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ACU partnership builds a focus on client care and wellbeing

CatholicCare and Australian Catholic University are developing an innovative allied health service with a focus on client care and wellbeing.

The collaboration between CatholicCare and ACU, announced on Thursday 14 October, will deliver a new form of allied health services, inspired from the Catholic Christian heritage and a long-term commitment to the dignity of the human person. Catholic social teaching will inform the framework that supports the care of clients.

General Manager – Clinical Therapies and Disability Services at CatholicCare Kerryn Tutt said, “The new health service approach will encompass holistic, person-centred support which respects the individual's need for participation in decisions about their care. The collaboration ensures that our practices are informed by research and interprofessional best practice.”

To build a strong workforce foundation, the CatholicCare and ACU teams are developing innovative and high quality interprofessional learning experiences programs for Occupational Therapy and Speech Pathology students from ACU that will provide quality and evidence-based allied health services to aged care and NDIS clients.

ACU Executive Dean of Health Sciences Professor Suzanne Chambers said, “The new interprofessional service model will be developed in conjunction with clinical therapies staff at CatholicCare and educators at ACU. Students in Occupational Therapy and Speech Pathology degrees will participate in the learning experiences, supervised by staff from both organisations.”

The learning experiences will enable students to apply the interprofessional knowledge covered in their academic programs and build skills in collaborative decision-making, problem-solving, case management, and team communication, which are essential for future workforce success. Research evaluating interprofessional learning has largely focused on medicine and nursing; this collaboration will provide an opportunity to inform interprofessional student learning through rigorous evaluation in an allied health service.

A purpose-designed clinic is planned in the outer west of Sydney to provide clinic and community-based services to areas currently serviced by CatholicCare.

Mark Phillips, CEO of CatholicCare Sydney said, “With this partnership CatholicCare is continuing its pursuit of innovative solutions to enhancing client outcomes, at the same time providing interprofessional practice experiences to build workforce capabilities.”

ACU Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Zlatko Skrbis said, “We are delighted at ACU to be strengthening our relationship with our valued Catholic partner CatholicCare, united in mission to deliver quality innovative care and student training.”

Through this collaboration CatholicCare and ACU will embed student placements in an interdisciplinary team approach to client care. Therapeutic support will wrap around clients, giving them a single point of coordination of their allied health care which will focus on prioritising individual’s enablement goals and building client and carer capability. 


Madeleine Borsato, a fourth year Speech Pathology student with ACU, reflects on her 7-week placement with CatholicCare Sydney.

“From a student's perspective, this partnership between ACU and CatholicCare Sydney is so very valuable for our learning, our career prospects and for the care of our future clients.

“I was fortunate that ACU provided me with easy access to work experience with CatholicCare Sydney, particularly in a time when there has been so much uncertainty due to COVID and placements have been hard to secure. CatholicCare in turn provided me with great support and guidance during my placement, helping me to identify my strengths and giving me the very beneficial experience of working in a multi-disciplinary team. It is also very encouraging to think that I may have the opportunity for employment with CatholicCare Sydney on completion of my course, thanks to this partnership."