The Australasian Catholic Press Association welcomes the membership and associate membership of professionals working in Catholic publications (print and digital), media and communications in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. It is also open to Catholic professionals working in mainstream media.
The Association was formed in 1955 and aims to promote professionalism and cooperation among members of the Catholic press and with other religious media. ACPA aims to promote the development, coverage and relevance of the religious media in our societies.
The 2022-2023 office bearers are:
Neil Helmore (Catholic News, Townsville) — President
Michael Otto (NZ Catholic, Auckland) — Vice President (NZ)
Fiona Basile (Melbourne Catholic, Melbourne)— Vice President (AUS)
Jamie O’Brien (Archdiocese of Perth & The Record Perth) — Treasurer
Mary Brazell (Catholic Outlook, Parramatta) — Secretary
Brief History of ACPA
It was an exploratory initiative when Cardinal Gilroy invited over 50 Catholic publications to attend a summit held at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, in March 1955. He did so on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference to discuss the formation of a Catholic Press Association for Australia and New Zealand. Delegates were treated to a public exhibition of Catholic newspapers, magazines and photographs collected from around Australia, Europe and the USA, installed in the gallery of Mark Foys’ department store. After many fruitful discussions, the convention resolved to meet the following year in Melbourne.
In the meantime, the delegates were tasked with pursuing the necessary steps required to form a Catholic Press Association for Australia and New Zealand. To this end, a committee is drafted from the delegates consisting of Fr Murtagh (The Advocate), Fr Francis O’Dea (The Tablet), Jim Kelleher (The Catholic Weekly) and Fr Des O’Connor SJ (The Australian Messenger of the Sacred Heart).
After the second convention in Melbourne, a new Constitution establishes that the association will hold an annual Convention and AGM where annual elections for an Executive Council will occur. From the third of such conventions, the Catholic Press Association of Australia and New Zealand (CPA) was created. The “Memorandum to the Australian Hierarchy (of the Church)” is drafted and submitted by the CPA Executive from this conference. It declares that the mission of the Catholic press “is an extension of the work of Christian education.” It also asks the Bishops’ Conference for its “maximum support and encouragement” as well as “adequate financing and staffing (for) publishing success”.
Members discussed the need to appreciate and honour excellence in the association during the 1960 convention in Brisbane. The Annual Award for “Best Feature article of Australian interest” was created and named in honour of the CPA founding President, Fr James Murtagh.
In the early 1960s, delegates attending the annual conferences were predominantly male and primarily clerical. Therefore, Vatican II was something of a tipping point. They endeavoured to come to grips with the full realities of the council in meaningful ways.
Age and death began to exert their inevitable influence upon the founding members of the CPA. As a result, 1965 saw the CPA elect its first lay President, Brian Doyle, Editor of Brisbane’s “The Catholic Leader”.
At the 25th convention in 1976, held in Brisbane, the Bishop Philip Kennedy Award is named in recognition of the late Auxiliary Bishop of Adelaide, 1973-83. In his role as Secretary of the Bishops’ Committee for Mass Media, Bishop Kennedy had forged a bountiful and friendly relationship with CPA.
Over the years, the association experienced turmoil yet steady membership growth. There was a significant change, not just within the Catholic Church but the Catholic media landscape. A considerable advancement was the growing inclusion of women within Catholic media and the association.
At the 1989 convention held in Sydney, President Ron Robinson, refers to the “Australasian Catholic Press Association” (ACPA). It was the first mention of the association’s name change and reported in The Catholic Weekly.
The late 1980s, early 1990s saw a decline in membership. Dominant figures began to move on from ACPA, either through retirement or transfers. Perhaps newly appointed editors did not feel any keen kinship with the association. However, for whatever reason, active members decreased to the point where at the convention held in 1995 in Wellington, NZ, only nine members were present. Of those nine, four were elected into the executive and all relative newcomers to the association.
A concerted effort over the coming years by subsequent executives saw members steadily increase by seeking new memberships and connecting with lapsed members. Today ACPA has over 130 members encompassing various publications across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Region.
(History adapted from “ACPA What’s the Story: Volume 1 Policies and Personalities 1955-2018” by Fr Frank Freeman SDB)