Lifetime of caring for the vulnerable fuelled by Gospel values

Inspirational Woman: Dr Robyn Miller, Chief Executive Office of MacKillop Family Services.

Dr Robyn Miller has devoted her career not only to caring for vulnerable families and children, but also helping change the system to allow for early intervention which supports families who are struggling and helps prevent and treat trauma that can lead to break-down.

Dr Robyn Miller, CEO, MacKillop Family Services

Robyn is the Chief Executive Officer of MacKillop Family Services, which provides specialist services to vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people and their families in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. MacKillop also provides training nationally on trauma-informed practice and education.

She has 30 years’ experience in community services, local government and child protection sectors, and has practised in both the public and private sectors as a therapist, clinical supervisor, consultant and lecturer.

From 2006-15 Robyn provided professional leadership as the Chief Practitioner within the Department of Human Services in Victoria, was a member of the Victorian Child Death Review Committee for 10 years and worked as a consultant with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. She is a board  member of Catholic Professional Standards Ltd and Catholic Social Services Australia, and was the recipient of the inaugural Robin Clark PhD Scholarship in Victoria.

Robyn, who was born and raised in West Preston in Melbourne and educated by the Good Samaritan Sisters, says she always had a strong interest in social justice.

I think that was instilled by my family and faith, but also by the Good Sams at Santa Maria College, Northcote. They were great educators and there was a strong focus on social justice running through everything we did there. Robyn Miller, MacKillop Family Services

Robyn says she was always interested in youth work and after school she completed a four year degree in Psychology and Social Work.

The degree was great, but I think I learnt as much from the volunteer work I did during uni with the Brotherhood of St Laurence at the Fitzroy Flats (public housing high rise) and also with the Vinnies soup van. I loved that engagement with the people. Robyn Miller

Robyn’s passion for improving social support systems was partly sparked through her own family experience.

I’m one of six kids and my youngest sister has Down Syndrome. The doctors told my parents to place her in an institution and I remember having this fierce welling up of protectiveness – ‘You’re not taking my sister!’ – and my parents reacted likewise. They were always going to love and care for her at home. She’s 46 now and of course is much-loved. I think that was a formative experience for me in realising that the system could and should be better. Robyn Miller

Continue reading the article here

Debra Vermeer
Women Matter Newsletter a publication of the National Office for the Participation of Women


Consciousness of the Cosmos

Elaine Wainwright suggests readings and activities to raise our consciousness of Earth and the cosmos during the Season of Creation.

The month of September is now the Season of Creation, an annual celebration of prayer and action to protect creation. It begins on 1 September with a day of Prayer for Creation and concludes on 4 October, the feast of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology in many Christian traditions. Here I focus on Cosmos Sunday in the Season of Creation and reflect on the three biblical texts for the day…

Continue reading the article below:

Tui Motu Issue 241, September 2019 (PDF)


Elaine Wainwright is a biblical scholar specialising in eco-feminist interpretation and is currently writing a Wisdom Commentary on Matthew’s Gospel.
Image: Star A Journey of Discovery by Ricardo Helass. Used with permission.

National Child Protection Week 2019

Celebrating the theme that parenting is like navigating waters…

Becoming a parent has been an incredible ride, and nothing prepares you for it, that intense love you feel for the little creature you have created and the patience you have (at times). There are times when it is overwhelming, and when the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is so very true. Knowing when you need a break or to simply walk away, this takes supreme inner strength – and having the support to do it, is the most empowering thing in the world.  But unfortunately, not all parents have the luxury of wisdom and strength to know when to walk away, nor support on hand to be able to get away for their sanity.

In 2014 the New Zealand government introduced the Children’s Act. This act made sweeping changes to how the New Zealand government would protect vulnerable children, and help them to thrive, flourish and belong.

For me, this meant some changes, but it wasn’t just me. I’m a paramedic working on the ambulance front line. These changes affected everyone that comes into contact with children in the health, education, justice sectors and local and central governments. All these people had to be security vetted again. Training on how to identify vulnerable children and how to report such concerns were given.

New Zealand has horrific child abuse and child death rates. There is always something in the news about a child who has been taken to hospital with non-accidental injuries. It makes me so sad, and it makes me think how can one human do this to a defenceless child?

I have come to find that in an emergency, in the heat of the moment, the focus is on saving a life, and the finer details of what has happened are not shared, or they are withheld willingly.

Thankfully in all my years of prehospital work, I have only been involved in one serious case of inflicted injury on a baby. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on with this baby at the time, but subconsciously I must have known. During the transport of this wee boy, I felt this overwhelming need to speak to him all the way to hospital, and shower him with love, reassurance and calming words. I was now his advocate, and his protector, and I would deliver him safe to my colleagues at the hospital emergency department so they could do all that they could do to keep him alive.

Thinking about what he had endured helped me find the strength and courage to attend court later when I was called as a witness in the accused’s trial. If this baby could have survived months of hate and abuse at the hands of the perpetrator, I could definitely give a day of my life to speak for him.

I am grateful for the opportunity that we as paramedics have – what I see as a special role. We make up a group of only a few outsiders who get to glimpse into the home when it hasn’t been prepared to be scrutinised. If my colleagues and their observations of a child can save them from abuse or worse, you can count on us.

Rebecca Gilroy

Visit the National Child Protection Week website

Right photo by Asad Photo Maldives obtained from Pexels. Used with permission.
Left photo by andres chaparro obtained from Pexels. Used with permission.

Father’s Day 2019

From a Josephite point of view, there can be no better example of what Father’s Day should encapsulate.

Here we have the Christian religion’s “father of all fathers” taking care of the “son of all sons”. One assumes that a father is to provide for his wife and family.  Regardless of how the modern family unit has been denigrated (if that is not too strong a word), the common belief is that the parent(s) are to take care and nurture the child(ren) of that union. If that is still to be taken as a base fact, then the “Holy Family”, of which Joseph and Jesus were members, provides us with a platform upon which we can base our assumptions of what is now known as Father’s Day.

It is really of no consequence to go into history to try and establish when, what we have today, was first “set in concrete”, suffice to say that while the intention was well meant, (as with Mother’s Day), the extension of that well-meaning has developed into full blown commercialism.

Only every so often in the mindless and endless tirade of advertising catalogues in the snail mail post, the television screens and phones are there any semblance of the “real” meaning of the day. Dad/father is depicted as a loving protector of the children in the catalogues and while the pipe and slippers image has disappeared due to the anti-cancer crusade against smoking, the message is still very clear…spend up big on your dad, give him multiple presents because he deserves it for the role he plays in guiding the family through the maze of difficult situations that confront the modern family. Most honourable!

If we can cast our mind back to Joseph however, I hardly think the “Nazareth Times” would have been running specials of any sort. Any advertising done in any way shape or form would have been by personal example. It was the clearest and most striking way of demonstrating anything.  Family values were no exception.

Remembering that there was some degree of confusion and, I dare say, “tittle tattle” surrounding Joseph and his fatherhood status, (“betrothed to a maiden called Mary”) it was absolutely essential that whatever Joseph did, had to be “above board” to all the local townsfolk as that special family came into the town, settled down and began the ordinary process of living as all the other families in the town were doing. Nothing very much seems to be clearly known about the first 12 years of Jesus’ life so that suggests that Joseph must have been doing a very good job at providing for his wife and son. Nothing untoward happened until “the Temple lectures”.

In their house, Joseph must have been tutoring Jesus in the skills of woodworking, manners, social communications and reverence to their God. Perhaps it was these human qualities that Joseph instilled into Jesus in those early years – with the undeniable help of Mary – that led Jesus to develop an uncanny understanding of human behavioural traits…. which were to cause him so much anguish in his adult life.

As far as Joseph was concerned, he had discharged his duty as “head of the family” and perhaps the only present he ever got from Jesus (the human Jesus) was a wink and a smile when some client had bought a piece of crafted wood and was pleased with it.

Sometimes a smile says more than any bought gift….Father’s Day.

Laurie Mayne

Photo of Father’s Day image obtained from Pxhere. Used with permission.

Bobs the Dog Book

‘Bobs the Dog’ is the fruit of much thought and love.

Illustrator Catherine and Sister Diane

He captured my imagination years ago when I first saw that iconic photo of him with Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop and her siblings, Donald and Annie. I also love the idea that Mary, who grew up around animals, loved to have a pet dog close by. Having a little dog close by would have kept her grounded.

A short time ago, after writing the story of Bobs, I visited Penola where I met Catherine Sandric who was also visiting with her mother. I was encouraged to ask Catherine if she might illustrate my story of Bobs. Catherine graciously accepted and together we made the story of Bobs come to life.

While this story has been written with children from eight to ten years of age in mind, some adults have found it helpful as they face their grief and loss of a loved one. Bobs is a “clever little dog”, as Donald remarks in the story.

There were other dogs before Bobs in Mary’s life. There are no photos of them, however a name of a dog has been passed down from Sisters of Saint Joseph who knew Mary. Mary herself when writing to a friend, mentions another of the dogs by name. A couple of Sisters have recorded how they helped to care for pets that lived with them at the Mother House in North Sydney.

Like many Australians today, our Saint Mary had a soft spot in her heart for animals. I look forward to exploring the lives of some of her other pets. Perhaps, like Bobs, they will reveal how they offered her unconditional love in the ups and downs of her life.

Diane Phillips rsj

Click here to purchase ‘Bobs the Dog’

Sisters mourn the passing of the Honourable Tim Fischer

The Sisters of Saint Joseph mourn the passing of the Honourable Tim Fischer’s death after a long battle with cancer.

While he is remembered as a man who made a great contribution to Australian politics as the leader of the National Party and deputy Prime Minister, the sisters particularly express their gratitude to Tim for his contribution to Mary MacKillop’s canonisation in Rome in 2010. The Honourable Tim Fischer was appointed as the first resident ambassador to the Holy See in 2008. Here he provided great support, especially to Sister Anne Derwin, Congregational Leader and to Sister Maria Casey in Rome, on public diplomacy and coordination aspects of the canonisation of Mary MacKillop. He saw so much of the Australian spirit in the life of Saint Mary MacKillop and was proud to be there to welcome the thousands of Australian pilgrims on this occasion. Tim sustained this friendship with the sisters beyond the canonisation experience.

Tim had a great love for people in rural communities, a love shared by Mary MacKillop. He co-authored with Peter Rees a book titled Outback Heroes: And communities that count.

The sisters express their deepest sympathy to his wife Judy and his sons Harrison and Dominic.

May Tim rest in peace in the arms of the God who birthed him into life, and may he now share in the communion of saints with Saint Mary MacKillop.

Sr Monica Cavanagh
Congregational Leader
Sisters of Saint Joseph


Additional reading below:

ACBC Media Release: Bishops pay tribute to Tim Fischer

Holy See Ambassador inspired by Mary MacKillop

World Humanitarian Day 2019

It can be said that it is an innately human quality to want to help others, to be compassionate and to alleviate the pain or suffering of those in need.

Whether this compassion is manifested in small random acts of kindness or becomes apparent on a much larger scale, humans generally want to help others. I really believe that it is one of our driving forces, and that this is something to be celebrated. As Mary MacKillop once said:

Find happiness in making others happy (1899)

As World Humanitarian Day draws upon us, it is a perfect time to reflect on such compassion, to give thought to those who have bravely sacrificed so much to help those desperately in need, to those who have come together to fight battles that were not their own and, more often than not,  come to the aid of complete strangers. It is through these selfless acts of bravery and kindness that people within conflict zones and disaster areas are able to survive their hardships. Women, children and men alike are helped by aid workers who make it their sole mission to provide life-saving support and assistance. Humanitarian workers effectively put themselves in harm’s way, often entering into war torn areas or regions devastated by natural disasters. Essentially their key goal is to restore human dignity. Truly they are real life heroes, and this is awe-inspiring.

World Humanitarian Day was established by the United Nations in 2009 and has been celebrated on 19 August every year since. It recognizes the wonderful work done by foreign aid and medical workers, and honours those who have lost their lives in their humanitarian work. It also stresses the importance of international cooperation on humanitarian issues and that the world should work together for the greater good.

This World Humanitarian Day, perhaps we could all focus on this theme of compassion, with an emphasis on trying to incorporate it into our daily lives. You do not need to enter a conflict zone in order to be a humanitarian. A humanitarian is someone who is concerned with or seeks to promote human rights, essentially someone who cares for the dignity of others. We can all be humanitarians and make a difference by simply helping those around us in times of need and putting others before ourselves. Perhaps we could volunteer our time at a homeless shelter or hospital. We could give our seat on the bus to someone who needs it more or we could simply smile at a stranger on the street. The possibilities of kindness are endless.

If you would like to put your kindness into action, you can visit the Mary MacKillop Today website or call (02) 8912 2777.

World Humanitarian Day Official Website

Year of Indigenous Languages: Maori and Polish

The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. To celebrate, for each month this year, you’re invited to view greetings for different languages.

For August, we feature the languages Maori and Polish:


Nau mai e nga mana reo o te ao.
Na matau nga iwi taketake o Aotearoa

Greetings to all the Indigenous Languages of the World.
From the people of Aotearoa New Zealand.


Na dzien dzisiejszy i jego bfogos-t’awienstwa zawdzi czam swiatu postawie wdzi cznosci

For today and its blessings, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude.


To find out more on the International Year of Indigenous Languages, visit their website below:

International Year of Indigenous Languages

Photo Maori Painted Warrior by Bernd Hildebrandt obtained from Pixabay. Used with permission.