Predictions for 2022: Charities
10 February 2022 at 7:30 am
Looking ahead to the coming year, Belinda Drew, CEO of Community Services Industry Alliance, issues a call to action to the community sector to set a big agenda.
The last decade has been full of challenges for community organisations, big and small, right across Australia. Reforms in service delivery, commissions of inquiry and more recently a global pandemic have left many leaders and their organisations struggling to adapt and change. However, despite these challenges, there is enormous cause for optimism in the resilience of community organisations and their workforce as they rise to these challenges, showing up day in and day out to meet the needs of the people they serve.
However, there is a risk that this operating environment demands a focus on the present at the cost of looking out over the horizon. This is a problem because community organisations, their leaders and the thousands of workers have so much to offer in terms of shaping the future. So, the opportunities articulated below are a call to action, noting that there are many great examples across the community services industry to build upon.
The first call to action is about our people, specifically celebrating their value and increasing their pay.
This is a workforce facing significant growth over the next decade. In Queensland, where I live and work, growth in this workforce dominates the employment market in every region across the state, and this sector makes up 13 per cent of people in work. This growth is driving an unprecedented demand for workers in care and support roles across community services. While approaches to recruitment by individual organisations are important to meet this demand, so is improving the narrative care and support work, the status associated with it and what workers are paid. To make inroads on this challenge individual organisational effort is not enough, rather it will be achieved through collaborative industry wide action and alliance building.
Alongside increasing the attractiveness of the work, leaders must also attend to the fatigue and burnout that is accumulating across the existing workforce. Driven by management of complex work, in intimate care and support roles, with the overlay of COVID management and its risks, this fatigue is real. Without intervention we may end up with a different kind of epidemic, burnout. There is an opportunity to embrace a proactive approach to health and wellbeing, aspiring to more than just meeting workplace health and safety requirements by striving to create healthy workplaces that contribute to the health and wellbeing of the workforce.
The second call to action centres on climate justice and the role of community organisations in shaping a net zero future.
Although for some this may seem abstracted from the day-to-day realities of service delivery, the impacts of climate change will disproportionately impact individuals and communities serviced by community organisations, compounding existing disadvantage. Further, business impacts ranging from governing new and emergent risks through to increases in energy costs will be impossible to ignore. It is critical that organisations act now for this future by building alliances that promote climate justice, integrating the impacts of climate change into service delivery models and building organisational resilience.
Finally, it is imperative that over the next decade community organisations rethink reconciliation action with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their organisations and community.
To date, we have talked of good intentions but often failed to step into the test of meaningful change. Past experiences teach us that remaining comfortable in a state of good intentions is not enough. We must try harder. We must put our words into action. Building trust and relationships alongside “real” action is critical to meaningful change, and this will require truth telling and reconciliation, new thinking, and attention to the issues of readiness across the system.
In summary, the role of community organisations in meeting the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups through their role in community services is indisputable. What is still in play is the extent to which the leaders and workers of these organisations are future makers. The power to achieve this is in your hands.