ACU defines ‘community engagement’ as activities that build capacity and affirm human dignity through sustainable and reciprocal collaborations with communities who experience disadvantage or marginalisation.

Community engagement isn’t just about helping others in the short term. It’s about working with and listening to communities to forge long-term relationships and develop meaningful solutions to complex problems. Community engagement at ACU builds collaboration between university and community to support the dignity and well-being of people in a manner that is sustainable and builds capacity on an individual and an organisational level. We place a particular focus on working with communities who have experienced disadvantage or marginalisation.

As part of ACU’s mission we’re committed to ensuring that all ACU students and staff have the opportunity to make a contribution to their community that is feasible and meaningful to them, and that meets community needs in a way that is valuable and respectful.

Principles of community engagement at ACU

Community engagement at ACU is guided by five principles. These principles were developed in collaboration with the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy and are founded upon the Principles of Catholic Social Thought, and The Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Learn more about our principles below, including video reflections from ACU staff and students.

ACU community engagement recognises the inherent and equal moral worth and rights of all human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God. Honouring the dignity of community members means working to ensure the protection and provision of fundamental human rights. It also means ensuring the development of people’s capacities so that they can fully realise a sense of meaning, purpose and self-worth. Such a commitment to dignity translates into a fundamental orientation towards the support of those most marginalised or disadvantaged by the structures and attitudes of contemporary society. Supporting people’s dignity means working with people in a holistic manner in a spirit of humility and collaboration for the common good.

ACU community engagement works for social justice. Through developing understanding, affirming human dignity, acting with humility, and building genuine connections, our community engagement works to stand in solidarity with those most in need, wherever they may be, and to advance the common good of our societies. This means working for the good of all, and for just and fair opportunities for participation in all aspects of society. The common good cannot be achieved if we ignore those most in need. In ACU community engagement, there exists a fundamental orientation towards prioritising the needs of those who experience the most disadvantage or marginalisation.

ACU community engagement develops capacity and sustainability in the community through the virtue of humility. Humility allows us to look ‘outward’ with a sense of equality (not superiority or inferiority) and to work collaboratively with community instead of ‘on’ or ‘for’ community. Humility can help to minimise the power differentials inherent to some aspects of community work. Humility is a necessary precondition for genuine understanding and respect for human dignity. Humility opens our hearts to the contributions that those with whom we work bring to our relationships. Such a humble, non-judgmental, and non-moralistic approach honours the autonomy, and therefore the dignity, of all involved, so that together we form our consciences and work in ways that facilitate personal responsibility and, with it, human flourishing.

ACU community engagement builds genuine connections with community organisations and the broader community. It is through our being-in-relationship that we are able to develop empathic understanding, to realise the fullness of our dignity, and to flourish as human beings. Through the development of respectful relationships and mutually beneficial partnerships, university and community can experience positive individual and institutional growth.

ACU community engagement aims to truly understand the people we work with. Empathic understanding involves listening and reflecting with one’s heart and with one’s intellect in order to come to a deep emotional and intellectual comprehension of the beliefs, dispositions, needs, desires, and hopes of the people we work with, and of how these are shaped by experiences and environment. Based on such empathic understanding we can respond in a considered, compassionate, and respectful manner to develop meaningful outcomes with community, as community.

Exploring university-community engagement

Our biennial conference celebrates the significant achievements that stem from partnerships between university and community and explores some of the contemporary challenges of university-community engagement and service-learning. 

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ACU Engagement

Meet the ACU Engagement team and learn more about our mission to provide meaningful community engagement opportunities.

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Partner with ACU

Tap into a network of over 35,000 people across Australia to support your organisation in meeting the needs of your community.

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ACU can offer support to your organisation

ACU has a nationwide network of over 35,000 people that could bring capacity to your organisation. We invite community organisations supporting those experiencing disadvantage or marginalisation to consider a partnership with us.

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