In my very short time in the CEO role this year I have learnt:
If you are hungry, Doncare will feed you
If you are hurting, Doncare will wrap its arms around you
If you are cold, we will help keep you warm
If you are hot, we will help keep you cool
If you need an ear, we will listen
If you are lonely, we will find you company
If your family needs a lifeline, Doncare will provide it to you
If you are happy, we are happy
As we transition to some kind of new ’normal’ after more than two years of COVID, Doncare continues to provide outstanding community and counselling services. For a small organisation, we deliver a wide range of services to enhance the well-being and resilience of local adults and children.
This year we saw a 63% increase in emergency relief appointments. This significant rise is partly due to increasing food and energy prices. According to the World Health Organisation, record high food prices are driving people into poverty more than ever before and in Victoria, 40% of renters are experiencing energy hardship - that is, they don’t have the resources to adequately stay warm in winter or cool in summer.
Researchers have discovered that income, social relationships and philanthropy can all have an impact on happiness. Not surprisingly, household income is positively related to happiness. Studies also suggest that money continues to be a determining factor of happiness as income rises, but it becomes less relevant than other factors like health and family. Many people who attend Doncare are healthcare card or low-income earners. Add to this the findings that overall happiness levels declined during Australia’s extended lockdown periods, and you start to see a picture of the burden being experienced by the community.
There is now a kind of reawakening or blossoming that needs to occur. Our path and future post-COVID has been forged by our resilience and need to adapt to a forever-changing landscape. Unfortunately, towards the end of the financial year, we had to say farewell to a number of staff whose contracts had come to an end or whose positions could not be replaced due to financial constraints. The closure of our much-loved op shops continues to impact on our operational activity, but the silver lining is that our volunteer numbers have slowly started to increase again. We currently have 157 active volunteers, of which about 70 work as retail assistants at our op shops in Mitcham and Templestowe. As our volunteers have come back, so have our Social Support programs that reach the older and isolated members of our community. The walking groups, Cafe Club, and Community Visitors Program are all back and running.
Our children and youth are such an important part of the future that Doncare, with support from our partners, is investing in increased services for them. Our child and youth counselling services experienced a 200% increase in appointments in the last financial year.
For many years Doncare has been supported enormously by Manningham City Council, State and Federal Government, the Bendigo Bank and a long list of community organisations such as local Rotary Clubs, CareNet and the Phillips Foundation. I thank all of our funding bodies, partners, donors, sponsors and of course, Doncare’s volunteers for their ongoing generosity.
If you live in Manningham, you are surrounded by a community like no other that I have seen or experienced. There are more people with awards for contributions to community and thousands of volunteers who make living in Manningham a privilege. Doncare was delighted that Manningham City Council has renamed the Manningham Civic Volunteer of the Year Award in honour of the late Doreen Stoves AM PSM JP, former Doncare CEO. From 2022 the award will be named the Doreen Stoves Volunteer of the Year Award. Doreen left a tireless legacy at Doncare and continues to be greatly missed by all who knew her. This honour embeds Doreen in the history of volunteering in Manningham and at Doncare.
I would like to thank and recognise the work of former CEO Gaby Thomson and Acting CEO Deborah de Rossi and for their hard work and contributions to the organisation. My utmost appreciation goes to Doncare’s staff who have worked alongside me whilst tough decisions needed to be made so early in my tenure to ensure the organisation’s ongoing sustainability. Your willingness to take on more and work as a team speaks volumes for the workplace culture at Doncare. Finally, thank you to the Board for their active support and for entrusting me with the leadership of this wonderful organisation.
Chief Executive Officer