Micah Projects

Annual Report 2016/17

Chairperson's Message

Micah Projects success comes from understanding the people we support and a willingness to adapt to an ever-changing world. Driven by an unrelenting commitment to social justice, Micah Projects continues to grow and assist people to achieve positive changes in their lives. Critical to this success is the support and generosity from members, donors, funders and the Brisbane community.

We have been able to make the most of this generosity to establish two significant initiatives: the Hope Street Café and the Inclusive Health Clinic. We are grateful for continuing donations which assist us to support people faced with adversity and disadvantage.

Hope Street Café is a social enterprise working with the Department of Education and TAFE Queensland Brisbane that provides training in hospitality to people who have experienced long-term unemployment. As a result of this initiative we identified an unexpected outcome: the need for further training in the areas of numeracy and literacy. These essential skills are crucial for people working towards employment but also to live a meaningful life in the community.

Inclusive Health Partnerships Limited is a joint initiative of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation Australia and Micah Projects. Both organisations have a shared vision to reduce health inequalities in Brisbane. To achieve this, we have established an Inclusive Health Clinic at 15 Hope Street, South Brisbane. Additionally the clinic strengthens our partnership with Mater Misericordiae Limited and St Vincent’s Private Hospital, Brisbane. These collaborations are foundational to having an impact on better health outcomes for participants of our programs and vulnerable people in the community.

We particularly acknowledge our donors who have made both initiatives become a reality through the funding they provided for the capital set up of the café and health clinic.

Another significant achievement that occurred throughout the year included CEO Karyn Walsh being conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Social Work and Nursing from the University of Queensland and recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List as a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant services to the community.

It has been a privilege to serve as the Chairperson of the incorporated association for the past eight years and work alongside Karyn, the Leadership Team and the dedicated staff of Micah Projects. On behalf of the Board of Directors I recognise their commitment to create justice and respond to injustice. I also thank the directors who volunteer their time and skills to support and guide Micah Projects in all its endeavours.

Our Board: Sheridan van Asch, David Gonsalves, James Woods, Julie Cork, Terry Fitzpatrick, Carol Eapen, Michael Kelly and Michael Booth. (Absent: Lewê Atkinson and Claudine Kasselis.)  Photography: Craig Holmes.

Dignitaries cutting the ribbon at the official opening of the Inclusive Health Clinic, February 2017. Photographer: Craig Holmes.

CEO's Report

There are many things I love about my job, not the least of which is that no two days are the same. I know that each day we will be engaging with people in the community who require support, but I never know exactly what each day will bring. Understanding this, we have spent the last 20 years ensuring we have the systems and the people in place to be able to respond to whatever challenges arise, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

On Saturday I was working in the office when a man arrived who was clearly physically unwell and distressed. Our skilled team quickly ascertained the source of the problem. Having only just checked out of hospital following major surgery, this man was trying to recover on a couch in his unit, because he did not own a bed or have the resources to buy one. This was compromising his stitches, his wound care, and his overall recovery. He was in crisis. And like many of the people we support, who find themselves in crisis, he had no family or friends that he could reach out to for support.

Our team sprang into action, and having determined the immediate solution lay in getting him a bed, resolved to make it happen that afternoon, despite it being a weekend. By 5pm the bed was purchased and delivered along with sheets, mattress protector and pillows.

One of our after-hours nurses and a support worker made an outreach visit to his home that afternoon. In a single day, we had helped him move from ill-health and emotional distress to circumstances where he had a clean new bed to sleep in, on-site nursing care and a feeling of being comfortable and supported in his home – everything he needed to recuperate from his surgery.

I might not be able to predict with certainty what issues and challenges might arise on any given day, but I can say with absolute certainty that we can handle it.

We have spent many years recruiting, training and supporting an extremely capable and dedicated team of workers. We are proud of the workforce we have built. Each person is critical to our ability to support the community whether they are outreach support and advocacy workers, co-located nurses, after-hours receptionists, HR or communications workers, or members of the finance team who ensure our staff and bills get paid on time. Everyone is vital to fulfilling our mission. This includes our leadership team who are committed to supporting our workers, encouraging professional development and championing our commitment to quality.

Micah Projects staff members have extensive experience or are keen to develop it. They are optimistic for the future but pragmatic about what needs to be done today. They understand processes but embrace creative problem solving opportunities when the status quo isn’t good enough. They are never afraid of hard work, and they live and breathe social justice in every aspect of their working day. It is an honour and a privilege to work with them.

As a community, we face the ongoing challenges of social inequality, social isolation, poverty and injustice. The level of inequality and poverty in the prosperous city of Brisbane never ceases to amaze me. We must overcome the temptation to point fingers at individual behaviours. Instead we need to look at the structural issues in our community that trap people in cycles of poverty and inequality, including access to quality education, training, employment, healthcare, healthy food and safe, secure and affordable housing.

Efforts to address these issues have typically taken a siloed approach to funding, investment, human engagement, program delivery and evaluation. Evidence, research, and our own frontline experience in Brisbane, tells us this approach is inefficient and ineffective.

We have spent a lot of time this year working to reduce or eliminate silos to improve access to our services, reduce unnecessary duplication and red tape, and make it easy for the people we support to promptly receive the services they need.

With the ending of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse I would like to acknowledge the work of the Commissioners led by Hon Judge Peter McLennan for their engagement with Micah Projects over the past five years. We thank Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald and Commissioner Bob Atkinson for participation in events with us here in Queensland. I remember when the Commission was announced the great sense of relief I felt. Despite many attempts by previous parliamentary reports, a Royal Commission was finally established with the necessary powers to ensure that survivors’ experiences would be central. Institutions including churches and government would be required to put on public record how they dealt with disclosures of criminal behaviour and abuse. We are proud to have been part of the process, which has fundamentally changed the power imbalance for adult survivors as they seek justice and hope improved systems will emerge in the future.

I thank the Board for their ongoing contribution to our governance and for their support of our mission, especially as we have transitioned our legal structure to a not-for-profit company. I thank the Queensland Government whose ongoing funding and support enables us to operate so many of our programs. I acknowledge all in the public sector who have engaged with us in developing the ‘Supporting Families, Changing Futures’ Strategy, Domestic and Family Violence Reform and the Housing Strategy. I thank our donors and supporters who have been critical to our efforts and progress. We are continually inspired by your giving and generosity. I would also like to thank those who have sent me messages of support and acknowledgement in relation to the Honorary Doctorate from the University of Queensland, and the Order of Australia AM. I thank the University of Queensland for the recognition of our work and their ongoing support. I regard these honours as recognition of the work of all those involved in Micah Projects and St Mary’s Community (in Exile).

As we look to the future we face some significant challenges, amongst them being the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). We understand that many of our mental health and disability programs will lose funding, leaving our participants without the essential services they have grown to depend on, including case management, financial resources, and personal and social support.

While NDIS will be a great resource for many in the community living with disability, providing opportunities for services that they have not had before, it will simultaneously see hundreds of people with multiple needs in Brisbane left behind. Over the past year, we have begun the transition and sadly, some long-term staff have been made redundant. We thank them for their many years of service. We are still in a process of determining how Micah Projects will engage with the opportunities that NDIS will provide for people in the community.

We will however, in all that we do, continue to respond and partner with people seeking services, so they have a voice and can be part of change.