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EDLE639 Governance in Catholic Educational Settings

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. Students in other faith-based schools will explore the responsibilities of their relevant ecclesial authorities.

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 in response to changing government policy expectations. 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 increase participants’ understandings of their role and responsibilities within Catholic and other faith-based educational settings. It complements both EDLE661 and EDLE663.

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 - Contrast 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, GA6, GA7; APSP 4)

LO3 - Interpret and synthesise the principles of governance, associated political concepts, and the need for appropriate policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation processes (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7; APSP 4)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively

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


In addition to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers this unit addresses the following Professional Practices:

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.

APSP 5 - APSP5-Engaging and working with the community

Principals embrace inclusion and help build a culture of high expectations that takes account of the richness and diversity of the wider school community and the education systems and sectors. They develop and maintain positive partnerships with students, families and carers and all those associated with the wider school community. They create an ethos of respect taking account of the spiritual, moral, social and physical health and wellbeing of students. They promote sound lifelong learning from preschool through to adult life. They recognise the multicultural nature of Australia’s people. They foster understanding and reconciliation with Indigenous cultures. They recognise and use the rich and diverse linguistic and cultural resources in the school community. They recognise and support the needs of students, families and carers from communities facing complex challenges.


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 as stewardship

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit may be offered in online, on campus or in multimode, for the equivalence of 150 hours of study. The use of the Learning Management System will be integral to the unit in exploring concepts and testing understandings and propositions. Introductory concepts are presented through lectures and readings. Students are then provided opportunity to critique their current situation considering this. Collaborative discussion forums are used to help students develop critical insights of their contextual situation. These insights form the basis for developing a relevant professional learning plan for improvement.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment moves from description, then to analysis, and then to evaluation. The first assessment task engages students in locating and describing the governance context in which students’ leadership is enacted. The second assessment provides scope for critical analysis of this context, as well as locates the governance within wider policy contexts examined in EDLE661. Assessment three uses insights from Assessments 1 and 2 to create a plan for improved governance culture and practice within students’ contexts.

In order to pass this unit, students are required to successfully complete all assessment tasks regardless of their mode of enrolment.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1

Critical reflection of students’ current governance context. Areas for improvement should be identified and justified from scholarly literature.  


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8

Assessment Task 2

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.  


LO1, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8

Assessment Task 3

Formulate a professional development plan to identify issues with the culture and process of a current governance context.


LO2, LO3

GA4. GA5. GA6, GA7, GA8

Representative texts and references

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

Benjamin, A., & Burford, C. (2021). Leadership in a synodal Church. Garrett Publishing.

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.

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

Cleary, M. (2021). When the mission system is the bottom line: The governance of Catholic schools in Australia. La Salle Academy, Australian Catholic University.

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. (2017). Church administration handbook (2nd ed.). Strathfield NSW: St Pauls.

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

Tooma, M. (2017). Due diligence: Duty of officers (2nd ed.). North Ryde, NSW: CCH Australia Limited.

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