contribute to the social fabric of their communities. We seek to provide services to all Australians regardless of their backgrounds and to support disadvantaged communities to ensure their future is better by having access to a good education.
The religious orders have had a significant impact on Catholic education – what are your thoughts on this?
Our history and our heritage is based around the enormous contribution that’s been made by both Catholic religious and early lay people. We’ve already in a sense made the transition to lay teachers, but we appreciate that much of our heritage has been built on the contribution of religious orders and the rich charisms they have brought to our school communities.
What do you see the future of Catholic education looking like?
Our mission is to promote Christ-centered education providing excellent and inclusive schooling. As we celebrate 200 years I’m very optimistic. One in five students is educated in our schools and we can continue to provide high quality education for a large proportion of Australian society.