Season’s greetings from Community Gateway
As we come to the end of 2021 and move with some trepidation back to our workplaces, I reflect on the past year.
When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in early 2020, many thought our life would change for a little while, maybe a few months, but here we are at the end of 2021 having experienced nearly two years of lockdowns, social distancing, face masks, vaccinations, working from home and the threat of another variant.
Like many of the challenges we’ve faced over the past four years – with floods on the North Coast and bushfires across Australia – I am particularly proud of the resilience and commitment shown by the Community Gateway team.
Our vision Many tracks, one road, sustaining community has guided our work this year, more than any other.
This past year has been challenging for all of us, particularly as a regional organisation supporting the most vulnerable people. We saw volunteering programs take a huge hit. With many people unable to volunteer during COVID, many local welfare services that relied on volunteers were unable to operate.
With many services closing their doors or minimising access, our First Step emergency relief service saw a significant increase in clients, many of whom have never accessed any of our services before. With paid staff delivering our supports, we stayed open throughout and adapted to the challenge of service delivery in a restricted environment. We challenged ourselves to be more innovative.
This past year we’ve delivered our services in a hybrid configuration, with minimal staff working from the office, and most staff working remotely to deliver many services such as First Step emergency relief, no interest loan interviews and trauma counselling via telephone and Zoom. At the same time, we continued to offer a shop front with the support of video access.
We kicked many goals this past year. We renegotiated our contracts with NSW Department of Communities and Justice and NSW Health for our community hub, child and adolescent trauma counselling services and Reaching Out trauma counselling services for adult survivors of sexual assault.
We voluntarily participated in a review of our organisation to determine how well we supported our staff’s mental health. With the creation of a mental health committee and training for all staff and managers through the Black Dog Institute, we are working towards developing a framework to ensure that we continue to support a mentally healthy workplace for all our staff.
As well as staff undergoing Aboriginal cultural awareness training, we developed our Reconciliation Action Plan which has been endorsed by Reconciliation Australia.
Because of our commitment to innovation and quality, we we are upgrading our HR, finance and IT systems. We’re in the process of implementing an online training platform called GO1, a fully automated recruitment management system called My Recruitment Plus, a Safe Buddy app, a fully automated WHS incident reporting and management system called DoneSafe, and Xplor, a fully automated childcare management and billing system. These improvements are supported by a new server, telephone system, an improved client relationship management system and upgraded SharePoint intranet facilities.
Ensuring that we have good governance systems and building our evidence base continues to be a priority. We have continued our work with Beacon Strategies who are currently undertaking a review of our virtual service delivery channels. This evaluation will look specifically at our clients’ journeys through a virtual service delivery framework.
Our front-line services continued uninterrupted during COVID and I can’t go past mentioning our staff in our Rainbow Region Kids, Community Hub and Helping Hands services, who continued to provide vital face to face service delivery. Our Rainbow Region Kids staff continued to provide vital before school care, after school care and Vacation Club for the children of essential workers.
In 2022, we will continue to look for opportunities for the funding of our affordable housing project. Our development application for ten units over our car park in Carrington Street, Lismore was approved by Lismore City Council in 2021 and aims to provide affordable housing for a growing cohort of older women at risk of homelessness.
The NSW Financial Inclusion Network, developed by our organisation in 2015 as a policy think tank on financial inclusion, includes a range of state-wide peaks, government bodies and NGOs. We partnered with UNSW’s Centre for Social Impact to host the 4th Financial Inclusion Conference – Roads to Resilience in 2021. However, due to restrictions resulting from the pandemic, this conference has been postponed and will take place on 16+17 February 2022 at SMC Centre in Sydney and live online.
Read more about the 4th Financial Inclusion Conference here.
Thank you for supporting us
On behalf of the team at Community Gateway, I would like to say a warm thank you to all of our partners for their continued support throughout the year. I wish you and your families a merry Christmas and a safe and enjoyable holiday season.
We look forward to working with you in 2022!
Chief Executive Officer
Northern Rivers Community Gateway will be closed over the festive season from Wednesday 22 December 2021 and will reopen on Wednesday 5 January 2022.