Harry Herbert continues to inspire

Harry Herbert continues to inspire

The second part of the Director’s Cut, an interview-based reflection on the life and career (so far) of Executive Director UnitingCare NSW.ACT the Rev. Harry Herbert was held on August 2.

Julie McCrossin interviewed Harry and a number of the audience members about their perspectives of the Uniting Church and the role that UnitingCare plays as an integral part of the Church.

It was fascinating to hear people in their early 20s, people in their 80s and 90s, and all ages in between, talk about the Uniting Church, UnitingCare and the Rev. Harry Herbert.

For the two young women in their twenties who were interviewed, the active community of their local Congregation was a vital part of their Uniting Church experience. This is the foundation element of the Uniting Church.

The role of the Uniting Church in promoting the involvement of women in the Church was spoken about and evidenced by the presence of Freda Whitlam AM, who was Moderator of the NSW and ACT Synod of the Uniting Church in 1984-5.

There were also many comments from people of all ages about the commitment of the Uniting Church to diversity (including people of different cultural backgrounds) and social justice, including active support and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

It was a reminder of the special nature of the Uniting Church, and why the Uniting Church should want to have an arm such as UnitingCare — where the practical expression of God’s love to people who are vulnerable and marginalised occurs in many ways on a daily basis.

In reviewing his achievements as Executive Director, Harry highlighted the bringing together of the 52 Aged Care Boards into one organisation, the use of the out-dated Weroona Nursing Home facility to support people with disabilities, and the development of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC).

The MSIC experience shared with the audience by Harry and Dr Marianne Jauncey, Medical Director of the MSIC, exemplifies the best elements of the character of both the Rev. Harry Herbert and UnitingCare.

When the Catholic Church prohibited the Sisters of Charity from establishing a harm-minimisation service for intravenous drug users, Harry volunteered UnitingCare as the operator of the service.

For the following decade, Harry led the advocacy for the trial service to be recognised as an important permanent service (which occurred in November 2010). This example of courage, social justice, advocacy for a marginalised group of people in the face of staunch opposition, community engagement, evidence-based practice, and persistence is one that should continue to inspire us.

These are the attributes through which UnitingCare will continue to develop and grow in the future. It was probably also attributes such as these which led Freda Whitlam to describe Harry as a “direct, good man”.

He also continues to inspire us.

Steve Teulan is Director UnitingCare Ageing. This article first appeared in the August 2012 edition of The Journey.


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