What a year! Indeed, a year like no other in living memory. A year in which we had a glimpse into the impact of climate change on our weather and environment, and a year that cemented our appreciation of volunteer firefighters around the country. It’s been a year that has boosted our vocabulary, with terms like Iso, social distancing, R-value, and of course, thoroughly guilt-free double doughnuts. And we were universally perplexed at shortages of toilet paper.

As an Industry, we saw the potential tidal wave of despair that was approaching us. A wave that swallows up the old, the infirm, the weak, and the vulnerable… those that we exist to serve and protect: and we prepared for impact. Through the awe-inspiring dedication and hard work of those in our Industry, we rode the waves that have come our way.

I am proud of CSIA’s response through the past ten months, including leading the Industry COVID Taskforce, creating a novel workforce solution, and providing a range of other frameworks, tools and advice to support the Industry to navigate this uncertain time.

For some individuals in our community, the wave of COVID has been more a ripple. But for others, the impact has been profound: with loss of income, increase in isolation and depression, domestic and family violence. For over 900 the impact of COVID has been fatal, and for many thousands more, they live with the lasting scars of infection.

We have now started the planning on administering a vaccine. While we will all breathe easier once vaccines are administered, our work in responding to COVID will be far from over, as we focus on community recovery. CSIA looks forward to playing our part in leading and supporting the Industry as we seek to build a stronger community.

For now, I reflect on how important it is that we find the time to stop, rest, and refresh, so we can bring the best of ourselves to the task ahead in the new year.

For the CSIA Board, we will begin the new year by coming together to consider our business strategy. As a maturing organisation, with a growing kit bag of tools, skills sets and services, and increasing recognition as an organisation of substance that delivers on its purpose, we will consider how to better leverage these things to further benefit the Industry within this country.

Our strategy is underpinned by our Impact Statement that was developed in 2018. It is designed to focus us on purpose and to act consistently with this purpose. During 2020, we commissioned an evaluation framework to help us to test and report on our effectiveness in the future. As with many things this year, COVID-19 has interrupted this work. As we move through into recovery, we will turn our effort back to the implementation of this evaluation framework. This is likely to include a focus on our policy and influencing work, which can be hard to measure but is key to our effort at delivering on our purpose.

As we continue to mature as an organisation, articulating and focussing intentionally on our culture will be key to our long-term success. CSIA is known for our deep engagement with Industry and our orientation to doing things collaboratively. We have also sought to contribute to new ways of thinking and finding ways to solve the often longstanding and intractable problems. As we travel through the next five years and beyond we will need a strong and resilient culture that protects this value for our stakeholders so that we can continue to deliver our purpose.

This year, CSIA developed our first Reconciliation Action Plan. Our Reflect RAP centres our attention on broadening and deepening relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the Community Services Industry and beyond. During the year we hosted National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC week events to learn about and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

Thank you to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues who joined with us in these events and shared your life experiences and perspectives honestly and openly.

Over the year ahead the CSIA Board have set a priority for the organisation to further deepen its relationships with Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations, towards outcomes that are shared and practical.

As our organisation grows and matures, so does our governance. This year I have come to appreciate the unique characteristics, competencies and contributions of every single Board member. Thank you to my fellow Directors. It has been an honour and a pleasure to work with you across this unprecedented year. I look forward to working with you in 2021.

Thank you to our CEO, Belinda Drew, for the cool, calm, and competent way you have risen to the challenges this year. You have led the battle from the front, with one eye on your team, and the other on the Industry. When the COVID dust has blown over, and you’re asked what you did in response to the extraordinary threat, I know you will give great account for yourself, and for CSIA.

And thank you to the staff of CSIA for your continued dedication and passion for the purpose of the organisation.  This has not been an easy year, but despite this, you have strengthened the CSIA team spirit through your adaptability in the face of change. Take the time for a well-earned break!

Finally, thank you to the members and Industry stakeholders. I understand that we have interacted with more than 2000 Industry stakeholders over the course of 2020. Your participation is critical to our success. I encourage you to stay active in the work of CSIA as collaboration has never been more important to achieving our shared agenda for change.