Great People Willing to Lend a Hand

I was fortunate to attend the 2AY Radio Xmas party on the 1st December, which gave me the opportunity to meet a number of local businesses and community minded people. Brendan O’ Laughlin, 2AY station manager, very kindly gave me the chance to speak about our Trust In Kids fund. It was also an opportunity to show off the new branding devised by Dutch Media, which was well received. A number of businesses expressed interest in Trust In Kids, which was very gratifying. One of these was the Cycle Station in Albury, who happened to generously donate three bikes to UMFC. These are going to good homes and will make some children very excited. Jake Wolki from Cycle Station and Brendan O’Laughlin from 2AY Radio are pictured presenting me with the bikes.

The owners of the Cycle Station are well aware of the struggles of families and children doing it tough, and I believe we may be able to share some future stories of their contribution to our cause. I never cease to be amazed at the goodwill that exists for UMFC in the community, which is a reflection of the great work our people do on a daily basis. I received an invitation to be a guest speaker at the Lavington Lions club after meeting the club President, Graham Jenkin, at the same event, and will use this time to highlight Trust In Kids too. Similarly, at our AGM on the 24/11 where we officially launched the new Trust In Kids branding, the CEO of the Rural City of Wodonga, Patience Harrington expressed interest in organising support at a workplace level.

It all goes to show that if you have a good cause there are great people out there willing to lend a hand. When times get tough that’s a fact that really helps you to hang on in.

On the 11th and 12th of August, I attended a symposium at the Mt Eliza Business School hosted by DHHS on the Roadmap for Reform strategy. The Roadmap has three reform directions, improving access to universal services, providing wrap around support to families and improving outcomes for children in out of home care (OOHC).

While many challenges remain, eg the ratio of aboriginal children in OOHC, there was plenty of good news too. We heard that 194 children had either left or not entered OOHC over the past year because of targeted care packages (TCP). The number of children in residential care had fallen from 7% to just over 5%. Given the high cost and poor outcomes for children in residential care this was a development that all could welcome.

Research was highlighted as an essential component in the new service landscape, with evidence based programs being the way forward. One stark illustration of this was the comment that a reliable, caring adult was the key to healthy child brain development. Thus the preference for home based OOHC options was supported as generating better outcomes for children.

There was much discussion over workforce issues and funding models which will continue to be worked on via working groups that will be formed in the near future. The energy and optimism generated across the two days was impressive, with a consensus that we were on the right track for significant achievements for Victorian children and families.

Congratulations to all involved, as a participant it was time well spent with likeminded colleagues dedicated to making a difference.

The UMFC Board accepted the strategic pillars that were drafted by managers and the Board at their June Board meeting. These will now be publicly displayed at each of our offices and used by each service in their annual planning. It was a very positive process with a great deal of consensus about what our priorities should be.

I will report against the strategic pillars in future meetings in order that the Board can measure progress. There will be significant changes happening in our sector over the next three years (the span of our plan) and it is vital that we track our performance during this time.

What I like about our process is the direct linkage between our overall goals and services activities. This helps guide a collective sense of purpose and direction as well as encouraging ownership in our successes.

Strategic Plan

Albury City Mayor Henk van de Ven, Rotary Club of Albury Hume President Gordon Shaw and Radio 2AY General Manager Brendan O’Loughlin presentation to Luke of a $1,000 cheque at the office of our radio partners 2AY on Tuesday 10th May.

Part of Rotary Club of Albury Hume’s mission is to serve and support the local community. Every year they sell candles at Albury City Carols by Candlelight. The candles are purchased in partnership by Albury City and Radio 2AY. The Rotary Club of Albury Hume then work to identify where the funds raised will go within our local community. I was very pleased to hear that Rotary Club of Albury Hume had announced that $1,000 of the funds raised this year were being donated to our Trust in Kids fund.

We established this fund to support our children in achieving their dreams for the future. The fund is for children and young people up to 21 years who have limited opportunities because of family, social, financial or other individual circumstances. Some of these children are affected by issues relating to family violence, mental health and drug and alcohol use. The fund is available for educational, social, recreational, and cultural opportunities. Every penny is spent on the kids and donations are tax deductible.

This fund is about making a real difference to the lives of children less fortunate than others, and as such Rotary Club of Albury Hume, Albury City and Radio 2AY are pleased to support this important community initiative.

You can donate, and find out more about Trust In Kids here.

Find out more about Rotary Club of Albury Hume here.

As the week of the 9/5 is volunteer week, our Interchange program and Hume Riverina Community Legal Service, have organised a couple of functions to recognise their volunteers. I was privileged to hand out certificates for both services this week. I did so in our Wangaratta office, for the Wangaratta based HRCLS volunteers, in our meeting room, named after a long serving, retired Board and Life member, Gillian Mallinder. Gillian is an esteemed community member and founding partner in the legal firm Campagner, Gray and Mallinder. Very appropriate.

I said at the time that volunteers are the defining feature of agencies like UMFC. We couldn’t function without them ( notably our foster parents and Interchange camp volunteers ). UMFC has about 250 volunteers across our services including our Board, who accept final accountability for the organisation. For paid staff like me there is a clear rationale for turning up, we get a wage. Our volunteers turn up because they want to make a contribution to their community on top of their work and other commitments. UMFC has built an enviable reputation thanks to both parties, may the successful partnership long continue.

To all those who volunteer, thank you and I hope you receive the acknowledgment you deserve.

On Tuesday 26 April, 2AY aired an interview Sarah Rogers (Manager, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service) and I recorded with Sandra Moon on her breakfast show. The topic was the recent release of the Royal Commission into Family Violence report, and some of the impact for our community. The report’s recommendations are very comprehensive and will take years to implement, involving substantial funding along with systemic change. It is a serious attempt to address a major social issue.

2AY have made a commitment to UMFC to be a major corporate partner and assist us to communicate with our shared audiences. Our first radio interview is only the beginning of what will hopefully be regular opportunities for our messages to be aired. This is very exciting and a great responsibility for us to use the media to inform and educate our local community about social issues.

This development has come about because of the partnership UMFC has with Dutch Media, the marketing gurus who helped us redesign our logo, brand, and website. Our gala night on the 13 February was very successful because of Dutch Media’s leadership in organising our association with SS&A in Albury. Dutch Media has also guided us in developing our marketing strategy, intended to raise our profile and forge positive, mutually beneficial business partnerships. Indeed, these activities form the beginning of our marketing strategy, which will encompass: TV, radio, print, and digital (website and social) media.

It is amazing to meet such creative and dynamic people, who are so responsive to our cause, and willing to give their time and expertise, when they are flat out in their daily work. This generosity is inspiring.

Click below to listen to the interview in full:

I attended a meeting at DHHS on the 29/3 to hear from two speakers from the Annie.E.Casey Foundation in New York. This $3 Billion private foundation was established by a man raised by a single mum and named in her honour. The Foundation carries out research into effective services for vulnerable families. They were brought out by DHHS after the Minister’s visit to NY last year and to assist with the Roadmap for Reform. There were a number of comments I thought you might like to hear too. Like Australia, there is an over representation of children from minority groups in out of home care. There was a comment that cultural sensitivity training didn’t seem very effective in changing this fact, rather what was important were the outcomes at critical decision points in the family/child’s life. The national average in the USA of where kids were placed was around 50% foster care, 25% kinship and 25% other (e.g. residential care). In Victoria we have a much higher placement rate in kinship and that’s where they want to get to as well. The comment was made that some of the best work in kinship was done by kinship specific agencies with best practice being staff tracking down kin placements 24 hrs a day.

There is a greater use of adoption in the States compared to Australia but the rates of older children being adopted had fallen from 20% in 2004 to 16% in 2012. There wasn’t any difference in the profile of children in residential care and foster care and in fact most kids in residential care do so as their first placement. The research shows that after 6 months, kids in residential care don’t fare well and the policy is to have such placements change as quickly as possible.

The key change they recommended to improve the out of home care system would be to have dedicated support staff for foster parents (as distinct from Victoria where the foster care worker supports both the carer and the foster child and sometimes the child’s family). There was a measurement tool being widely used and claimed as empirically validated, the Treatment Outcome Package (TOP), which could be used by all stakeholders (i.e. carers/ child/ worker) and the comment was made that some children disclosed more information on this then in conversations with staff or carers.

The Foundation’s website is worth a look, and I believe based on our Minister’s comments we should expect to see some of this work happening in Victoria. To finish, I was struck by the comment concerning kinship care and who was best to offer support to such carers. The essential point for such carers was if the provider was trusted by the local community. This endorses the language we hear about place based responses and should encourage our commitment as a local provider to our families.

Last week the agency enjoyed a very busy and successful time. We had our tri annual audit of our DHHS funded services, with two auditors on site all week reviewing all aspects of our work. It was very pleasing to hear their comments, with commendation to the agency on our client focused culture and sound corporate governance. Our thanks to all staff and clients involved, as well as our colleagues in other community agencies and DHHS for their positive and supportive comments. Receiving such strong independent endorsement of our work gives all of us even more incentive to achieve at a higher level again. We welcome this external scrutiny as it confirms our own perceptions as an organisation committed to excellence and accountability.


In the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review, there is an interesting article about corporate emotional culture. Typically when culture is discussed it’s to do with how people think and behave, cognitive culture. This is important, but there is another aspect to do with how people feel about their workplace, emotional culture. The authors suggest the two types of culture are communicated differently. Cognitive culture is typically transmitted verbally, emotional culture, non verbally through facial expressions and body language. They also claim that research has shown the significant impact of emotional culture on performance. Positive emotional culture is associated with better performance, negative emotions like fear, to poorer outcomes like higher turnover.

There are three methods for promoting emotional culture proposed in the article. First, identifying the emotions you want to promote and consciously supporting their expression when they occur. Equally it is important to manage the negative emotions when they occur, like through supervision. Second, modelling the emotions you want to promote. This is based on the idea that feelings are contagious. Having people who smile lifts the mood compared to neutral or grumpy faces. The third might be named as, fake it till you feel it. You mightn’t feel like smiling but doing so can change your mood and those around you.

While it is clear that top management sets the example and the rules, middle managers and front line supervisors make it happen on the ground. One of the biggest influences on staff is their immediate boss, so they need to set the right example.

Finally the article makes the point that an organisation needs to be consistent with it’s culture and operations and processes. There needs to be some coherence between what the organisation says it stands for and the way it goes about its work.

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UMFC acknowledges the First Peoples of Australia as the traditional custodians of the land on which we work. We acknowledge their culture is a living one, which relates to their ongoing connection to all things living and non-living on land, sea and sky. We pay our respect to their elders past and present. May our children of today lead us to a better tomorrow.


UMFC acknowledges the support of the Victorian and the Australian Governments

Commitment to Child Safety

All children and young people who access UMFC Services have a right to feel and be safe and to be treated with respect. We are committed to providing a welcoming and safe environment and working towards the best interests of children and young people at all times.