TasCOSS Annual Report 2019/20: President’s Report

*** Delivered at the 2020 TasCOSS Annual General Meeting, Hadley’s Orient Hotel 25 November 2020 ***

Alexander McKenzie, President, TasCOSS Board

As I drove in to nipaluna this morning, I thought about whether it would be appropriate for me to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet.

I knew that someone would have done so before me, and would have done so ably with intent.

But then I thought, there’s some tangible benefit to me saying that all Tasmanian institutions and organisations ought to think more carefully and meaningfully about their relationship with lutruwita and its palawa custodians.

Corporate responsibility requires that we help lead — and don’t wait to be led — towards a lutruwita Tasmania that truly reflects that this land always was, and always will be, aboriginal land.

Welcome to Adrienne to her first TasCOSS AGM as CEO. The past few months have shown us that Adrienne is a fearless, sound and sensible leader for our organisation.

I know that personally she has been an easy, calming presence arriving in the middle of a pandemic, staff working from home, a Board President 400kms away, and an organisation to lead that had recently had a beloved CEO move onto some different work.

I’d like to take the opportunity to mention the enormous contribution Kym Goodes made to TasCOSS over the five years she was our CEO.

Adrienne’s capacity to bring people from their various backgrounds and organisations together to realise the vision of TasCOSS in such a short period of time has been extraordinary.

I know she has been aptly assisted by our staff, and in particular our managers Simone, Nic and Charlie.

On a personal note, I remain grateful for the availability and support of staff as we worked through the recruitment process. In particular, Michelle, Corinne, Simone and Nic were all, to varying degrees, required to assist me during that process and they each always did with generous availability.

I looked back over my report from last year’s AGM and I can see a change to Tasmania. I am sure we will forever now speak of pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19, like we do with pre- and post-Trump or pre- and post-truth.

But at the same time we see continuing, and in many cases, worsening situations for disadvantaged and vulnerable Tasmanians.

Just today, Adrienne was advocating to federal members of Parliament about the ramifications of a JobSeeker payment that doesn’t allow people to live a good life.

We continue to exist in a political environment when we know there are currently on average, conservatively, 23 applicants for every job vacancy in Tasmania.

Add in a pandemic and a recession, and the TasCOSS voice become all the more important.

The capacity for TasCOSS to set the agenda and tone of any conversation we are involved in is a continuing challenge that invigorates me in every interaction I have with our organisation.

Whether it is attending the excellent cultural awareness training at the TAC at piyura kitina or the delivery of the Tasmania Report in a couple of weeks in partnership with the TCCI, it is TasCOSS’s capacity to sit at the table with incredibly varied stakeholder groups that include public, private and not-for-profit representative models.

This was amply demonstrated across the industry during the COVID-19 crisis, where innovative and clever collaborations and partnerships were established by our members and others.

TasCOSS continues to be financially well placed in its delivery of core and special projects working towards a Tasmania where the good life is available to us all.

TasCOSS forces the Tasmanian, and Australian Government and community to ask itself the question — are we living in the sort of country and state that we want to be living in? Are we uncomfortable enough with the way in which we require some people to live?

We as a board know that the staff at TasCOSS work tirelessly to see a better Tasmania for all of us, and we thank you for your efforts. Again, it would be remiss of me not to thank Nic and Simone for agreeing to take on the responsibility to be our Acting CEOs during the recruitment process.

I had promised that all the board needed was ‘caretaker mode’: steady hands to lead the transition. Our six months of working in that team didn’t quite work out that way, but we certainly had steady hands. And for that, I am very grateful.

I also would like to thank Danny Sutton, Jacinda Armstrong and Colleen Johnstone for their advice and commitment during their time on the board. The TasCOSS Board continues to work towards have a model governance structure and a model approach to its deliberations.

Many of our forward steps are due in no small part to the contributions our departing board members. I hope that each of them remains a firm friend of our organisation as we continue to work towards a stronger TasCOSS.

I am also firmly of the view that good advocacy does not always mean undertaking an adversarial tone. Good advocacy can mean being around the table, seeking to influence compassionate responses.

I know that the input of TasCOSS has played a large part in the Premier’s response to the pandemic, and to Minister Jaensch’s view of Tasmania and Tasmanian communities.

This next year will undoubtedly be another big one. A state election before March 2022, a federal election in the next 18 months. Throw in the mix some structural governance work for us at TasCOSS and it will be another important 12 months not just for us, but for the members and community we serve.

I remain indebted to my board colleagues, Adrienne and the staff for your tireless efforts in bringing TasCOSS, its members and our communities through a really challenging time.

I’m humbled to continue to have the support of the board and CEO as President of TasCOSS, and in that I remain motivated to see us continue to advocate and influence towards a Tasmania where more people get to live the good life.