Optimism, positivity and commitment lead to longstanding and rewarding career

Working at Centacare for over 29 years, Jenni Ryan has seen a number of changes across the social welfare sector. In particular her roles in marriage preparation, counselling and in more recent years Pastoral Care in Schools.

Commencing in Centacare’s infancy on April 8 1988, Jenni accepted a role to assist in developing Pre Marriage Education throughout the Diocese of Ballarat.
“I was teaching in Catholic primary schools prior to commencing with Centacare and was approached to investigate the need for parish based pre marriage education in the Diocese and to train volunteer facilitators. I started from scratch travelling the Ballarat Diocese with my husband and volunteer Paddy, working with many couples who became volunteer mentors to engaged couples,” said Jenni.

“I was responsible for a large collection of volunteer educators spread throughout the entire Diocese, who continued providing support in their parishes for many years,” said Jenni.
As a national field Marriage and Relationship education developed, Centacare moved into conducting regional group programs and Jenni was involved in finding and training sessional educators in the delivery of relationship education.

“When I first started it was a very low key, volunteer, faith based program,” said Jenni.

In 1991 together with experienced educators throughout Australia Jenni was involved in a process of developing national competences for training Marriage and Relationship educators. This led to the professionalisation of the field of Marriage Education.

“Centacare Australia then developed its own national education standards and guidelines so agencies were aligned across the country,” said Jenni.

In 2008 Jenni moved into a counselling position after undertaking further study and from 2013 Jenni was successfully appointed the Coordinator of Family Support Programs and School Pastoral Care program.

“Centacare has given me the ability to grow and develop professionally, as the program developed I was supported in study and moved into different roles, it was fantastic to have the opportunity. Centacare does that really well.”

“Working at Centacare means that I can do work that really makes a difference in people’s lives. It is work that can make a contribution in creating positive change for people that can be potentially life changing. Centacare is such a nurturing place and I really want to give back,” said Jenni.

Over Jenni’s 29 years she has seen the development of the Vision and Mission of the organisation and the evolution of the organisations values statements.
“If someone was thinking about starting a career or working at Centacare I’d tell them that Centacare is an organisation that cares. We offer a huge range of community services and it offers diversity in career options. Staff are well looked after and the organisation places a high value on professionalism and providing the best services for clients,” said Jenni

One of Jenni’s best memories of her 29 years at Centacare was in 1997 when ongoing funding was secured to support the pre marriage and relationship education programs. “We had scraped the barrel for funding trying to get small amounts of funding from different sources to keep the programs running and when we secured significant ongoing funding it meant that we could really make something of our programs,” said Jenni.

“Over the 29 years I’ve witnessed how life can be when relationships don’t work well and I have a personal commitment to help building positive relationships. It’s very satisfying”
“As a whole workplace it’s been absolute fun. I think the friendships I have developed working here feel like solid lifetime friendships. It really has felt like a family.”

Jenni’s future with Centacare will see her face challenges and opportunities. “I want to continue in the role of Pastoral Care Coordinator. It will be a challenge seeing the end of the state funding for this program, but it could also present an opportunity and I hope that I can be part of whatever those opportunities turn out to be.”

“Centacare has offered me the opportunity to grow professionally and do different things. I’ve spent nearly half my life working here and it’s very significant to me,” said Jenni.