Frontier Services

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Frontier Services is the Assembly agency charged with the task of facilitating ministry and mission “beyond the furthest fences”, beyond the possibility of regular gathered congregation. This year, the Uniting Church in Australia celebrates one hundred years of commitment by the Uniting Church and its predecessors to those whom others, for a variety of reasons, leave aside.

Frontier Services is part of the commitment made at Union to be a unique Australian church. The very fact that we have been prepared to maintain that commitment, to go where others say “too hard, too far, too costly”, and to do what others will not do, differentiates us today.

The mission of Christ in the world calls Frontier Services as an agency of the Church “to nurture and grow individual and community life” in remote Australia through a range of ministries and programs which, together, integrate response to need, compassionate care, social justice and the nurture of the Spirit. And we do this through “services and relationships which overcome the disadvantages of distance and reflect faith through action”.

Our identity as an active, practical, multicultural organisation, our continued presence in every corner of the country and our very special relationship with Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress combine to make us an important agency of the Assembly.

Last year, we saw everything that is quintessentially Australian – first drought, then fires and floods, and finally cyclones. That is the nature of our land. And responding to the human toll of these events is the nature of our mission.

Across the continent, patrol ministers, community services staff, administrative staff and volunteers set to work alongside so many others. No fanfare, no special recognition and nothing to tell – it’s just their job, just what they do.

It is in these circumstances that we see Frontier Services functioning at its best. The stories which can never be told are those in which we can take the most pride.

In Alice Springs in September 2002, Frontier Services staff gathered to celebrate the Year of the Outback and the 90th Anniversary of the establishment of formal ministry to remote Australia.

Rev Andrew Dutney addressed the staff and reminded those present that “the Church must affirm that God’s purpose for all people and for the whole of creation, revealed in Jesus Christ, was one secured in his death and resurrection, and will be fulfilled in the end.”. The end, Andrew argued, is about the great theological metaphors of reconciliation and renewal and Frontier Services, as a national agency of the Church exists to be a sign and an instrument of that reconciliation and renewal, which is the end in view for the whole creation.

Those notions of reconciliation and renewal are at the heart of our commitment to the people of remote Australia and to the future of life beyond the urban fringe.

As a church we are called to resurrection and to transformation. Frontier Services, in its place, plays a part in that transformation – for the people of remote Australia. We are courageous in mission, taking risks to go where others will not go, and remaining steadfast with those who value those relationships of trust.

As we come, in 2012, to celebrate 100 years of faithful service by the Uniting Church and its predecessors to remote Australia, we are both challenged and reinvigorated by that concept of mission.

1. CELEBRATING THE CENTENARY

One hundred years ago, Rev John Flynn, serving in the Smith of Dunesk Mission at Beltana in South Australia, was sent by the Presbyterian Church to undertake surveys of the needs of those who lived “beyond the furthest fences”.

On 26 September 1912, his reports were presented to the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia meeting at West Melbourne.

Flynn’s report on the needs of Aboriginal people was referred to the Church’s Foreign Missions Committee. His report on the needs of the “settlers” was responded to by the establishment of what became known as the Australian Inland Mission and his appointment as Superintendent.

One hundred years on, the Uniting Church continues that work begun by the Australian Inland Mission, joined in partnership by the Federal Methodist Inland Mission which began in 1926 and the inland mission work of the Congregational Union.

In 2012, we celebrate Flynn’s vision and the hope, spirit and resilience of those who have lived and worked “beyond the furthest fences” over all these years, and who do so today. 

Flynn was known to say “Half the challenge of serving people in the outback involves getting there, and the other half involves staying there”. We acknowledge the fact that the presence of the very many who have served as part of the AIM/Frontier Services family over all these years has inspired faith and hope in countless lives.

In 2012, we honour those whose faith took them there, and those whose hope kept them there, and those who serve today.

From 2009 to 2011, representatives of Frontier Services, together with Rev Terence Corkin and Rev Gregor Henderson met periodically with representatives of the Presbyterian Church of Australia to discuss potential celebrations for the centenary of the establishment of the AIM. Arrangements were made for a “church to church” celebration event to be held in Melbourne on 26 September 2012.

Sadly, the Presbyterian Inland Mission Committee, to whom responsibility in the Presbyterian Church was delegated during 2011, decided to hold a separate event on 22 September at Scots Church in Melbourne.

We are left with some arrangements we might not have made alone but are proceeding with the planned celebration and will include our Presbyterian colleagues.

The celebration planned for 26 September 2012 at the Dallas Brooks Centre in Melbourne will be an opportunity to celebrate the hope, spirit and resilience of the people of remote Australia and the constancy of the Church which has supported, served and sustained them for a hundred years. All are welcome.

There are many facets to such a celebration. We can rejoice in what we have done well, and reflect on what we could have done differently, but the incontrovertible fact is that thousands of people have given at least a portion of their lives, and some of them a very large portion of their lives, to this rich collage of ministry.

On 26 September 2012, we will give thanks for their part in the ministry and mission of the Uniting Church and its predecessors and we will pray for the strength and the wisdom, indeed, for the privilege, to continue to stand with the people of remote Australia – God’s people, in God’s place – into the future.

2. GOVERNANCE

In July 2004, the Assembly Standing Committee (04.54.02) established the Frontier Services Board to act on behalf of the Assembly in fulfilling the mandate of Frontier Services. The Board, which has 11 members, including the General Secretary and the National Director ex officio, provides governance and oversight for Frontier Services.

The Board meets quarterly, often in remote Australia. It requires a significant commitment from those who serve as members. We acknowledge particularly and give thanks for the contribution of those who have completed three terms and who will retire this year – Gail Cresswell, Dr Jennifer Knight, Colleen Pearce and Rev John Rickard.

In 2010, the Frontier Services Board, following wide consultation, released a new Strategic Plan. It built on its predecessors and committed Frontier Services to:

Advancing Ministry and Service
Building partnerships
Advocating for justice, equity and reconciliation
Valuing our people, and to
Enhance organisational capacity and resources

We are working in a volatile and difficult environment. In the period since the 12th Assembly, the drought, in most places, has broken, but in many districts the rains have brought catastrophic flooding. Rapid and extreme shifts in government policy, often without consultation, have impacted on rural industries and communities. The mining “boom” has turned into a barrage and the exploitation of coal seam gas has caused unprecedented levels of anxiety in rural and remote (and even urban) areas alike.

Greatly increased bureaucracy, regimentation and micromanagement by government authorities have increased the administrative burden and flexibility must be fought for. Funding continues to be inadequate to provide services viable in remote locations and “risk management” has overwhelmed any previous focus on the needs of the people, removing their right to make choices.

Our community services role continues subtly to change from being a service provider to being a partner, facilitator and encourager – something which is a hallmark of our contemporary practice. Our emphasis on training continues to grow and we are committed to helping to provide a skilled and qualified indigenous workforce,

Since the 12th Assembly in July 2009, much has changed, developed and grown.

Our work is reported here in terms of the Board’s Strategic Plan.

Advancing Ministry and Service

Focus on “excellence” in patrol ministry

Continue best practice in community services, including working with Indigenous communities as invited

Further progress the cause of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous people in outback Australia by participation and leadership

Work towards the status of “preferred employer” for local Indigenous communities

Maintain a community capacity-building approach in all that we do

Utilise the prioritization framework to assess all new ministry and service opportunities

Frontier Services has a number of tasks – one is to continue to be there, extending our ministry, bringing the good news of Jesus Christ through the gospel both preached and lived; bringing practical support and tangible evidence of God’s love through the outreach we provide.

We do this through our patrol ministry and through our community services.

3. MINISTRY

Oversight of patrol ministry within Frontier Services is provided by the Associate National Director. Rev David Thiem concluded a seven year term as Associate National Director in October 2009 and Rev David Buxton took on that role. We have been very blessed by both of their very different contributions, particularly given that there has been significant movement in patrols during the triennium.

Patrols which continue without change since the 12th Assembly are Burke and Wills (Qld ) – Rev John Case; Cunnamulla (Qld) – Rev Dennis Cousens; High Country (Vic) – Rev Dr Alison McRae; Katherine (NT) – Rev Mitch Fialkowski; Midlands (Tas) – Rev Meg Evans; Parkin (SA) – Rev John Dihm; Sturt (SA) – Rev Jenny Swanbury; West Arnhem/Jabiru (NT)– Rev Lindsay Parkhill; West Coast /Circular Head(Tas) – Rev Gay Loftus and West Nullarbor(WA) – Rev Rob Dummermuth.

Rev Ian Boudry was inducted into the Kimberley Patrol in July 2009 and retired from that placement at the end of 2011. Rev Bruce Gallacher moved from the Snowy River Patrol at the end of 2011 and was inducted in the Kimberley Patrol in February 2012. Over recent years, there has been a constant process of review of the ministry in the Kimberley involving the Pilgrim Presbytery of Northern Australia, the Northern Regional Council of Congress and Frontier Services. Needs and challenges continue to change and we will be continuing to assess the efficacy and suitability of the current arrangements.

Rev Wali Fejo was appointed for a two year term to the Mobile Aboriginal Patrol (a partnership between Frontier Services and UAICC) in September 2009. He served until the end of 2011 and very sadly, died suddenly only a week later. Frontier Services and UAICC are considering the future needs of this patrol together.

Late in 2009, formal agreement was reached between Frontier Services and the UC Presbytery of Gippsland ,and Bush Church Aid and the Anglican Diocese of Gippsland, in relation to the Croajingalong Ministry based out of Mallacoota in East Gippsland, Victoria. Rev Rowena Harris was subsequently inducted into the patrol in January 2010. During 2011, a local Anglican was ordained, making it unnecessary for the arrangements in Croajingalong to continue, so Rowena is to take over the Snowy River Patrol from May 2012.

Conversations which had continued over many years in relation to the far west of NSW - the “Flying Patrol” out of Broken Hill and Cobar/Nyngan, began to come to fruition in May 2010 when Rev Ian Tucker commenced in the Cobar/Nyngan Patrol, a partnership between Frontier Services and the Macquarie/Darling Presbytery.

The Broken Hill Patrol then formally became part of the Frontier Services network in July 2010, but Rev John Blair, who had been the “flying padre” for many years chose that moment to move to Canberra. Rev Jorge Rebolledo was inducted into the patrol in March 2011.

The Gascoyne Patrol has remained unfilled during the period. A lay worker, recently inducted as a Pastor, John Tomkins is working with the Carnarvon congregation and the changing demographics of the region make a patrol based only on Exmouth unviable. Support where necessary and especially during the devastating floods of early 2011 has been provided from the Murchison and Pilbara Patrols.

In the Centralian Patrol, Rev John Boundy concluded his time in September 2010 and Rev Colin Gordon was inducted as his replacement on 8 February 2011. Our colleagues in the RFDS supported us in both Alice Springs and Broken Hill, caring for our aircraft until the new incumbents were in a position to do so.

Rev Michelle Cook concluded her placement in Cape York in late 2010/early 2011 and was replaced by Rev Ron Watson who was inducted on 20 March 2011.

Those patrols whose incumbents have moved on are Flinders (Qld) - Pastor Peter Harvey, Murchison (WA) – Rev Lesley deGrussa-Macaulay; Pilbara (WA) – Rev Judy Knowling; and Tennant Barkly (NT) – Rev John Flaherty. We are seeking suitable candidates for these placements.

Frontier Services gives thanks for the faithful ministry of all those who have been prepared to go to the furthest reaches of the land.

4. COMMUNITY SERVICES

Frontier Services is tasked by the Assembly to facilitate ministry and mission in remote areas, particularly “through the provision of a broad range of community services.” . The fact that the need for that broad range of services continues to grow is a sad reflection on the state of remote Australia. It speaks also of a bureaucracy focused solely on rigid frameworks and accountability and lacking individuals with the service provision experience to know that flexibility is the key to making services work in remote Australia.

Those government officers who have the wisdom to take the risks which make services possible deserve our thanks and our support and they have it – in spades. The heavier the burden of accountability in one area, the more we appreciate the latitude to just “make it happen” in another.

Over 700 staff provide over 120 services across 85% of the continent.

Our community services are supported and provided with oversight by Regional Managers located in Darwin, Brisbane and Perth and, since 2009, we have developed additional capacity in the north through the creation of a senior leadership team to support Sharon Davis.

In May 2010, we farewelled Nina Boydell who had the led the WA team for 3 years and welcomed Patricia Thomson-Harry as her replacement. In October 2010, we also farewelled Marina Izatt who had ably managed the services in Queensland and South Australia for a decade. Her replacement is Karen Harvey who joined us during the floods in January 2011.

5. AGED AND COMMUNITY CARE

Frontier Services continues to be the largest provider of aged and community care across remote Australia, with 371 residential aged care beds and 189 community aged care and extended aged care packages. We are seen to have developed an expertise in this area which has resulted in us being the provider of choice for the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, and for communities, when support and assistance are required.

Three years ago, we were struggling to bring up to standard a service we had taken on in Derby WA. We were both relieved and delighted to open a new building in May 2010 and the service, Numbala Nunga, is now setting benchmarks for training and innovative employment practice.

We took on the management of the Red Cross aged care hostel in Katherine in August 2009 and became the approved provider in October of that year.

We continue to operate residential care at Old Timers Nursing Home and Flynn Lodge in Alice Springs, together with the Fred McKay Day Centre and we added Hetti Perkins Home for the Aged to the network in November 2011. In Tennant Creek, Pulkapulkka Kari meets the needs of 17 high and 2 low care residents, while in Katherine, Rocky Ridge has 24 high care residents and one wing (unused since rebuilding) is now used as Stepping Stone, a transitional care unit. The Katherine Hostel (formerly Red Cross) adds 26 beds to the services available in Katherine.

Darwin services include Tracy Aged Care, the Juninga Centre and Terrace Gardens (at Palmerston).

Wyndham and Derby in the Kimberley complete the list of residential aged care services.(Although by the time the Assembly meets, Fitzroy Crossing and Docker River may be added).

Additionally, community care services are offered in all of these regional centres and in many smaller communities. At Kununurra, in a new Community Care Centre opened in February 2012, we combine community care with respite. Centre based respite services are offered in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine, Darwin, Fitzroy Crossing, Wyndham, Mutitjulu, Karratha and Port Hedland. Mobile respite (Troopy programs and caravan based respite) is offered across the Centre, the Pilbara and the Kimberley and arrangements are made for every kind of respite in remote communities and outstations from a base in Alice Springs.

Department of Veterans Affairs clients are now receiving their care services from Frontier Services across remote areas of the Northern Territory, northern South Australia and outback Queensland.

A Dementia Management Advisory Service operates across the Territory and the Kimberley. And all of this activity has allowed us to add significantly to our training resources, training more and more staff in situ.

Building is in progress at present in Alice Springs where 20 beds will be added to Flynn Lodge and the Rosetta Flynn wing of the Old Timers Home will be upgraded.  New places, and the funds to build them, were announced in early 2012 for Kununurra – 26 beds; Palmerston – 40 (dementia) beds; and Hetti Perkins Home for the Aged – 40 beds.

And, as a centenary project, we are building a new administration building on the Old Timers site to 4 star green star environmental standards.

6. NURSING AND STAFFING

Nursing services continue to be amongst the suite of services provided by Frontier Services across remote Australia. As mentioned earlier, the continuing tension between Australian Government priorities and State government responsibilities continues to impact on our funding and service provision. Continuous changes in policy and direction make it very difficult for nursing staff to plan and require constant negotiation and reporting which consumes an excessive allocation of resources.

In the region (at the base of the Gulf) covered by what was established as the Savannah Regional Health Service, for example, there have been two significant changes in government focus during the past three years and constantly increasing accountability requirements. The Savannah Regional Health Service team has been very much involved in the recovery since Cyclone Yasi and additional resources have now been secured for counseling and support for families affected, but the negotiations took many, many months, while people struggled unresourced.

Funding for Bollon (Queensland) and Marla (SA) continues to require constant representations while, in Andamooka, the changing nature of the community, impacted as it is by the development of Olympic Dam, requires additional resources and changes to service provision which are also the subject of protracted and painful negotiation.

The movement of Home and Community Care funding and oversight into the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (except in WA) from 1 July 2012 will, we believe, significantly enhance our capacity for seamless service provision and reduce the overlap and confusion in relation to funding and accountability.

In the mining boom region of the Pilbara, we have continued to struggle to retain staff in our Respite Services. The whole of the Pilbara is a region of frenetic activity – people, and not only those involved in Fly In Fly Out operations, come and go frequently. Recruitment is often successful for a short period but staff members or their partners are lured towards greater financial rewards elsewhere.

Across the sector it is recognised that community service provision in this environment is hugely challenging. Rent and other living expenses are at extreme levels and huge salaries are on offer for entry level positions in every area and industry. You need to have a passionate commitment to the people to keep providing services on a community services salary! Mercifully, there are those who are prepared to do so.

Frontier Services has had to purchase housing in Port Hedland in order to make recruitment possible. We have been assisted also by the Australian Government which funded the purchase of one house in Hedland and another in Derby.

Staff retention continues also to present challenges in the Kimberley for different reasons. Dysfunction in the Fitzroy Crossing community and transience in the top end communities generally impacts on stable work patterns and team building.

Nevertheless, the Kimberley Respite Services are growing in strength and outreach and many families are benefitting from support they would never have considered possible.

A new Community Care Centre was opened in Kununurra in February 2012. This project, long delayed, provides an excellent base for respite, both regular and occasional, for the frail aged in the Kununurra region and also provides facilities for overnight respite.

7. CHILDREN’S SERVICES

It has been a time of some confusion for our children’s services. The former Prime Minister’s guarantee of 40 weeks of 15 hours of early childhood education for every child in the year before they start school led us to endeavour to develop a program which might make this a possiblity in remote Australia. Significant resources (some of them supplied by the Australian Government) were applied to developing a remote “kindy program” to work alongside our existing 5 Remote Area Families Services and our Remote Family Care Service. A potential model was provided to the Queensland Government, to whom responsibility for delivery had devolved, but no commitment to the provision of such a service has been made and the whole idea seems to have slipped off the radar.

In the meantime, a commitment to the Early Years Learning Framework has been applied across the board. It has been necessary to provide training not only for our early childhood education staff but also to our carers, and a number of gatherings have been held across Queensland for that purpose.

It is often difficult for our staff to undertake formal training. They need to be able to travel and to be relieved while they do so, so the upskilling to Certificate 4 envisaged for child care services will require innovative and creative responses.

We extended our Karratha Occasional Care Service in 2010 to replace services previously provided by TAFE and the Shire of Roebourne. We have provided child care in Karratha since the inception of that community. We started in the caravan parks – for those who couldn’t afford the alternative – and that continues to be our market to this day.

A very new initiative in 2011 was the Parental and Community Engagement program for Alice Outcomes – Young Parents and Families for Education, in Alice Springs. This program seeks to work with a small number of very young mothers and their very young children to address basic issues of nutrition, hygiene, literacy and numeracy so that the children do not have the disadvantages their mothers did. In some cases there is support across a number of generations. The program is in its infancy but holds promise for young families into the future.

Many children in remote Australia do not receive adequate meals. We have extended the school nutrition program operating in Alice Springs to Hermannsberg. As well as providing a quantifiable improvement in the health and learning outcomes of the children who receive their meals each day, we are training a number of young people in both Alice Springs and Hermannsberg in nutrition, budgeting and food preparation.

The In Home Care Service continues to challenge us. The current model is unsuited to remote service provision but does provide families with access to some level of care – if they, or we, can find a carer. We continue to make representations to government in relation to the number of places and the structure of the service.

Building partnerships (to further ministry and service)

Within the Uniting Church and its agencies, especially Congress
With Indigenous and other communities throughout remote Australia
With Government and non-government agencies to better respond to identified needs
With non-government organisations to create better service synergies
With tertiary institutions to encourage students to engage in our work including through field placements and to interest graduates in work with or for Frontier Services in the future

Frontier Services lives in a number of tensions, as do other agencies of the Church. We are still, in a real sense, a mission - proudly flying the banner of the Uniting Church across the remote areas of Australia, proudly representing the value we add to the services we provide. We are able to be there only through the support and engagement of the whole Church. However, we are also a large and professional organization, accountable to government and expected to function as a business. And sometimes we have to temper one with the requirements of the other.

Frontier Services continues to work closely with Synods and Presbyteries and is working on the ground in a number of places with Congress. As a national agency we are dependent on the relationships which we are able to forge and maintain with Synods and Presbyteries. Our ability to do that is impacted by the pressures on various Councils of the Church in various places and at various times and by frequent personnel changes and lost history.

We need also to be able to operate ecumenically and that which we experience in the Uniting Church in microcosm, we experience across the mainstream churches in the bigger picture.

In Perth in early 2010, we moved into offices within UnitingCare West and have benefitted from their warm hospitality and collegiate support. In Brisbane, the Synod has made available stand alone premises on the Synod property and close relationships are maintained. In Sydney and Darwin, space requirements have mitigated against us continuing to share premises over recent years but having the NCCA a floor above the National Office ensures frequent visits from Assembly personnel and other church leaders.

We have been fortunate to be able to work closely with the Chair of UAICC in a number of capacities in the recent past.  Ken Sumner kindly resourced a workshop on Indigenous employment for our aged and community care managers in May 2010 and subsequently undertook a period of supply/sabbatical leave in the West Kimberley Ministry, undertaking some patrol work, sharing in ministry with the Mowanjum people and providing support to our aged care staff. We benefit significantly from his wisdom.

Frontier Services continues to work in partnership with a growing number of Aboriginal communities. Such partnerships always are aimed at providing systems, structure and training opportunities with a view to enhancing each community’s ability to provide the services independently in the longer term.

We have been working for many years with the Gwalwa Daraniki Association in Darwin, managing the Juninga Centre, an aged care service and independent living units in the Darwin urban area. We provided meals and a level of Home and Community Care services to Warralong Community until October 2009. We managed the services in Warmun until the end of 2011, when the community took responsibility again for its aged care and Home and Community Care services (but not before the devastating flood had washed much of our equipment and infrastructure down the Turkey Creek).

In recent years we have supported the Looma Community, acting as an external adviser and mentor while the community brought all of the service provision for the aged and disabled together into a sustainable service. The project was a collaboration between Frontier Services, the WA Centre for Health and Ageing and the WA Institute of Medical Research using a University of WA research project funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

In Mutitjulu, over recent years, we have worked closely with the community to rebuild their aged and disabled services and then their child care services. Today we operate the respite service on behalf of the community and are completing plans for a residential respite centre. Between the respite and child care centres, up to 15 local staff are employed at any one time, and almost all of them are undertaking studies in aged care, child care, community services or administration.

Meetings commenced in early 2010 with Aboriginal Hostels, as a result of which, Hetti Perkins Home for the Aged became part of the Frontier Services network on 30 November 2011.

Interagency discussions with Yaandina Family Services and Marwarnkarra Aboriginal Health Service led to the establishment of the Wellness Centre in Roebourne, WA in 2010.  Judy Kay is managing this program and working closely with our respite services in the Pilbara region.

We have been allocated a number of Community Aged care packages to be delivered in the Nhulunbuy region and we have negotiated an arrangement where we will provide the structures, systems and support, but the packages will be locally delivered through the East Arnhem Council. Additionally we have been asked by the Department of Health and Ageing to be involved in the Nhulunbuy/Gove flexicare service development and subsequent management.

We are in conversation with Guwardi Ngardu, the aged care service in Fitzroy Crossing.

We have appointed a Graduate Nurse Supervisor and 2 clinical tutors to support new graduates working across our residential and community care services and we have a program in place for the ongoing training of Indigenous trainees in administration.

At the request of the Department of Immigration, we explored options for services in Kalgoorlie and Tom Price to add to our migrant support services in Port Hedland, Karratha and Newman. This resulted in the establishment of a small service in Kalgoorlie and we are currently researching the needs of the Geraldton community. The funding however, for all of these services is ridiculously small and we are exploring the option of seeking industry funding to establish better support services to migrants across the Pilbara, at least.

We have entered into a partnership with Resthaven (UnitingCare SA) for a research application on best practise clinical practice using Pulkapulkka Kari and Community Care Barkly in Tennant Creek as Frontier Services demonstration sites. And we have entered into a partnership with Charles Darwin University for the appointment of a Nurse Practitioner – Aged Care.

Frontier Services continues its membership of the National Rural Health Alliance, joining over 30 organisations committed to Closing the Gap and to improved access to health care across remote Australia. Pauline Wardle, Community Care Manager (NT) has represented Frontier Services on the Alliance for many years and on its executive for the maximum period permissible under the Alliance’s constitution. Her contribution as Treasurer for almost 5 years was acknowledged at a special celebration in Canberra in 2011.

Frontier Services contributed to the consultations in relation to the recommendations of the Australian Hospitals and Health Care Commission, both as a member of the Australian Healthcare Reform Alliance and as a significant service provider in both aged care and remote area nursing.

Frontier Services continues to be represented on the Australian Council of the Royal Flying Doctor Service which, during 2011, reclaimed the name “Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia”, previously “owned” by South Eastern Section. Close working relationships continue at governance level as well as on the ground.

We are working closely with SA Health to further a proposal for new buildings at Andamooka where the old “hospital”, now in use as both clinic and Home and Community Care Centre is almost 50 years old.

Advocating for justice, equity and reconciliation

Tell our story more widely
From our knowledge base speak out for justice, equity and reconciliation on key issues affecting remote Australia
Identify areas of need and future activity based on sound evidence and best practice.

An important role for Frontier Services is to share the stories of the lived experience of our people - stories of hope, stories of good news, but also of bad. As an Assembly agency we need to remind the whole Church that it is ALL about being Church. It is about the relationships, the credibility and the trust that allow us to be there.

We can have a voice for the people of remote Australia – for those who might otherwise not be heard. We are able to bring our experience of remote communities and of ministry and mission there, together with our shared joys and sorrows  and to join the voice of remote Australia to the voice of the whole Church to influence policy and potentially to change the environment in which people struggle.

We do this through our involvement in UnitingCare Australia and its advisory committees and through our membership and involvement in such organizations as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the National Rural Health Alliance, the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association and the Rural Education Forum of Australia and through direct representations to government on various issues.

New mental health resources have been developed by Dr John Ashfield, a clinical psychotherapist from South Australia to assist our patrol ministers and later a wide variety of other staff with meeting the increasing challenges experienced by those they support. In 2011, grief and loss, especially as they apply to children, was the theme for workshops in a number of locations to assist families devastated by floods.

A program for young men in relation to responsible consumption of alcohol in remote areas has been trialed and is being assessed for wider application.

Frontier Services provided a significant submission to the Productivity Commission enquiry into aged care which resulted in the report “Caring for Older Australians”. Members of the Productivity Commission visited, at our invitation, services and facilities in Darwin and Katherine. They also met with us in the Sydney office and sought our input at public forums. We contributed also to the UnitingCare Australia submissions on both aged care and disability.

We have continued to provide material to support submissions made by the National Rural Health Alliance on a range of subjects and work closely with other member organisations on matters of particular concern.

Frontier Services has made a submission to the House of Representatives Enquiry into Fly In Fly Out/Drive In Drive Out employment patterns. We hope to have the opportunity to support those representations when the enquiry takes evidence around the country during 2012.

Outback Links is a program which connects families and communities in need of support with willing volunteers.We have expanded the Outback Links program to provide support to the increasing number of volunteers, now over 1000,  and also to support families on properties struggling to recruit and retain staff. We believe that our experience with the In Home Care program and our own experience in recruiting and orienting staff can be applied to our families who may be seeking to recruit governesses or jackaroos. Coupled with this, we will establish a “gap year” program in which we can provide a level of support to the young people who may take on a placement of this kind. They will remain the employee of the family but we can provide support with recruitment and support.

RemoteFOCUS is a movement committed to considering remote Australia as a viable whole, rather than as everyone’s forgotten back yard. Frontier Services is proud to play a part in this movement, particularly given that the model proposed is precisely that applied by the Church to remote Australia – and it patently works!

Frontier Services continues to use as many opportunities as possible to draw attention to the issues identified by our patrol ministers and field staff. Significant over recent years have been issues related to mental health, Medicare locals, the live cattle export ban and fly in fly out.

Valuing our people

Encourage (by example) commitment, passion and teamwork in all that we do
Increase support, mentoring and training opportunities for staff and volunteers
Continue to improve workplace stability and retention
Ensure succession plans are in place for all key positions

Executive staff seek to be available to support patrol ministers, senior staff and program managers as needs and challenges emerge and to respond in a timely manner to requests for supply of resources. We work hard to ensure that National and Regional office processes support those in the field.

Training and gathering opportunities are provided as often as possible for enrichment and encouragement. Patrol Ministers’ Conferences were held in 2009 and 2011 and aged and community care staff and children’s service staff come together every year.

Care is taken to provide visual materials for orientation and to update staff regularly through publications.

In December 2009, a graduation ceremony was held in Tennant Creek for the Registered Nurses and Enrolled Nurses who had been part of the training program provided by Frontier Services and the Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in partnership with the NT government. 14 nurses graduated. It is our hope that this program can, over time, be replicated in Nhulunbuy and Derby.

WELL funding has allowed us to provide literacy training on site for all staff in Derby and many staff in the field, together with all the National Office staff, have participated in cross cultural training.

Frontier Services greatest resource is its people and the amazing extended family which supports us. The work of the Victorian, NSW, Queensland, SA and WA supporters continues to inspire and sustain us. We do what we can to encourage and resource them in return.

The harder the task, the more difficult the environment, the more we are blessed by those who come forward saying “send me”. We provide the best framework we can, deliberately providing as many services and supports as possible from the regional and national offices so that people can get on and do their job, in their way, in their place.

Increasingly workforce stability and retention will continue to be a challenge. We struggle with –

  • Interruptions to the bond of trust which takes time to build up between staff and clients/residents due to the transient nature of staff in regional centres
  • Frequent turnover of team members and the consequent need for refamiliarisation with new team mates and the dynamics of a new team
  • Additional resources needed to orientate and train new staff on a regular basis
  • Dearth of affordable housing in regional centres
  • Potential inability to fulfill obligations to clients owing to vacancies
  • Difficulties in training when training staff “turn over” as fast as the rest.
  • Potential demoralization of regional office staff through constant turnover and the consequent need for recruitment action.

Enhance organisational capacity and resources
Continue to build the capacity of the Board

Continue theological reflection
Engage with a new generation of people committed to the vision of Frontier Services
Contribute to the revitalisation of the Church
Increase resources by widening our support base and continuing to grow a bequest program and
corporate sponsorship

Frontier Services needs to maintain the level of support it enjoys from its stakeholders, partners and donors in order to continue to provide the network of support which is so critically needed by the people of remote Australia.

We have numerous programs in place to engage with that support. Loosely, we call that activity “Development”. For almost 10 years until the end of 2010, David Sullivan was the National Development Manager. He developed many of our more innovative programs with energy, creativity and commitment.

Jack Harrison too gave us the gift of his voluntary service as Workparties Co-ordinator until the end of 2010. He handed his role on to Gordon Hill who continues in an amazing tradition of support.

Workparty volunteers, about 300 of them, and Outback Links volunteers, almost 1100 of them, together with former and current staff and their extended networks offer the promise of a whole new generation of support to follow and to enhance the faithful friends who have supported us for a lifetime.

A valuable new initiative is the Great Outback BBQ, trialled in 2011 and to be launched as a national event in 2012. We hope this event may become to Frontier Services as Red Nose Day is to SIDS or Daffodil Day to the Cancer Council.

Our involvement in the Red Centre to Gold Coast Car Trial in 2009 yielded more than a couple of weeks of fun. It laid the basis for an ongoing partnership with Paul Hartmann Pty Ltd, suppliers of continence products and wound management supplies. In addition to their staff becoming active participants in Outback Links in large numbers, Hartmann has become a significant corporate partner, returning to us a proportion of our purchases, sending Christmas gifts of vast quantities of dressings to each of our residential aged care services and finally allowing their CFO to join our Finance and Audit Committee. Hartmann is an outstanding corporate partner.

The Patrol Partners program has allowed a number of our patrol ministers to share more detail with those who particularly support them. Quarterly communication about the work of the patrol provides supporters with prayer points and detail about the work which allows them to engage more fully in our ministry. The program is to be expanded in 2012 but also faces the challenge of the first patrol partners to move on from their patrols.

Support is received from Trusts and Foundations for a range of purposes. The generosity of the community continues to reassure and encourage us. We will endeavor to be as creative as possible in identifying possible funding sources and submitting appropriate applications.

Over recent years we have applied more resources to public relations and profile raising, coupling this with our activities which raise the funds necessary to sustain our ministry.

8. EVENTS

A number of events provide the opportunity to raise the public profile and to engage key stakeholders in a range of ways. The Classic Outback Trial, commencing in Forbes and held in northern NSW normally covers two patrol areas and provides the opportunity for both fundraising and story telling. This year, as the Frontier Services Centenary Classic Outback Trial, the event will cover three patrol areas, finishing in Renmark, SA on 25 August.

Involvement in the Adelaide Show is in its ninth year. Sponsorship of woodcutting events which allow young people to attend coaching sessions with experienced woodcutters and to compete at competition level has yielded significant rewards. The young man sashed “Woodcutter of the Show” last year won his first ribbon as a junior in a Frontier Services event in 2003. In 2012, sponsorship of the International Womens’ Championship (for which the John Flynn Trophy will be awarded) will expose a continuous audience of 10,000 over 3 days to the Frontier Services story.

The Birdsville Races continues as a source of funds and goodwill. While the gate takings support the RFDS, income from stalls, events and donations meet the costs of the historical display maintained in Birdsville and the constant upkeep of our infrastructure there.

In 2012, a variety of additional events will capitalise on the centenary opportunity to raise levels of both profile and support.

Additionally we have been proud and pleased in 2012 to welcome Tim Fischer AC back as Patron following his term as Australian Ambassador to the Holy See. His patronage is generous and his encouragement greatly valued.

The Board continues its theological reflection. It has been richly resourced by a variety of people from across the life of the church and, when opportunity has permitted, by patrol ministers themselves and by the Associate National Director. It is ongoing work which enriches the life of the Board.

As we come now to celebrate unbroken ministry across a period of one hundred years, what defines and distinguishes this mission is its continued willingness and ability to change to meet emerging need. The timeline clearly shows a pattern of starting up and handing on, of enabling and encouraging – and then standing aside as supporter and sustainer.

No services are imposed on communities, or ever have been. Development of services is always the result of respectful partnership relationship and all the stronger and more life giving for its genesis.

For over a century, we have developed trust by our willingness to stand with those whom others cast aside. We have developed credibility by our commitment to justice and equity. And most of all, we have shown that the transforming love of God is there in the drought, and in the flood, and in the communities where hope could so easily be lost.

This continues to be the Uniting Church’s gift to the nation.

Rosemary Young
National Director

 


 

APPENDIX A

 

FRONTIER SERVICES MANDATE

 

Responsible to: The Assembly
Reporting Arrangements: The Assembly and Assembly Standing Committee
Vision Statement:

 In the remote areas of Australia –

Reconciliation will become reality

Hope will replace anxiety and despair

Justice and equity will build community

Everyone will have access to the services they need

As we journey together…….

Purpose Statement: To offer service and ministry in the name of Christ to the people of remote Australia through compassionate care, justice and nurture of the spirit.

Mandate:

Frontier Services will:

  • Work with Synods, Presbyteries and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress to facilitate ministry and mission in remote areas of Australia, particularly through the provision of a broad range of community services.
  • Within its own life and through its ministry and services, act for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in remote areas of Australia.
  • Operate and coordinate public benevolent activities which provide direct relief for those in the community who are isolated and/or subject to poverty, distress and other disadvantage.
  • Develop services to meet established and emerging needs.
  • Ensure services are provided without discrimination, with due regard to the dignity of the individual and with cultural sensitivity.
  • Cooperate with other organisations to enrich and extend our work together.
  • Develop ecumenical relationships for pastoral planning and cooperative action in remote areas.
  • Maximise access to funds within and beyond the Uniting Church to support ministry and mission in remote areas.
  • Advocate with and on behalf of those in remote areas, where appropriate in cooperation with other agencies of the Uniting Church and with other organisations.

Approved by the Standing Committeee, November 2009