President's Annual Message

President's Report (November 2016)

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The Compassionate Friends NSW Annual General Meeting 2016

Firstly I would like to thank Carroll and O'Dea for allowing us to use this conference area at no cost. It is exactly what we needed, and the staff at Carroll and O'Dea go beyond the call of duty in helping us to prepare for the functions we hold here. So far we have held the Suicide Support Seminar and the Volunteer training day here.

Since the death of our former patron, Dame Joan Sutherland, we have been without a patron for our organisation. To our delight, Mary and Tony Carroll have consented to become our patrons. Mary was President of The Compassionate Friends NSW for 10 years, and very involved before that. Tony and his firm Carroll and O'Dea have acted for us pro bono in all legal matters. We know that the Carroll family are in our corner, and we are honoured to have their names on our masthead. Thank you so much, Mary and Tony, for all you have done and continue to do for this organisation.

2016 has been a year of satisfying growth for The Compassionate Friends NSW. It is always a matter of dissatisfaction to me that there are so many people out there who are hurting, and we can only help a certain number. However almost 100 more people this year have found their way to us, and hopefully we have helped them.

The Executive has realised for some time that the people living in the regional areas of our large state did not have the same access as the city dwellers to our help. In order to do something about this, Treasurer Joy Rappo and husband Peter took their caravan around the country areas and managed to visit all active chapters. Following on from this we held One Day Gatherings in four regional centres; Parkes, Newcastle, Murwillumbah and Kiama. Each of these was highly successful in its own way. The country chapter leaders found venues, did publicity, organised the look of the venue and the catering and sourced some of the presenters. The City Office supplied the know how and finance, organised presenters, supplied printed material in our newly designed presentation folders, and made sure that the projects were run according to our mission and values.

Training is an important part of running an organisation such as The Compassionate Friends. Our members can be fragile, and all are carrying scars on their hearts. We must always be respectful of them, remembering that in dealing with people who are hurting, it is not about ourselves, but about listening to the other person. Almost all of our chapter leaders have received special training in this delicate dealing with people's lives, as well as instruction on handling the phone calls. We thank Joy Rappo for organising these sessions, and Linda Campbell for delivering excellent seminars. The Chapter Leader training sessions give our leaders the confidence and know how to tread warily and respectfully in people's lives.

Some of our Leaders have attended the training at the Bereavement Care Centre. (formerly run by the McKissops). We now have a partnership with the Bereavement Care Centre for ongoing staff training.

Linda Campbell ran a very interesting six week programme on Narrative Therapy. She helped those attending to look at the joy our children had brought us, rather than the grief caused by their loss. It was a total rethink of the situation, and a revelation.
We flew the CEO of TCF Victoria, John Sedunary, and the President Andrew Weatherhead up from Melbourne to give us training in Public Speaking over two weekends at Mary McKillop House. Being tutored in how to form and present a speech is a great confidence builder. We hope to be able to spread the word about The Compassionate Friends to local groups as is now done with Blacktown Inner Wheel Club.

The Planning Committee has been busy making lists of funeral directors and working out a strategy to get out our message to the newly bereaved via those who must deal with them.

Joy has also been organising our quarterly KPIs, which are a necessary part of proving to our funding body that we are using their money as intended. These quarterly reports are probably a nuisance to our Chapter Leaders, but there is no way round it – they have to be done if we are to be able to continue our work. So I thank you all for cooperating in this.

Our Council has operated well, but under difficulties. There is an Executive of President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary, plus two Ordinary Members. This makes 6 people with a quorum of 4. Given that we are all prone to illness at times and to taking holidays at other times, we have had to cancel or reschedule meetings due to lack of a quorum. One extra member on the Council will solve this, so to that end I have proposed the alteration to the Constitution, as in your Agenda. We will vote on this before we hold the election of officers.

I encourage all of you who appreciate the support given you by The Compassionate Friends, to consider what time you can give to our organisation. Being on Council involves a meeting approximately every 6 weeks, plus taking on some areas of responsibility, some of which can be done at home. For instance Richard Harrisson has been organising the police checks for our volunteers, and Janice Mallett does a great job on the Anniversary Cards.

Our volunteers are pearls beyond price. Unfortunately there are not enough of them. We need people who are able to commit to doing a certain job and following through with it, or coming to the office on a regular basis – once a month is fine - and doing whatever work they are suited to. Things like making sure there are printed brochures and introductory packages available. Those running the office need to know when people will be coming in to help, so that we can organise the work. To those who have been doing just such work, I thank you very much. You really are appreciated.

We held two special talks during the year. Bernadette Arena gave us a talk on Caring for Yourself in June, and in October we held a Suicide Support Seminar. Both were well received. I thank Bernadette for her gentle help, and Linda Campbell and Holly Smith for their words of wisdom. Katrina Tsaftaropoulos, Rob Wild and Helen Fraser shared their experiences as a mother, father and sister robbed by suicide. I especially thank Lyn Ward, whose special project this was, and who continued behind the scenes even when her own health was not good.

Since August Sheila Trotman has been employed one day per week in the office, Robwyn Delboe is working four hours per fortnight and Alan Purser has taken on the role of librarian.

Joy and I have both attended seminars on the various areas of running an NGO. These functions are educating us in our roles with the organisation, and sometimes, I find, enriching our own lives. I went to a very interesting and informative 2 day seminar on Communities in Control in Melbourne. There are classes coming up in governance, which I hope all our Council will attend, and in tendering for our grants for which Joy and I have registered. Running an NGO is not child's play and we need to understand the importance of fitting ourselves to do this. Next year we will have to tender for our funding. We have to get it right.

Finally I would like to thank all those who have given their time to help our organisation. Every little bit helps. I would especially like to recognise the hours of unpaid work that our Treasurer Joy Rappo contributes.

Thank you all for coming. I hope that you will find the talk by Christine McCabe solves any worries you may have about the coming holiday season, and I invite you to stay for the lunch after.

Note: elections: Jenny Wandl continuing as President. Lyn Ward, Janice Mallett and Sandra Spooner-Hart continuing as committee.
Joy Rappo standing for re-election, need two more committee members.

Jenny Wandl

President, TCF NSW