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NATIONAL: ‘Joint-up thinking' the method forward for new Catholic Earthcare director


Bernard Holland, the new head of Catholic Earthcare Australia. Photo: Nicole Clements/Caritas Australia.

By Matthew Lau

Building on the ecological work already underway within each diocese, the new Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia has pledged to act as a conduit for the good of “Our Common Home”.

Bernard Holland brings a wealth of experience from both Catholic education and environmental organisations to the Sydney-based office, and aims for the Church to operate with a lower environmental footprint.

Ecological agency Catholic Earthcare functions as its own organisational identity under the auspices of Caritas Australia.

Mr Holland, 59, has begun engaging with Australia’s Catholic community to promote awareness and action based on the principles of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical.

Catholic Earthcare’s new leader was a school principal for two decades in QLD and NSW, was Director of international environmental education program Eco-Schools, and initiated the Creation We Care programme within Brisbane Catholic Education.

As there was a considerable period of hiatus in the role prior to his appointment, Mr Holland’s initial focus is to cultivate links across the Catholic Earthcare network as well as learning about the work of many Catholic dioceses and agencies specific to this area.

“Advocacy upwards through the Church to government is really important, but you have to pick your fights on those ones. The whole thing around divestment and energy are the two biggest issues and they always will be,” he told The eRecord in an exclusive interview.

“Caritas has already started to move ahead with a divestment strategy to advocate and educate the broader Catholic community. That’s the best example of what my role should be encouraging to do, it should be about finding out who is out there doing what and encouraging them to push those issues themselves.”


Bernard Holland (centre) pictured with ACBC's Fr Stephen Hackett and Caritas Chief Executive Paul O'Callaghan. Photo: Supplied.

He is reaching out to share Catholic Earthcare’s focus on living out Laudato Si through Tree of Life activities which support Pope Francis’ call for urgent action against the injustice of climate change and the ecological crisis, to protect the poor and future generations.

“At the moment it’s about identifying the network within the difference sectors, within those sectors identifying the champions within organisations, and then linking those people with each other; and seeing what common ground we have for action.

“There might be inter-sectoral connection around different issues. There are things to be learnt between sectors, that knowledge could be transferred if appropriate.”

Mr Holland said he is mindful of the good work that exists in each diocese, through either individuals or organisations.

“I am aware that in Perth there’s someone who’s running a Laudato Si workshop in one of the schools, which illustrates that people are getting out and doing stuff – they don’t need me to encourage them to do that, they’re doing it,” he expressed.

“There’s good stuff happening, and certainly I’ll be over in Perth at some point in time when I can get some synergy and meet a whole lot of people in one go.”

Mr Holland has presented at the Earth Charter World Gathering, the World Environmental Education Congress, and has been committed for many years to facilitating practical change linked to ecological renewal in Australia and overseas.