The year in review – Frances Crimmins, Executive Director, YWCA Canberra

12 October 2016

 

Our 2016 AGM was held on Monday 10 October, bringing together more than 80 members, staff and friends to celebrate our achievements, and elect new board members. I’m pleased to share with you some of our key areas of impact, and highlights from the 2015-16 year, which you can find out more about in our new Annual Report.

 

 

This year has seen both Executives and Boards of all YWCAs in Australia invest time and resources into exploring the National Merger Project. The significance of this project cannot be understated, both in terms of its process, and the possible end result.

As Executive Director of this organisation, I am guided by our governing legal document, our constitution, and the policies and procedures endorsed by our Board.

As a membership-based organisation, and one that provides critical programs and services to both vulnerable people, and privileged people in our community, I consciously keep the diverse needs and desires of these groups top of mind when participating in discussions and decision-making processes that will determine the future of our organisation and national movement.

This year YWCA Canberra continued to demonstrate its values through our key areas of work in community services, children’s services, training and education, and advocacy. One of our areas of increasing focus has been in supporting young people, particularly young women, to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics – or “STEAM” as it is now commonly referred to.

In April we held our annual Round the World Breakfast at QT Canberra to celebrate World YWCA Day. The event was themed around STEAM and highlighted women’s achievements in this area, with the amazing Dr Sarah Pearson and our goal was to raise funds for our YWCA Clubhouse – a high tech space for young people living in Tuggeranong to explore STEAM, and have access to professional industry mentoring.

We’re delighted that this was our most successful fundraising breakfast to date, with a record 170 corporate guests, members, colleagues and friends in attendance. This is particularly important for a program like the Clubhouse, which relies on the support of our corporate, government, philanthropic, and individual support to continue to operate.

In addition to our fundraising efforts, each year at Round the World Breakfast we announce the recipients of our Great Ydeas Small Grants Program, which fosters the innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership of women in our community.

Launched in 2010 in celebration of YWCA Canberra’s 80th anniversary, more than 40 women have since received grants of up to $2000 to undertake pilot projects, start small businesses, participate in professional development opportunities, or address social needs in the community. Projects supported by the program typically aim to:

  • raise the profile of women’s issues
  • contribute to policy development and public discussion about gender equality
  • promote cultural diversity
  • support intergenerational leadership, or
  • enhance women’s professional and personal skills.

This year, with the support of corporate partners, we were able to offer three additional specialised grants to young women, which saw the program supporting more women than ever before.

In terms of our broader work to support young people in the community, this year we ran a pilot of Teaching Respect Ed, a program that pursues our objective of ending violence against women through primary prevention. Teaching Respect Ed provides teachers with the skills to deliver our primary violence prevention programs in schools, via a license arrangement.

For YWCA Canberra, it addresses a clear professional development need for teachers and educators today, and it’s fantastic that we recently achieved accreditation for the course via the ACT Teacher Quality Institute.

In terms of our work with women and children, particularly those escaping domestic violence, I’m pleased that both our Transitional Housing Program and Supportive Tenancy Service have received funding contracts for — 2016 to 2019.

This year our team supported 175 people, the vast majority of which were women and their children. This is particularly important given that research shows in the ACT the rate of homelessness has increased dramatically from 2006 to 2011 from 29.3 people per 10,000 of the population to 50 people per every 10,000 people.

From our experience, we sadly don’t see this trajectory changing any time soon. We would love to be able to provide support for more women and children, and will be actively pursuing opportunities to do this over the forthcoming year.

But the financial lifeblood of our organisation is our children’s services. This year we continued to provide high quality, innovative early childhood education through our three early childhood services — Winyu, Conder and Campbell Cottage.

Through these centres we provided care to 523 children across the Territory, from a total of 405 families. It’s important to note that more than 20% of these children come from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, and there are a number of children who come from at-risk backgrounds, who present with complex needs.

We also provided before and after school care to 1,800 children across Canberra – and I’m very proud that this year four of our centres were re accredited, three of our programs achieved a rating of ‘Exceeding’ against the National Quality Framework and one meeting the National Quality Framework.

In addition, our wonderful family day care educators provided quality care and education to 165 children, from 137 families across North Canberra.

The focus for our children’s services team this year has been to embed our values and vision into our services. Our priority has been to ensure that the positive impact of early years education is accessible to all Canberrans, particularly those in need.

So our children’s services are not only important to our organisation because they provide us with an independent income stream. And they are not only important as they provide many Canberra women with quality, affordable childcare that enables them to participate economically.

As a community provider of childcare, over the years we have developed the necessary expertise, skills, and networks to assist all children, particularly at-risk children and their families. It’s this front-line work in the community in the areas of housing, youth engagement, therapeutic services, and children’s services, as well as research and evidence that informs our core business, as well as our public policy and advocacy work.

This year we launched our ACT election platform called “Every woman, every child, every day”, which outlines specific policy recommendations for the incoming ACT Government to create a more inclusive and equal Canberra. But the platform is more than just a set of recommendations, it’s been a touchstone for our ongoing government relations and advocacy work this year, and a practical tool for informing our discussions with politicians from all sides.

YWCA Canberra is also a Registered Training Organisation, and our course numbers continue to grow. This year we delivered training to 398 learners, with 131 graduating with nationally recognised qualifications.

We’re pleased that 178 job seekers commenced an early childhood education and care qualification with us this year. More than half of these students were supported through the ACT Skilled Capital Training Initiative, designed to encourage learners into areas of skills need.

More than 85% of our job seeker graduates obtained a job in the industry either during or following their course. Additionally, 64 students were enrolled in the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. Our students represent a range of sectors, including community organisations and government departments.

But it’s not just about the numbers, it’s about the difference we are making out there in the workforce. I’m pleased to share with you the fact that our evaluations show that 87 per cent of employers highly valued the training outcomes achieved by their staff.

One of the unique aspects of our RTO is that a large portion of our students come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including many women who have recently moved to Australia. We are proud to provide a supportive and inclusive learning environment for our students, aided by mentoring sessions provided by our wonderful trainers, and additional supports that we make available to learners.

This year we continued to not only deepen our relationships with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, but also with members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community through our contribution to reconciliation.

One of the key ways that we set goals and measurable targets for this contribution is through our Reconciliation Action Plan. Some highlights of this work include:

  • Nurturing and developing relationships with seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, including the ACT Nannies Group, a group of Aboriginal Elder women who meet regularly at our Lanyon Youth and Community Centre
  • Developing a resource within our Children’s Services team called ‘We Walk Together’, which incorporates games, activities, arts and crafts, stories, recipes, and music. The purpose of this resource is to encourage our School Age Care program managers to steer away from tokenistic cultural experiences and provide children with authentic engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures
  • Partnering with five other community organisations to celebrate NAIDOC Week in 2015, bringing together our staff and the broader community; and
  • Hosting the annual Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Leadership Project in May 2016, to provide tailored leadership development to 10 young women over a two-day workshop.

We are now finalizing the next iteration of our Stretch RAP, which will raise the bar once again in terms of our contribution to and focus on achieving reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the wider community.

I look forward to continuing this good work in the 2016-17 year.

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