Past and present CEOs (from left): Pam Rutledge (recently retired), Phil Nadin (CEO of PRA until the merger in 2012) and Mark Orr (current CEO since 1 January 2018).
by Grant J Everett
Over a hundred visitors from across the span of NSW and south-eastern Queensland attended our Annual General Meeting at Figtree Conference Centre. They included people who access our services, members of the Community Advisory Council, members of the Employee Advisory Committee, board members, staff, and assorted special guests.
After Uncle Ray Davison gave the Welcome to Country, Board member Paula Hanlon reminded us of the many people who have given their all to help with our struggle towards self determination, especially those who are no longer with us. Like much of the crowd, Paula became a little emotional when she reminded the crowd that this would be the last AGM that Pamela Rutledge would attend as our CEO before her retirement. Mark Orr, formerly our Chief Information Officer, took the reins of CEO in January 2018. Retired or not, Pam still has many more lives to change, and we wish her well on the next chapter of her life: being a part of the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
The Chair of the Board, Professor Elizabeth Moore, applauded the fact that the number of people with a lived experience we employ across the entire organisation has risen to over 52%. This peer focus is one of the major reasons why Flourish Australia has been recognised both nationally and internationally as a leader in person-centred approaches.
Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) was our keynote speaker. She spoke about the “steely determination” that has been needed to oppose certain directions taken by the government since the 2014 budget. Dr Goldie said that organisations like her own have successfully resisted a lot of policies that would have badly affected the least powerful people in the country. A recent example was the government’s drive to introduce drug tests for welfare recipients. Dr Goldie described this as “stigmatising” and suggested that it would prevent people with substance issues from receiving the DSP. Despite the fact there have been teething problems relating to funding, she praised the creation of the NDIS. Dr Goldie also mentioned a major decline in the number of people with a lived experience of disability being employed by the Federal Government.
Board member Jeremy Thorpe is our new company Treasurer. Taking over from Stan Brogan after nineteen years of service, Jeremy announced a budget surplus, mentioned the progress of our affordable housing project in Guildford, and spoke of our entry into the world of “social impact bonds” with the Resolve program (See the full story in the December 2017 issue of Panorama, #66).
One of the highlights of every AGM is hearing from people who have successfully accessed our services. This year, Brayden, Jo, Kim, Mark and Shae-Lee shared their journeys with Flourish Australia, their accomplishments, and of the pride and new confidence they feel as a result of the recovery process. Some of the things they spoke about included gaining qualifications and open employment, becoming peer workers, volunteering to help the less fortunate, completing parenting courses, reclaiming the right to care for their own children, getting out of their homes and into the community, making new friends, and travelling. One of the most touching stories of hope was from Jo, who told us about how she managed to recover to the point where she reclaimed one of her children from care, and how her other child could be back with her soon. An audience member told me afterwards that she’d choked up a bit when Jo shared this intimate story. Finally, Dale O’Connell – a person who accesses our services and has previously featured in Panorama – playing two songs he’d written himself. You can see him in action on the front cover of this issue of Panorama. What a lovely singing voice, too!
Every detail about our organisation between 2016 and 2017 is covered in the Flourish Australia Annual Report 2017