Flourish Australia Annual General Meeting 2017-18 Change Challenge and Growth

By Grant J Everett and Warren Heggarty 

AGM.jpgABOVE: Special guests Brendan and Judi talk to CEO Mark Orr about their experience with Flourish Australia (Full story in Annual Report) PHOTO BY NEIL FENELON

Giving the acknowledgement of people with lived experience of mental health issues, Annie Sykes called upon us all to remember not just those in the past who had ‘suffered in silence’ and even ‘died forgotten’ but also ‘those who roared’ and ‘our allies’ in the cause. 

Chair of the Board Prof Elizabeth Moore AM referred to Stephen Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now which says that there has never been a better time to be alive than now. He mentioned two elements of our age which detract from that: climate change and the prospect of nuclear war. Elizabeth suggested there was a third: poor mental health. 

She noted that this was the tenth year of the establishment of the Women and Children’s Program (see story in December Panorama pp.17-19) and pointed out that so many of the issues dealt with there are related to domestic violence, interlinked with mental health issues. 

She lauded the fact that our workforce has supported so many people in changing their lives, not by telling them what to do, but by walking alongside them in their journeys. 

Once again Elizabeth gave accolades to the board and senior leadership team, with a special mention to new CEO/ Company Secretary Mark Orr and his predecessor Pamela Rutledge, who was also in attendance. 

One major feature of the finance report for 2017-2018 was the completion of the Guildford apartment project, of which 6 have been sold and 31 rented. The recent slump in housing prices has not helped our cause, however, the Chair thanked Mohammed Alkhub (General Manager, Business Excellence in his 25th year with our organisation) for his work. ‘In a past life I am sure he must have been a Real Estate Agent’ she quipped. 

Flourish Australia has grown in NSW and Queensland but we have also developed a small presence in Victoria and we are showing interest in South Australia. Headspace Broken Hill and the sub-acute units at Bathurst and Dubbo are examples of some of our new ventures. 

Director Rachel Slade has retired from the Board after three years in order to take on the new role of Chief Customer Experience Officer at NAB. The fact that she is taking on such a role in the wake of the Banking Royal Commission is testament to the calibre of our Board Members. 

To help us better meet the challenge of the NDIS environment among other things, New finance software has been introduced and has shown great benefit. Because some of our one-on-one services are not necessarily covered by the NDIS, Flourish Australia needs to develop a careful mix of services. 

We are extending our marketing, philanthropy and fundraising operations, which will begin to come to fruition in 2018-2019. Elizabeth thanks Peter Neilson, Mark Orr and other team members for their work leading this. 

Our peer workforce has grown to 181 and 53% of our workforce overall has identified themselves as having lived experience of a mental health issue. 

Elizabeth thanked our Community Advisory Council and also the Social Citizenship Think Tank for their thought leadership. And on the subject of thought leadership, the recent publication of the book Peer Work in Australia in conjunction with Mind Australia is another highlight of a strong year for peers. 

Other matters dealt with included the reappointment of auditors and the re-election of directors on rotation. All current directors were returned with the exception of Rachel Slade whose retirement leaves a casual vacancy. A proposal for remuneration of directors was ratified and an independent remuneration committee was appointed. 

Special guest speakers included Brendan and his mother Judi whose stories appeared in the 2017-2018 Annual Report. The keynote speaker was Dr Jeffrey Chan of the NDIS Quality Safeguards Commission. The Commission’s job is to set standards for NDIS support services. He told us that after 15 years of studying the restrictive practises used on people with disabilities, he has found restraint to be of zero therapeutic value. 

Dr Chan said that restraint was inherently dangerous, citing how a number of people who were being trained in carrying out ‘safe restraint techniques’ had actually suffered injuries. Staff trained in restraint are more likely to use it. And while the USA, UK and Europe are focussed on reducing these practises, Australia is aiming to eliminate them altogether. He complimented Flourish Australia by saying he was “preaching to the converted”. 

Want to see Dr Chan’s keynote speech? Check out the 2018 Annual General Meeting on our Facebook page and skip to the 53:20 mark. 

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