Major change in the way community and health services are delivered, changing patterns of service use and consumer expectation, and major changes to way governments and donors think about and fund their social and health policy goals. SHFPACT itself is undergoing a period of review, reflection and renewal of how to pursue our mission and purpose in this changing landscape.
First and foremost, I want to acknowledge the community of people who have brought the best of their commitment, skills, experience and wisdom to these challenges.
The staff team at SHFPACT has engaged with uncertainty about the future and remained focused on delivering the best service to our clients and community throughout. By June 2016, it was clear that important changes in staff structure would need to occur to ensure SHFPACT’s financial sustainability. By the time of this report, we have said farewell to some longstanding members of staff who accepted offers of voluntary redundancy – Elle Reid and Karen Huggett. And others whose contracts ended in recent months or alternative work and life opportunities presented themselves – and in particular, Amy Duncan, Riddhi Blackley, Lauren Cannell, Carey Ann Davidson, and Glenn Dillon . Many other staff offered and have accepted changes in position structures and hours worked to reflect new budget limitations where ongoing funding ended or remains uncertain. We also welcomed many new staff, especially in the education team, on a casual and sessional basis. With the challenge and uncertainty of change also comes opportunity, and I remain proud to be part of a team who are looking forward and making changes that ensure we remain a key service provider delivering needed programs for the benefit of the Canberra community.
The SHFPACT Council has engaged proactively to ensure the organisation continues to evolve to meet changing community needs. In this past year, we have seen previously stable recurrent sources of funding end, uncertainty about what other government funding sources will seek to achieve from their engagement with SHFPACT, and the impact of moves to different models such as the NDIS. SHFPACT has considered the impact of these changes on our purpose, our strategic goals, the viability of certain services and activities, and especially the impact on the most vulnerable or isolated of our clients. Throughout they have balanced mission and money with an eye to the future where SHFPACT is strong and responding to the reproductive and sexual health needs of the Canberra community. We are fortunate to have the mix of experience and expertise that our Council members bring to their governance role, and I am grateful for the support they generously extend to me in my role.
Many of our members, collaborating partners and members of the public have expressed their support for SHFPACT and its work in a year of change. In particular, our role as lead agency in delivering the Safe Schools Coalition program in the ACT has seen renewed attacks and hostility against our goals of a safe, inclusive community for all. It has seemed, at times, a replay of the kind of moral panic that erupts from time-to-time against sexuality and relationships education. While this often stems from misunderstanding of what this work does and does not actually include, there remain some people in and community who believe that discussion of sexuality and its associated public policy concerns should remain a private matter not addressed in the public sphere. We know this is a recipe for personal and community shame, harm and poor health, and will continue to advocate for accurate, age- and developmentally-appropriate information and education about sexuality and relationships based on scientific inquiry. Despite this, the program has enjoyed strong support in the Canberra community, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to create a program that better reflects our community’s needs.
We worked collaboratively with Women’s Centre for Health Matters in 2015 advocating a legislative outcome that saw protest exclusion zones establishment around abortion facilities in the ACT. This was a considered and respectful community discussion, and in a jurisdiction with a human rights framework protective civil and political rights, found an appropriate balance between the rights to advocate and protest, with the rights of people to access health services unhindered.
An expanded outreach STI/BBV testing partnership in 2015 called ACT Testing Month achieved some new successes in engaging culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people who inject drugs, in hepatitis education and testing, alongside a continuing focus on connecting people with STI testing opportunities and raising awareness of the continuing need for safe sex and regular testing.
We have been a proud member of the LGBTIQ CBR Consortium, with AIDS Action Council as lead agency, alongside A Gender Agenda and Northside Community Services. This program of community development activities complements and extends the existing expertise of the collaborating partners.
A major financial and mission decision was reached by Council in July 2015, to take the opportunity to purchase the SoSAFE! Program. Having been involved in the pilot and training of this program since the early 2000s, the mission decision was clear to us. The Council’s decision to invest in ownership of the program is also a financial decision to diversify revenue sources and generate income independent of government funding that still pursues our desired community outcomes and goals. The purchase was finalised in January 2016, and the coming years will see the renewal and extension of the program into new areas.
Our organisation has made its way through a challenging year where some old ways of doing things are ceasing and new ways of doing things are emerging. This period of change has been uncomfortable, but I look forward over the next year to consolidating and building on hard decisions we’ve made. Thank you to all of you who have contributed and continue to shape this work.
Tim Bavinton - Executive Director