Aboriginal Catholic Care helping First Nations People through tough times

By Parramatta Catholic Foundation, 18 May 2023


Aboriginal Catholic Care provides a community drop-in centre for First Nations people in Western Sydney so they can access practical assistance and learning opportunities. As times become overwhelmingly difficult, your generosity will help us continue the life-changing support we provide for our First Nations sisters and brothers, and anyone in need.

In launching the Bishop’s Good Samaritan Appeal, Fr Fernando Montano, our Diocese’s Episcopal Vicar for Social Welfare, says: “In these increasingly trying times, Aboriginal Catholic Care has an even greater challenge to open its doors wider for many more of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, and neighbours in need.

“Right now, First Nations people in our community are experiencing homelessness, lack of access to social services, unmet basic needs, limited opportunities for personal development and social exclusion,” he says.

The good news is that our Aboriginal Catholic Care Centre in Emerton is playing an important role in helping First Nations People, thanks to community support.

As one of four Catholic Care community drop-in centres in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, Aboriginal Catholic Care is truly a place ‘led by Aboriginal people, for Aboriginal people’. The centre provides a sense of belonging to First Nations people and offers a range of free activities including a yarning circle, parenting programs for young mums, art and craft classes, literacy classes and technology support.

“We sit down and have a yarn and a cuppa. It’s really nice. I especially love the stories from the aunts and yarning with the Elders, listening to their stories and the old days and what tribes they’re from. It’s very similar to what we do back home in the village,” says the centre’s Aboriginal Community Outreach Worker, Jaycee Edwards.

Catholic Care Community Outreach Worker Jaycee, Aunty Rhonda, and Deanne. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Aunty Rhonda, a 71-year-old Bundjalung Elder, agrees saying: “It’s a family, giving of each other. It’s like home.”

The benefits that Aunty Rhonda has received from Aboriginal Catholic Care in Emerton have been significant. With a limited and disrupted childhood education, Aunty Rhonda has improved her reading and writing skills by participating in Aboriginal Catholic Care’s free weekly literacy classes.

Her confidence and independence have also flourished with support from the centre’s yarning circles, community pantry and counselling services. “It gives you this beautiful feeling,” says Aunty Rhonda. “And I’ve had that since I’ve been a part of it. I just belong.”

Aunty Rhonda is now giving back to the centre and community by being a Catholic Care volunteer. She says she wants to offer her time and talent by “sharing and giving to others”. On Wednesdays, Aunty Rhonda leads her art classes with a passion. “It’s a great gift that’s nourished me and my family, and I know God would want me to nourish other people too.”

Aunty Rhonda speaks with volunteer Neroli during her weekly art classes in Emerton. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

On Thursdays, a food pantry in partnership with OzHarvest supports big crowds of people doing it tough, with many families feeling the pinch of rising economic pressures more than ever before.

“We used to get 20 people, now there’s about 100, maybe more. They’re all wanting food because it’s getting so expensive”.

Fr Fernando is calling out to our faith community for donations, so Aboriginal Catholic Care can continue to link our First Nations brothers and sisters with vital support and learning opportunities. Additional funds are needed to support the daily running of the centre’s services so we can continue to offer help.

Your generosity will help First Nations people in need, like Aunty Rhonda, and provide life-changing support.

Please support Aboriginal Catholic Care with a donation to the Bishop’s Good Samaritan Appeal by calling (02) 8838 3482 or visit yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/appeal


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