Catholic Care appoints new Executive Director

By Antony Lawes, 12 June 2024
New Catholic Care Western Sydney and Blue Mountains Executive Director Helen Emmerson. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


The new Executive Director of Catholic Care Western Sydney and Blue Mountains, Helen Emmerson, comes to the role with more than 25 years of management experience in the care sector under her belt. 

Yet she still keeps her original qualifications as a nurse up to date – a decision that proved vital during the pandemic.  

“No one had ever worked through a pandemic or lived through a pandemic, we had to learn different ways of working, get across all of the health restrictions and directives that just in that first two years were coming at us left, right and centre,” she said. 

“I’m still a registered nurse, so I literally just put my nursing hat on and went into infection control mode. That really kept my previous organisation on a good, steady path.” 

It’s this experience of leading – whether it’s the broad, strategic vision, or knowing what is needed at the grassroots level – that Ms Emmerson believes will be key in her new position. 

She joins Catholic Care Western Sydney and Blue Mountains with a strong knowledge of its mission and unique role in the community, gathered from her time serving on its Advisory Council from 2019.  

It was during this time she says she could see how valuable the organisation is in Western Sydney, and how it helps people where traditional services do not. But after she started as Executive Director her belief and passion for Catholic Care “quadrupled”.  

“We have some amazing staff…who are really loyal and committed to the Catholic Care ethos and committed to improving client outcomes,” she said. 

“We have a really good reputation within the clients we serve. I think there’s a real consistency and comfort to people about Catholic Care.” 

Central to this, she believes, is being “embedded in the communities through the work of the Parramatta Diocese”, a relationship that has allowed Catholic Care Western Sydney and Blue Mountains to respond to major events such as the bushfires and COVID. 

“I think that does set us aside from other organisations,” she said. “We’ve grown services that are really relevant, we’ve observed what’s happening in the communities, we work with the parishes…and we’ve built really good relationships with the local health districts with our chaplaincy program.” 

From nurse to CEO 

Ms Emmerson takes over from Jason Oldridge, who finished his term as executive director earlier this year.  

She joins after a decade at aged-care provider Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT, where she spent the last five years as chief executive. 

Prior to this she held other senior management roles in the care sector, including at the Australian Foundation for Disability, Blind Veterans UK, Sussex (NHS) Trust in the UK, and Uniting Care.  

She began her career as a registered nurse, specialising in mental health, at the former Rozelle Hospital. 

“There was always a huge unmet need back then, it was always like we were on the bottom of the ladder for funding,” she said. 

All working together 

Although she’s been at Catholic Care for just over a month, she can already see that population growth in Western Sydney has exacerbated the need for mental health services, family services as well as homelessness and community connectiveness, to name a few. 

Initially she will be looking at all the services provided by Catholic Care to see where demand is greatest, and which services need to be built up. 

“I see my role as bringing all the services provided by Catholic Care up to the same level,” she said. 

She believes this will expand the organisation’s reach so that more people can be helped. 

“I want our brand awareness to be through the roof. I want us to just be completely cemented and solidified as an agency that is part of the Diocese. 

“The fact that Bishop Vincent comes to all our meetings and how high on the agenda Catholic Care is for him, it’s just fantastic,” Ms Emmerson said, adding that the support she receives from the Advisory Council is also vital to the organisation’s success. 

“An organisation like this can’t work without the support of a board or a council, and to be working so closely with them and Bishop Vincent speaks volumes for where we want Catholic Care to be.” 


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