Melbourne News

Working for social justice

Friday 28 September 2012

By Paul Stewart
Kairos Catholic Journal

TO give and not to count the cost—that is one of the guiding principles learnt at Xavier College that sent Pat Allen on a pathway to a job in social work.

The former Xavier College school captain has worked at Brosnan Services, a program of Jesuit Social Services, for three years and is a senior outreach case worker in the Young Men’s Assertive Outreach Program, a two-year pilot program.

Pat said: “The program is targeted at young homeless men with such complex issues and disadvantage that they are at risk of a lifetime of homelessness. We provide these young men with intensive one-to-one support.”

Pat works three days a week while studying law, and his younger brother Mick, also studying law, has recently begun work in the same program, working two days a week.

Pat, 33, said his work with Brosnan Services was fulfilling in many ways. “The Jesuits had a significant impact on the formation of my attitudes to social justice. I have worked elsewhere as a social worker for 10 years, including a stint in Dublin in child protection, but working at Brosnan Services is particularly meaningful because of its link to the Jesuits and also to Fr Brosnan.”

Pat has a personal connection with Fr John Brosnan, the long-term chaplain at Pentridge Prison after whom Brosnan Services is named. “Fr Brosnan was parish priest at Holy Redeemer in Surrey Hills, where I went to primary school, and he also baptised Mick,” he said.

“Fr Brosnan was a larger than life character. Once in the middle of Sunday Mass, he announced to the congregation, ‘Pat Allen is here today. You should have seen the amazing goal he kicked in the school football game on Friday.’ He loved his sport. He took us to watch Geelong play at Kardinia Park, and he once helped me organise a tennis tournament for the kids at school.”

Mick described working alongside older brother Pat as a privilege. “There is a lot to learn from Pat’s years of experience and from his thorough and committed approach.”

Mick has also been a volunteer mentor in Brosnan Services’ African Visitation and Mentoring Program, which involves people visiting and mentoring prisoners from African backgrounds.

Reflecting on his experiences as a mentor, Mick said: “Visiting the person I mentor in prison has been enriching. Our relationship has developed in such a way that our visits are really an exchange. I think we both gain a lot from the insights and perspectives we can offer each other coming from, in many ways, quite different worlds.”

Mick hopes to continue to provide support for his charge when he is released from prison, and recommends the mentor experience to others who may be interested.

Pat and Mick think that they may both end up working as criminal lawyers, which no doubt would have pleased Fr Brosnan.

Paul Stewart is Project Officer for Jesuit Social Services.

Details of Brosnan Services and the African Visitation and Mentoring Program:

Photo courtesy of Paul Stewart