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IWSA Chairperson Report 2002-2003

Chairperson: Soraya Kassim

2003 was a mixed year for Speakout.

It saw the beginnings of a return to the organisation's tradition of advocacy through the holding of a Pre Election Forum, before the NSW election. Senior representatives of all the major political parties presented their policies for NESB women in NSW, and also heard directly from some of our clients and from partner organizations about the plight of those on temporary protection visas, the struggle for women seeking to use their skills and qualifications in Australia, and issues relating to domestic violence and NESB women. The Forum was made possible by the work of a dedicated young staff member, Soraia de Sousa, who worked closely with Management Committee members and other staff to bring the Forum to fruition.

Other important advocacy work was done by our Domestic Violence Policy Officer, and through a submission by the Executive Officer to the Senate Committee on Poverty.

Again, with strong support from members of the Management Committee, the organization was able to win an important Families First project in Auburn, to build on the excellent family support work being undertaken in Blacktown and Fairfield-Holroyd by our Family Support Worker, and the Domestic Violence casework being undertaken by our Domestic Violence Project Officers. This area has been a core part of Speakout's work for many years now, and I look forward to it strengthening and growing even more over the coming years.

Another area of core work for Speakout work for many years has been that of employment and training. This has always been a challenging area of work, but particularly so as Government-funded programs have chosen to focus on strict employment-related outcomes, rather than recognizing the importance of preparatory programs aimed at self esteem and confidence building, English language skills, and retraining to gain the opportunity to use skills in Australia. It will be important in the future for Speakout to be funded to do this crucial developmental work to ensure that women are not left out of employment and training opportunities in NSW.

This year also saw the end of a very important project providing information to Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) Holders. This group of Australians (TPV holders are Australians - it not their choice that they do not live here permanently) are amongst the most disadvantaged in Australia today. It is appropriate that Speakout be part of the growing coalition of people and organizations working to address the injustices and deliver services to Temporary Protection Visa holders in NSW.

While the focus of the organization should always be on its mission for our clients, this year has also seen an internal focus. In particular, the Management Committee put considerable work into developing constitutional changes designed to give the organization access to tax deductible donations. We hope that our efforts will bear fruit, as it is very important for the future of the organization that it develop alternative sources of income.

The other areas of internal focus have been the search for accommodation and recruitment. Unfortunately the processes for both these have been long and exhausting. It is with great relief that I see light at the end of the tunnel - but I also note that it is unfortunate that the financial situation of the organization limits the options we have with regard to both these areas. It is also true that - while all Management Committee members and staff mean well - in our collective efforts to do the best by the organization, and by our staff, we sometimes make mistakes. 2003 has been a learning year for many.

I would like to thank and pay particular tribute to the members of the Management Committee who have struggled through this year, doing far more work than is normally required on Community Organisation Management Committees - in order to support staff to achieve things which would not otherwise have been achieved. It is a testimony to our dedication to NESB women in NSW that we kept going despite everything! While everyone deserves appreciation, I would particularly like to thank Chris Ho, Esther Rice, Denise Voros, Sonia Ahmad and Paula Frivola, who with me, all took on numerous additional tasks for the organization. All embody the best of volunteerism.

I would also like to thank staff for surviving the year. We had a 3 month period of difficulties, when staff were asked to deal with some instability and when the need to maintain personnel confidences meant that staff were asked to trust that Management were acting in the long term interests of the organization and our clients. I am confident that we did this. Nevertheless, it was a difficult time. On behalf of the Management Committee, I would like to acknowledge this and thank staff for dealing with the situation as professionally as they could.

And so we come to the end of another year. It is a time to celebrate our achievements, and to look forward to gathering our strength to tackle the continuing challenges of work for NESB women in NSW. I thank our funding bodies for their continuing support of us, and our members for your ongoing contributions. I hope that we can continue to work collaboratively together to deliver the services we know are essential, and to address the issues of social justice which continue to demand action.