Aspirations for Western Sydney students drive new Catholic schools leader
07 Feb 2023
With more than 20 years of experience leading some of Australia’s largest not-for-profit organisations, Executive Director Jack de Groot is excited to begin a new journey with Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CPSD).
Jack is driven by supporting an education for children and young people that is holistic, student-centred and unashamed about the pursuit of excellence. He is particularly passionate about ensuring access, equity and inclusion across CSPD’s 80 outstanding local schools.
“For me, a Catholic education is about the imagination and the world of seeing everything through the lens of the student,” he said.
Shaped by a working life that includes social and public policy advocacy in Victoria, supporting school leadership teams for the Catholic Education Office in Western Australia, addressing global injustice at Caritas Australia and the last six-and-a-half years leading the St Vincent de Paul Society, Jack brings a strong focus on Catholic values, social outreach and mission.
Raised in Melbourne, Jack is an avid AFL supporter. He studied in both Melbourne and Sydney and is a family man who enjoys spending time with his wife Fiona and their two daughters.
Jack says his faith, Catholic identity and values are an important part of his life and what he brings to each role that he undertakes.
“The offering we have for the world is God who offers the event of Jesus with a fullness of life and is a sign to all of love, service and accompaniment,” Jack reflects.
“My Dad was a physicist in the nuclear age and he served in the second World War. He had a robust intellect and curiosity about faith and meaning. He saw God in all things, he knew a God who is incarnational, evolving and cosmic. I come from a place of faith that offers openness. Since my days as a young teenager, I have loved being present in the local community and collaborating with people who know suffering,” Jack said.
“My work has always taken me to these places and my faith has reinforced that desire for change, love and service.” “Western Sydney excites me because it never underestimates the human aspirations and flourishing of its community. It is hungry for access, for equity and for all boats to rise,” said Jack. “It flourishes because it has the largest community of First Australians wanting voice; and it has the largest community of the most recent arrivals who have often experienced lack of voice as they left countries and to give voice and hope to their families.”
He says Catholic schools can provide a constructive, supportive and safe place for important conversations including about the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to the Australian parliament later this year.
“These conversations are about the future of young people in our schools and the Australia that they are to be active citizens within,” he said.
He highlights the work of the CSPD Jarara Cultural Centre with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and their families, welcoming students with disability and a strong focus on wellbeing as exemplary strengths of the Diocese.
“To go to the edges means we are all confident that the core offering we have is strong and that we have great confidence to make a difference to those who have been denied voice, participation, access and resources.”
As he begins his work in the new role, Jack says he is very keen to meet with school communities and to learn more.
At the beginning of 2023, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta became known as Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese.
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