TasCOSS Annual Report 2021/22: President’s Report

It was another rewarding and busy year for TasCOSS, marked notably by the milestone release of the 10 year Tasmanian Community Services Industry Plan (2021-31), a Federal Election campaign, the launch of our new five year Strategic Plan (2021-26) and our statewide biennial conference.

During the reporting period, the Tasmanian Government, in collaboration with the community services industry and TasCOSS, released the 10 year Tasmanian Community Services Industry Plan (2021-31).

The Industry Plan is a significant piece of work which provides overarching framework for governments, peak bodies and community service organisations to guide strategic industry development and transition planning. As Chair of the Community Services Industry Advisory Council with Minister Street, I’m really pleased to be able to report that during this reporting period, funding was granted by the Department of State Growth to further the Workforce Development and Training strategic priority of the area of the Industry Plan.

This priority area is focussed on ensuring that the community services industry has the skilled and diverse workforce it needs to deliver flexible, responsive services that can withstand future disruptors and achieve positive outcomes for clients. The implementation of the Industry Plan is now well underway and is being overseen by a robust governance structure that consists of the Advisory Council, the Industry Development Steering Committee and the Workforce Coalition who are actioning the funded Workforce Coordination Project. I would like to thank the many stakeholders who’ve been involved in the creation and now implementation of this significant piece of work. It’s genuinely exciting, and from my interaction with the other COSS’s around the country, it is a genuinely innovative piece of work — particularly in terms of its relationship across sectors and its relationship with government at a strategic level, which I’m confident will enable the plan to continue to have the momentum that it currently has.

In the lead up to the 2022 Federal Election, TasCOSS released a Tasmania Package which focussed on key policies and programs to combat cost of living pressures and provide much needed relief to Tasmanian families. Based on the responses provided to TasCOSS and analysis of publicly available policies, we rated each of the parties and candidate commitments against the key initiatives and policies put forward in the Tasmania Package. While it was affirming to see key issues of concern lead the political debate, namely cost of living, housing stress and stagnant wages, we were disappointed by the lack of commitment from the major parties to address five key issues identified by TasCOSS and the community services industry. We continue to push for change in engaging conversations with both the state and federal government around progressing these important initiatives.

Other highlights included our successful energy advocacy, which resulted in $30 million in energy savings for Tasmanian households and hosting 40 participants from 26 organisations across the state at the Brilliance in Resilience: Planning for Future Crisis Workshop, which delved into the important role community services play in emergencies and explored learnings from our response to the pandemic.

Another highlight of the past Financial Year was the release of the TasCOSS Strategic Plan (2021-26). Following extensive planning and consultation with TasCOSS Members, the TasCOSS Board, staff and management to reflect our current aims and advocacy priorities, our work and key initiatives over the next five years will be guided by three overarching strategic goals: a good life for all Tasmanians, a strong community services industry, and a vibrant organisation. I’m also pleased to report that after some effort from our staff and board that TasCOSS’s membership levels on the previous Financial Year, it’s rewarding to see these new members joining us to support our industry’s workforce and adding their voice to our work to challenge and change the systems and attitudes that create poverty, inequality and exclusion. In 2021, we had 232 members and in this Financial Year, we’re up to 255.

While the Special General Meeting (SGM) was held just outside this Financial Year, I thought it appropriate to provide a report on the work of the TasCOSS Board, without mentioning the great deal of work that went into the lead up to the amendments to the TasCOSS Constitution. These amendments were proposed following a comprehensive strategic review. The board is now moving into its second stage of our review work with our board review to ensure that the way that we operate is the most effective way for TasCOSS and its staff. The aim of that review was to ensure that we, as a board, were and continue to best meet the needs of our organisation, as well as making it easier for TasCOSS Members to engage with and be part of the election process.

Of the changes which were proposed, the most significant was the amendment to the TasCOSS Board selection election and appointment process. The new process is less complex and allows TasCOSS to engage a skills-based independent board and aligned more closely with the AICD governance principles. In keeping with our mission and values, it was incredibly important that we took this step to modernise the TasCOSS Constitution and ensure the organisation has the backing of the contemporary board of governance. I’d like to say a big thank you to our members who attended or engaged in the process and provided feedback prior to the SGM in August. The TasCOSS Board were really pleased with the level of engagement and the outcome of that strategic review.

For those that weren’t able to join us at the SGM, I’m happy to report that these changes were passed unanimously. There is, however, still work to be done around improving how we engage and best represent the needs of our members. I’d like to assure members that TasCOSS is committed to improving accessibility of all members around board-led and other events moving forward. Also, during this time, the board have undertaken a risk assessment and worked with an external expert to engage and clarify TasCOSS’s risk appetite.

Looking ahead, it’ll no doubt be another busy year. One of our continued key advocacy focus areas will continue to be the vital Indexation Project in conjunction with the Network of Peaks in the lead up to the Tasmanian Budget in May 2023. I’d like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank all community service organisations who provided us with their time and financial and HR data. This was invaluable in enabling the research team at the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Public Value to develop up a robust and representative indexation formula which the Tasmanian Government can apply to funding contracts.

We are sharing this research and key findings with the Government as part of our submission to the 2023/24 State Budget Community Consultation process and will have more to communicate on this in the coming weeks and months.

Without a sustainable community services industry, the wellbeing of Tasmanians and the state as a whole will suffer. Adequate indexation is a critical issue that needs to be addressed and we need your support to call for adequate indexation.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge and say thank you to Adrienne and the TasCOSS staff for their extraordinary work over the past year. It has been incredibly busy. I know that as a board we have asked a lot of Adrienne and the team, so I thank you all so much for your work. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this organisation and to contribute in my small way as President. Similarly, the board thank all of our members for the time that you give to assisting TasCOSS with its strategic direction.

And finally, thank you to everyone for your continued support of the work that TasCOSS does.