Emmanuel Centre welcomes new director

06 Apr 2021

By Theresia Titus

New Director of the Emmanuel Centre, Joe O’Brien, started his career as a school chaplain co-ordinating services at government schools in the South West . Photo: Theresia Titus.

After almost a decade of Prison Ministry, Joe O’Brien finally felt that it was time for him to start a new chapter in his career.

This year sees him taking on the role as Director of the Emmanuel Centre.

The self-help Centre provides a caring and supportive environment for people with a variety of abilities, empowering them to share their gifts through programs tailored to their needs.

“I have previously been working in Prison Ministry for nine and a half years and as a coordinator [of Prison Ministry] for five of those years.

“Working in prison ministry required much resilience and after nearly 10 years, I knew it was time to start thinking about the way forward.”

Starting his career as a school chaplain co-ordinating services at government schools in the South West, Mr O’Brien attained qualifications in education, counselling and business.

He then began to study for a postgraduate degree in theology in 2009, which he completed during his role in Prison Ministry in 2012.

Mr O’Brien is now in his sixties and believes that his previous experience has trained him to know his primary vision and how to achieve it.

“My role [now] is very much about bringing people together and building the presence of Christ and Christian community,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We’re really excited about the future of the Emmanuel Centre and are looking forward to welcoming our friends and family back to help us realise the full potential of this amazing opportunity for renewal that we have been given,” Joe said.

“We are currently working on a strategic plan and are now in a period of planning and consolidating. We are working had to re-engage with the community in 2021.

“Identifying gaps in the current service delivery model on offer within WA is a real priority for us yet at the same time, we are committed to ensuring that there is a high level of continuity for our existing clientele.”

“We are reaching out to the people, especially to younger people.

“It is vital that we reach out to the young generations of the deaf community and show them our love and support. I believe there are many people out there,” he added.

“There’s a whole range of things we’re looking at and what we can do,” Mr O’Brien said.

The father of three also knows that the way he approaches his current role has to be distinct from his methods of his previous roles.

“I could not be too expressive in prison ministry, but I had to be objective. I had to be careful with my emotions and had to be thick-skinned,” Mr O’Brien explained.

“I feel that this new role is calling me to be persistent, considerate and kind.

“I have to share my emotions and thoughts.

“If you watch an AUSLAN interpreter on television, you can see how expressive and emotive they are; and that’s how I need to be with my role now.

“To quote Romans 8:28: ‘We know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.’”

With a calm and down-to-earth character, Mr O’Brien also reflected on how his career has influenced his role as a parent.

“I didn’t realise how good my kids were until I worked at a juvenile detention centre; it helped me to understand that I really do have good kids,” Mr O’Brien laughed.

He continued by saying that it doesn’t matter what job we do, our various roles in life influence one another.

“I have seen that as we learn, grow, and change, we also notice that those changes impact how we continue to live.

“Whatever we do, if we are going to be happy, it has to be consistent with our values and for me, this has been important because I am finally doing something consistent with I believe.

“I look forward to the challenge that God has set for us and would like to extend an invitation to all of those people who have been involved with the Emmanuel Centre over the last 40 years to get in contact and to stay engaged with what we are doing: you are the reason for our existence, your story is our story and we want you to be a big part of the future, part of the vision that we share.”

Outgoing Emmanuel Centre Co-ordinator Barbara Harris, with Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB and incoming Director, Joe O’Brien. Photo: Eric Martin.