Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Knowledge and understanding of civil and canon law, and theoretical concepts relevant to educational leadership in Catholic schools are required for school leaders to fully understand their role and responsibility within Catholic educational settings, and increasing accountability to external authorities, social, ethical, legal and financial complexity..

In addition to addressing the role and responsibilities of Catholic school leaders, the unit also addresses the related responsibilities of bishops, religious congregations, Diocesan authorities, parish priests and canonical administrators, governing councils, principals, school boards and school communities.

Participants will also deepen understandings of the transition of Catholic school authorities to different forms of governance, to increase transparency and accountability in light of reducing numbers of religious governors and also as response to outcomes of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse. Compliance with both civil and canon law is identified and contextualised. Theories of governance such as Agency, Stakeholder, Resource Dependence and Stakeholder are discussed. Governance concepts examined include internal/external governance, synodality, co-responsibility and subsidiarity.

The aim of this unit is to enrich participants’ understandings of their role and responsibilities within Catholic educational settings.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Define and distinguish the concepts of governance, leadership and management and their inter-relationship in education (GA5, GA8; APSP 4)

LO2 - Explain the principles underpinning Church/Founding authority law requirements with respect to governance issues in Catholic/Faith-based education (GA4, GA5; APSP 4)

LO3 - Understand comprehensively, interpret and synthesise the principles of governance, associated political concepts, and the need for appropriate policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation processes (GA4, GA5; APSP 4)

LO4 - Critique various models of educational governance in light of the literature (including canon law, Church/Founding authority documents), civil law, and current policy and practice (GA4, GA8; APSP 4)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


This unit addresses the following Professional Practice

APSP 4 - Leading the management of the school

Principals use a range of data management methods and technologies to ensure that the school’s resources and staff are efficiently organised and managed to provide an effective and safe learning environment as well as value for money. This includes appropriate delegation of tasks to members of the staff and the monitoring of accountabilities. Principals ensure these accountabilities are met. They seek to build a successful school through effective collaboration with school boards, governing bodies, parents and others. They use a range of technologies effectively and efficiently to manage the school.


Topics will include:

  • The structures of governance and relationship to management
  • Church governance – mission and Catholic social teaching
  • Civil governance for Church entities
  • Responsibility of boards to enact governance / Advisory boards in Church ministries
  • Governance, mission and Catholic identity 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit may be offered in online, on campus or in blended learning modes. The use of LEO will be integral to the unit in exploring concepts and testing understandings and propositions. Strategies used may include lectures, engagement with the literature, self-directed learning, critical reflection against relevant professional standards, case studies, dialogue and interrogation of concepts, theories and practices, and the application of learning to current professional contexts.

 This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video, workshops, and assignments etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment will relate directly to the achievement of the outcomes above. Some flexibility may be exercised in the assessment tasks to align with the needs of the student cohort, for example, students may be working in a classroom, in an administrative role or currently on leave from teaching.

To successfully complete this unit, postgraduate students need to complete and submit two graded assessment tasks. The assessment strategy used allows students to demonstrate their knowledge related to perspectives on wellbeing in a creative and practical manner. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1

Undertake an independent inquiry – exploring concepts of governance, leadership and management in educational contexts. Importantly students must pay particular attention to governance issues pertinent to Catholic/faith-based education.  


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Assessment Task 2

Propose and critically evaluate an alternate governance, leadership and management structure which builds upon learnings from Assessment 1. Particular attention needs to be paid to the implementation priorities including the development of policy, implementation and assessment procedures that are in line with canon and civil law.  


LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Australian Institute of Company Directors. (2019). Not-for-profit governance principles (2nd ed.). Retrieved from

Bevans, S. (2009). The mission has a church, the mission has ministers: Thinking missiologically about ministry and the shortage of priests. Compass, 43(3), 3-14.

Carver, J. (2006). Boards that make a difference: A new design for leadership in non-profit and public organisations (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Casey, P. (n.d). Models of Governance of Catholic schools in Australia: The governance of Catholic schools as dependent, independent and interdependent members o evolving systems in Australia. Retrieved from

Catholic Religious Australia & Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. (2020). Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting co-responsible governance in the Catholic Church of Australia. Retrieved from

Chait, R., Ryan, W., & Taylor, B. (2005). Governance as leadership: Reframing the work of nonprofit boards. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. 1 – 10.

Cornish, S. Placing integral human development at the centre of Catholic social teaching. The Australasian Catholic Record, 86(4), 450-456.

D'Orsa, J., & D'Orsa, T. (2010). Explorers, guides and meaning-makers: Mission and theology for Catholic educators (Vol. 1). Mulgrave, Vic: John Garrett Publishing.

Kiel, G., Nicholson, G., Tunny, J., & Beck, J. (2012). Directors at work: A practical guide for boards. Sydney: Thomson Reuters (Professional). 1 – 11; 42 – 53.

Leggett, B., Campbell-Evans, G. & Gray, J. (2016). Issues and challenges of school governance. Leading and Managing, 22(1), 36-56.

Lucas, B., Slack, P., & D’Apice, W. (2008). Church administration handbook. Strathfield NSW: St Pauls.

Morrisey, F. (2009). Public juridic persons in the Church. In M. Cleary (Ed.), Public juridic persons in the Church (pp. 11-38). Sydney, NSW: Governance and Management.

Thornber, J.H., & Gaffney, M. (2014). Governing in faith – foundations for formation. Ballarat, Vis: Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd.

Tooma, M. (2012). Due diligence: Duty of officers. North Ryde, NSW: CCH Australia Limited.

Wolf, T. (2013). Effective leadership for non-profit organizations: How executive directors and boards work together. New York, NY: Allworth Press.

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