The Community Advisory Council was set up in 2015 to provide a representative voice for the people who access Flourish Australia’s services. Following recent elections, the new Community Advisory Council met at Olympic Park in May 2018.
What is the CAC?
The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is composed of two dozen representatives who access Flourish Australia’s services across New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland.
All of Flourish Australia’s service locations are represented on the Community Advisory Council, including community businesses like Prestige Packing, Figtree Conference Centre, and KwikKopy. CAC members serve as representatives of people who access our services.
Bringing your concerns, requests, complaints and ideas to a forum where they can be acted on is one of the core purposes of their job.
Past CACs have brought about significant change. Flourish Australia’s Board and Senior Leadership Team take everything raised in CAC meetings very seriously, and use this feedback in order to co-design better services.
Upper management have acted on CAC requests on many occasions, such as when the CAC decided it was necessary for the Council to meet more often. A survey was issued to all the reps to determine just how many times they wanted to meet per annum, and their feedback doubled these meetings from one day twice a year to two days twice a year.
Your voice matters, so see your local rep if you have any ideas!
From all over NSW and South East Qld
Our new Community Advisory Council met for their first two-day forum on the 16th and 17th of May. As our reps are separated by vast geographical distances, the biggest issue with holding these meetings is logistics. To show just how much Flourish Australia values and believes in the CAC, the organisation flies in the reps from all across New South Wales and South East Queensland, puts them up in hotels near Figtree Conference Centre in Sydney Olympic Park, and also covers the representative’s meals and local transport fares. During the meeting days, Figtree Conference Centre staff provide meals, coffee, snacks and practical needs for all of the reps.
Electing the new Chair and Deputy Chair
One of the major orders of business for our new CAC was to decide out who would serve as their Chair and Deputy Chair (the highest officers of the CAC) for the next two years. These two officers will ensure that meetings are conducted in an orderly fashion, and they also serve as the CAC’s spokespeople outside of meetings.
After each of the reps had openly nominated their one choice, a secret ballot decided that Maurice “Mozzy” Wilkinson from Parkes was to be elected Chair and Scott Gourlay from Taree would be Deputy Chair. Other nominees included Graham Seaman from Armidale, Deonny Zaroual of Figtree Conference Centre, Phil O’Laughlin from Moree, Nathan Davis of Tumut, Shane Bentley from Nowra and Karen Prestwidge from Penrith. Fay Jackson, our General Manager Inclusion and Kim Jones, Project Officer Inclusion, facilitated the election.
“How advocacy works”
There were many other topics of conversation and presentations over those two days. For instance, Annie Sykes – the Senior Independent Advocate – gave a talk about her job role. She explained how advocacy works, provided an overview of our rights and responsibilities, and described how the complaints procedures worked.
She spelled out how having access to an impartial Advocate helps the people who access our services to feel empowered, and it prevents them from falling through the cracks or being left behind. Annie’s take-home message was that anyone who has a problem with Flourish Australia can receive her support without fear of negative repercussions.
Got a mental health issue? How about a career in politics?
Two years is a general term of standing for any council, and so every twenty-four months our CAC reps are democratically replaced. Regularly rotating the CAC allows us to involve more people who access our services, which is a great way to keep the ideas and perspectives fresh.
An added bonus is that this turnover enables more people to experience being on a Council, which is beneficial in two ways: it will teach you a new skill set, and will look nice on your resume.
But how does somebody become a part of the CAC?
Firstly, just like the people they represent, CAC reps have to be on a mental health recovery journey. Whether you were diagnosed for the first time a month ago or have had eighty hospital admissions over the span of half a century, all CAC reps must be veterans of the mental health system.
The second qualification you need to join the CAC is that you have to be accessing one of Flourish Australia’s many services. This could be a day-to-day living centre, a community business, a work preparation program, or you might be receiving one-on-one support with one of our peer workers, mental health workers or NDIS workers.
If you can define what wellness means to you, know what factors make your journey easier or more difficult, and are able to learn from the occasional stumble or toe-stub, then you might be a perfect candidate!
Nothing about us without us
CAC reps can only operate at their best if the people they represent actually talk to them (even if it’s just a whisper). If you require some sort of support or service in order to go further in life, tell your rep. If you’ve had a bad experience with Flourish Australia in some way, be sure to tell your rep. If you have a brilliant idea that you think will change lives if it’s given a chance, tell your rep. For instance, Deputy Chair Scott Gourlay’s dreams is for the organisation to start up a Taree-based day-to-day living centre like The Centre at Hunter Street, Newcastle.
If you wish to raise something with your local rep for their next meeting, you can easily find out who they are by asking your peer worker, mental health worker or manager.
An honest day’s pay
Flourish Australia pays Community Advisory Council representatives an honest day’s wage for the services they provide. CAC reps earn $25 an hour, so attending two straight days of meetings twice a year will net them $880 in total per annum.
CAC reps may also be invited to take part in other paid meetings and functions, such as attending focus groups. You never know: being a part of the CAC may be the beginnings of something big.
CAC or EAC?
Flourish Australia has two Councils: the Community Advisory Council (CAC) and the Employee Advisory Council (EAC). As they both function in very similar ways, it can be easy to get them mixed up. However, these Councils are separate entities with some core differences.
COMMUNITY ADVISORY COUNCIL: Anybody who accesses one of Flourish Australia’s services – including our community businesses and supported employment workplaces – can be a representative of the Community Advisory Council. The CAC is able to address any issue that has a connection to how our organisation operates. Please note that CAC reps cannot be Flourish Australia staff.
EMPLOYEE ADVISORY COUNCIL: Representatives for the EAC must be employees at one of our community businesses (like Prestige Packing, KwikKopy, Enterpraise, Figtree Conference Centre and so on). EAC meetings only focus on issues that directly relate to Flourish Australia employment services.