TasCOSS Annual Report 2022/23: President’s Report

Delivered at the TasCOSS Annual General Meeting, Wednesday 25 October 2023, Hobart.

Alex McKenzie, TasCOSS Board President

It’s always a privilege to provide an update on the work of the TasCOSS team, the board and most importantly our members. And it certainly was another rewarding and busy year marked by the work on the Fair Funding campaign, a sharpened focus on strengthening our industry’s governance practices, and the incredible work underway implementing the Community Services Industry Plan (2021-31) and initiatives of the Workforce Coordination Project.

Starting with the work of the Industry Plan — as Chair of the Community Services Industry Advisory Council, I’m pleased to update you on our continued work in supporting the implementation of the Industry Plan, undertaken through collaborative partnerships between the community services industry, service users, communities, government agencies, educational institutions, training providers and other stakeholders.

The collaborative governance framework was established with the three oversight groups set-up and work underway. These being the Community Services Industry Advisory Council, the Industry Development Steering Committee and the Workforce Coalition.

This Financial Year was also a very productive period for the Workforce Coordination Project and the project partners (TasCOSS, ACCPA, NDS and ECA Tasmania Branch) who in September 2022 welcomed on board the five Senior Officers making up the Workforce Ready Team, with each team member bringing sector expertise in workforce planning and development. The project also hosted the inaugural Workforce Coalition Network Meeting in November 2022, with an additional three network meetings held since that date.

An enormous amount of research, planning and collaborative work with the project partners was undertaken through the Workforce Coordination Project during this time resulting in the recent launch of the Work with Purpose initiative and the Workforce Review Tool. I would encourage you all to get involved in the Work with Purpose initiative, which highlights the purpose-led, meaningful work that aged care, disability, education and care (childcare) and social services have to offer and attract people to embark on a career in these fields.

As I mentioned earlier, this Financial Year also saw the next phase of our advocacy around indexation with the launch of the Fair Funding campaign to call for, and raise awareness of, the need for fair and adequate indexation for community service organisations in light of service delivery challenges posed by rising inflation and increased demand for services.

The campaign has seen high levels of engagement with members of the community services industry and has resulted to-date in a move to implement five-year funding contracts, along with a commitment from the Tasmanian Government to lead national work around indexation.

However, our calls for appropriate indexation were not adequately addressed in the 2023/24 State Budget. The inadequacy of the Government’s response was acknowledged personally by then Minister for Community Services, the Hon Nic Street MP, at our budget briefing event. This was a refreshing admission, with the Minister apologising for failing to meet the needs of community service organisations. Along with our fellow peak bodies and TasCOSS Members, we are continuing to engage with the Government and our new Minister, the Hon Jo Palmer MLC, to ensure we achieve sustainable outcomes for our industry and the Tasmanians we support.

On this, I’d like to thank Minister Street for his work for our industry and note that we look to continuing these strong working relationships with Minister Palmer.

TasCOSS also continued our strong advocacy around energy affordability, given the sharp increase in electricity prices in addition to other cost of living increases. Through our consultations with Tasmanians on low income during the first half of theFinancial Year, TasCOSS identified electricity prices, access to concessions and household energy efficiency as priority areas for reform.

Another highlight saw the launch of our new look TasCOSS website (tascoss.org.au), which features more opportunities for engagement on critical issues relevant to our industry through our Member Policy Networks, an online membership payment function, and the ability for TasCOSS Members to more easily share and promote news and events.

We also saw the successful trial and implementation of TasCOSS’s Community Voices Program — a lived experience advocacy program for people living on low incomes. Integral to establishment of the program was the recruitment and training of eight Community Voice Partners located across the state with diverse lived experiences.

As I flagged earlier, TasCOSS continued our focus on strengthening governance in our industry over the past year and together with an experienced provider, designed and delivered a Chair and Masterclass Program, which both Adrienne and I had the privilege of participating in.

This program was completed by 20 participants (10 CEOs and the corresponding chairs of their boards) and provided participants with the opportunity to further develop governance skills and knowledge to equip them in their roles as leaders in contemporary community services.

TasCOSS has also been collaborating with the University of Tasmania on the development of Gamechangers in Governance, a foundational governance course, that commenced just this month. The wide range of interest in completing this course has been gratifying to see.

Many of you would also be aware that Adrienne received a full scholarship to participate in the Social Impact Leadership Australia (SILA) program earlier this year. SILA is a capacity-building and leadership program designed for CEOs of for-purpose organisations.

As part of this incredible program, the TasCOSS management team received personal leadership coaching support sessions. I saw firsthand the positive impact of the support provided by the SILA program to our team and our focus on strategic organisational development.

I would like to say a big thank you to Dr Charlie Burton for stepping-up as the Acting CEO during this period and ably leading the team during this team. Charlie is an extraordinary person, and I am very envious of all you that get to work with Charlie every day.

And while it seems a lifetime ago now, last year on 25 August we held an Special General Meeting (SGM) to propose amendments to the TasCOSS Constitution following a comprehensive strategic review. Of the changes which were proposed, the most significant was the amendment to the TasCOSS Board selection, election and appointment process. These proposals were passed unanimously at the SGM.

It was incredibly important we took this step to modernise the TasCOSS Constitution and to ensure the organisation has the backing of a contemporary board of governance.

The new process allows TasCOSS to engage a skills-based independent board and align more closely with the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Governance Principles.

The next 12-months will see more opportunities to raise our voices together to challenge and change the systems, behaviours and attitudes that create poverty, inequality and exclusion, and as I mentioned previously, we will continue our commitment to seeking fair and adequate funding to support a sustainable community services industry. We look forward to continuing this important work in the coming year.

In 2016, Simone Zell provided governance training to the Wyndarra Community Centre in Smithton where I was serving as Deputy Chair. From there, my volunteering with TasCOSS commenced with her introduction to the extraordinary work, leadership and advocacy that this fabulous organisation does — through its people.

Simone has been a tremendous asset to the organisation and will be sorely missed, however we wish her well in her new role at Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania.

I am conscious that this is likely my last opportunity to formally address the membership of TasCOSS in-person as I will step down in April 2024, so I would like to thank all of you for your support and advice, since I joined the TasCOSS Board in 2017, and since becoming President in 2019. Specifically, Mat Rowell and Debbie Evans as the Presidents between 2017 and 2019, and of course, Kym Goodes and now Adrienne Picone as CEO. It will leave a tremendous hole, but I will continue to be a friend to TasCOSS, particularly in the regions.

The staff at TasCOSS turn up every day to live our Mission to see every Tasmania have the opportunity to live a good life. They are some of the most engaged and committed individuals that I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with. The TasCOSS Board bring a broad and skilful approach to guiding our strategy to ensure our members are heard, and to ensure that decision-makers fully understand the impact of choices that are made.