BUSHkids Annual Report 2019-20

ANNUAL REPORT 2019–2020 DR NEIL BARTELS COUNCIL CHAIR 3 Chief among the reasons for my writing less this year is that, as you will see throughout the following pages, our operational and leadership teams have had so much to contribute. It is a source of much pride that, under the leadership of CEO Carlton Meyn over the past nine years, BUSHkids staff have largely written the core of each Annual Report themselves. Their new experiences in 2020 have not only triggered innovative ways of working and maintaining connections across our vast state, they have also prompted many heartwarming stories to be told in these pages. And their work has been strongly supported by Council members, who have mobilised the enormous expertise of their respective specialities to help underpin the efforts of our leadership teams in steering BUSHkids through these dynamic changes – special thanks to my volunteer Council colleagues, old and new, for everything you have done. With the necessary focus on COVID-induced constraints and life adjustments, the dire drought continuing to grip much of Queensland has, unfortunately, fallen ‘below the radar’ for much of this year. That is not the experience for BUSHkids, embedded as we are in so many small rural towns and regional communities which were already facing social dislocation and futures of doubtful viability before the onset of the pandemic. For many families, BUSHkids has been an even more vital connection during this time. It is a truism, however, that in adversity there is always opportunity, and there seem brighter prospects in the demographic trends of many younger families relocating to the more open spaces and affordable lifestyles of- fered by life in the regions. This augurs well for our organisation’s future growth in attracting and retaining staff to help meet the needs for our services and always- increasing waitlists. Our service capacities have nevertheless been greatly extended this year, thanks to BUSHkids’ pioneering role in developing and deploying our teleHealth services across Queensland. Already in widespread use in many of our Centres, as I reported last year, teleHealth has really become a powerful ‘force multiplier’ at just the right moment, helping us to maximise our stretched resources and remotely extend the reach of our talented teams to many more socially-isolated children and families. Our timely partnership in teleHealth research with The University of Queensland in recent years unexpectedly placed BUSHkids in an enviable position as 2020 unfolded, and we are happy that Emeritus Professor Deborah Theodoros had volunteered her expertise in this area to join our Council at last year’s AGM: welcome, Deb and many thanks. The need to refocus on the implications of the pandemic in Q1 and Q2 delayed the rollout of our new 2021–26 Strategic Plan but, again, with unforeseen benefits as we amended it to reflect the ‘new normal’ realities ahead. In evolving the new Strategic Plan, it was gratifying to note the durability of its 2015-18 predecessor; the review and reflection workshops – in which Council members participated (physically and virtually) with staff – clearly showing the fundamentals of BUSHkids’ values, goals and specific strategies remain sound and targeted. Incorporating the demands of living with COVID into new, remote, and modified, in-Centre, work policies and procedures has required the extra attention and legal oversight of Deputy Chair Gloria Ryan, who has also been instrumental in our actions and responses in addressing the National Redress Scheme . The safety of children in our care is our highest priority. We will not tolerate abuse of any kind. Our commitment to the safety and wellbeing of children is why BUSHkids is joining the Scheme. Council members, as with all our volunteers and staff – both frontline and behind the scenes – are required to hold Blue Cards so the culture of responsibility and duty of care is inherent in our behaviours as much as it is in our comprehensive policies and procedures. Acknowledging the ongoing Patronage and support of the Governor of Queensland, the Hon. Paul de Jersey ac , and Mrs Kaye de Jersey, it is a regret (far from unique to BUSHkids!) that we were unable to come together to celebrate our 85th birthday this year. More importantly, though, BUSHkids is well placed for 2021 and beyond. Dr Neil J Bartels oam MBBS LL.M Grad.Cert.Leg.Med. FACRRM Chair This year, I preface my much shorter report by recording Council’s appreciation of the resilience, enthusiasm and professionalism of all BUSHkids teams in adapting to the demands of our ‘new normal’ world in 2020. Our frontline staff, especially, have stepped up to ensure children and families continue to be firmly supported and warmly connected: well done!

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