Executive Manager Projects and Partnerships
When did you join TaskForce?
April 2005 as an Alcohol and Drug Youth Outreach Worker.
Why do you remember the date so clearly?
My son was just six months old. It was a big risk coming from a secure job in local government to the community sector. The agility and impact of the sector kept me here. I can now focus on partnerships and working with the local councils in our catchment to access the resources that support our clients at TaskForce. My son is turning 18 in September and has just bought his first car … That’s scary!
What attracted you to TaskForce?
I’d worked as a Youth Worker at Bayside Council and had always admired TaskForce’s work, and wanted to work in the alcohol and drug sector. When the job opportunity came up I jumped at it. At the time TaskForce had a total of about 20 employees, two sites (Prahran and Bentleigh), and two computers … it has been a changing landscape ever since, and we now have 120+ employees, 40+ funding sources and programs, six busy sites and a much larger footprint across the South East of Melbourne. And yes, every staff member has their own computer!
Through all the growth we have been able to maintain a great culture, one that focuses on supporting staff to meet the needs of the local community where they need it most, whether that be through targeted outreach-based programs that take the service to the client and reduce barriers to support or structured group-based programs. TaskForce is always assessing the needs of the community and looking for ways to assist.
What does your role entail?
I manage TaskForce programs/projects that don’t fit into our core funding streams. These include:
- Cockatoo Community House (including the Storm and Flood Recovery Project in Cockatoo)
- Engaging Families Cardinia, operating at the intersection of mental health, alcohol and drugs, and family violence
- Youth and Family Outreach Cardinia
- PIVOT (Youth Crime Prevention)
- Opportunity for Change (Afghan family violence initiative in Casey), and
- The Frankston North Bike Project
Another key aspect of my role is to develop and maintain key relationships to identify service gaps and funding opportunities.
What do your projects do to help people?
These projects all assist the community in various ways. For example, Cockatoo Community House allows TaskForce to have a place-based approach. We have a wonderful coordinator (Lisa) who liaises with the Cockatoo community directly, to identify and plan activities and responses to support their needs.
Opportunity for Change is a response to the growing incidents of family violence in the Afghan community in the city of Casey. The project is in its first stage and consulting with the community and key stakeholders to inform a response that will aim to reduce family violence in the Afghan community.
There are many ways in which my work helps the community, from identifying gaps, developing and designing responses to advocate to funders and government for systemic improvements.
What I love most is being able to empower people and lead teams to reach their potential and exceed beyond their own expectations.
Who does it help?
As many people as possible but most importantly in a sustainable way.
What is the most inspiring moment you have seen in your work?
I have been lucky enough to be part of many inspirational moments, it is hard to choose one. Last week I was speaking to a client who had built (recycled) a bike out of old bikes that were destined for the scrap yard.
He told me how he took it home over the weekend and, for the first time ever, was able to go for a bike ride with his 8- and 6-year-old children. You could see he was so proud. Another client from the same project built a bike which allowed him to accept a job through TaskForce’s JVES program and is now in full time work.
My biggest inspiration is seeing new staff join the TaskForce family and develop their careers to make a difference in people’s lives, whether with TaskForce or with other agencies. Knowing I have played a small role in that inspires me every day to do more.
What more could be done to help more people through your program?
More resources is always the right response but as I mentioned earlier we need sustainable systems change.
What do you mean by systems change?
We need a health system that gives equal access to all and understands the complexity of mental health, trauma and social disadvantage. We need to be able to work more collaboratively with long-term funding arrangements that allow a place-based response to address the immediate needs of those communities.
Do you have any words of wisdom for young people starting out in life?
Don’t underestimate the value of lived experience. Be open to learning, be patient and be present to the opportunities that may become available. There will come a time when you will be in a position to apply that knowledge and people will listen and learn from you.