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New South Wales - Organisation

Catholic Family Welfare Bureau (1941 - 1967)

Catholic and Church Agency
Alternative Names
  • Catholic Family Service (also referred to as)
  • Catholic Welfare Bureau (also referred to as)

The Catholic Family Welfare Bureau was established in 1941 by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney to provide social welfare services to needy children, families and individuals. It provided marriage counselling, worked with children in orphanages and children's homes, deserted mothers and provided adoption services. The social work methods used by the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau had a positive impact on the lives of children in Catholic institutions, and helped families in crisis to stay together. In 1967 the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau became Centacare Catholic Community Services.


The Catholic Family Welfare Bureau was established at the initiative of four skilled social workers, all women. They were Norma Parker, Elvira Lyons, Constance Moffitt and Eileen Davidson and they wrote to the Archbishop of Sydney, Norman Thomas Gilroy, recommending that a 'Catholic Welfare Bureau' be established. According to the CatholicCare website:

They believed that the disadvantaged, distressed and devalued in society deserved the best possible professional care from the Church.

They believed that a Catholic welfare bureau was necessary to ensure that needy children, families and individuals were given dignity rather than pity, opportunities rather than 'handouts' and justice rather than benevolence.

In 1941 Archbishop Gilroy appointed Father A.E.R. Thomas as the first Director of the Catholic Welfare Bureau.

In the 1940s, under Monsignor AER Thomas, the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau began examining Catholic orphanages in Sydney. Sister Kathleen Burford has written that the orphanages were overcrowded and understaffed, and Monsignor Thomas recommended that the bureau control all admissions. Funds for maintaining the children were to be collected from parents or extended family of the children in care. In the period 1948-1959, a subsequent director of the bureau, Monsignor J. McCosker, interviewed parents of children in Catholic homes and required them to contribute to the upkeep of their children. The New South Wales Government was also asked to provide support. Sister Burford has written:

By the 1960s one outcome of this intervention by the Catholic Welfare Bureau was the reduction in numbers at Kincumber, Lane Cove and St Joseph's Croydon.

The Catholic Family Welfare Bureau initiated major changes in Catholic-run children's institutions in New South Wales. These included introducing a central point of control for admissions to homes, requiring parents or family members to pay maintenance for children in Catholic institutions, and the introduction of social work methods. This led to the development of casework for individuals and families, including foster care, and changes in the organisation of institutions to provide more family-like environments. The institutions were asked to rethink their approach; Kincumber, for example, converted the ferrymen's cottages to accommodation for boys, and changed its dormitories to home units.

The introduction of maintenance payments and the centralisation of admissions led to a drop in the number of children coming into care in Catholic institutions, while the development of new forms of accommodation, including cottage and units, changed the nature of institutional care for Catholic children.


 1941 - 1967 Catholic Family Welfare Bureau
       1967 - 2011 Centacare Catholic Community Services Sydney
             2011 - CatholicCare Sydney

Related Organisations



  • Burford, Kathleen E. RSJ, Unfurrowed Fields: A Josephite Story NSW 1872-1972, 1991, 287 pp. Details
  • Burford, Sister Kath R.F.J., St Anthony's Family Care, St Anthony's Family Care, Croydon, 1989. Details

Online Resources


St Anthony's Family Care
St Anthony's Family Care


Sources used to compile this entry: 'Our History', in Welcome to CatholicCare Sydney, CatholicCare Sydney, 2013,; Burford, Kathleen E. RSJ, Unfurrowed Fields: A Josephite Story NSW 1872-1972, 1991, 287 pp; Sisters of St Joseph, 'Letter from Sisters of St Joseph regarding location of records [Correspondence, Item 6]', in Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices: Submissions received by the Committee, 25 August 2011,; Thinee, Kristy and Bradford, Tracy, Connecting Kin: Guide to Records, A guide to help people separated from their families search for their records [completed in 1998], New South Wales Department of Community Services, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998,

Prepared by: Naomi Parry