BRISBANE-BASED not-for-profit Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association has received a $1.1 million grant from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), raising the bar on the goals and achievements available to those living with a disability.

The grant will fund Sporting Wheelies new Raising the Bar–Peer Support Leadership Program (PSL), employing Queenslanders living with a disability as Peer Support Leaders (PSL) to create awareness and empowerment amongst the community.

In recent years, the technology, support and facilities available to those living with a disability has increased drastically, however exposure to these resources can be difficult for those not active in the community. The PSL will bring this crucial information and their own personal stories to Queenslanders living with a disability, so they can set goals higher and achieve more. 

Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association CEO, Amanda Mather said the grant would help raise awareness about what’s possible for people living with disability.

“This grant from the National Disability Insurance Agency will support our mission to make all active goals possible," Ms Mather said. "We are passionate about generating awareness and understanding of the many opportunities available to the almost one-in four Aussies living with a disability.

“Sporting Wheelies support the variety of active goals people may have, from increasing mobility and independence, improving health, socialising, and participating recreationally through to professional sport,” she said.

“The program will employ Queenslanders living with a disability in our metro cities, as well as rural and remote regions, to inspire others and raise the bar for all people with disabilities,” Ms Mather said.

The program will also engage schools to educate children about disability, Paralympic sports and show students it is possible for everybody to achieve and set active goals.

Ms Mather said Sporting Wheelies were working towards a world of greater opportunities for people of all abilities. Raising the Bar–Peer Support Program has been developed to create higher standards for the goals and aspirations of people living with a disability.

Believing sport offers much more than an opportunity to represent a region, state, or country, Sporting Wheelies provide people with an opportunity to have fun, make new friends, and develop skills.

"All whilst getting fit and raising awareness of what Australians with disabilities can achieve within a supportive environment," Ms Mather said.

Through increasing understanding and championing the importance and benefits of physical activity, Sporting Wheelies has inspired and enabled people with a disability to be active for over 40 years and are the peak sporting body for five Paralympic sports in Queensland.

www.sportingwheelies.org.au

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THE Department of Innovation, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) has awarded the IPA-Deakin SME Research Centre a $2.24 million grant for its 'Supporting Small Business Advisors for Better Mental Health' project to train 5000 accountants by 2022.

Professional accounting bodies, including the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA), Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) and CPA Australia, are taking up the gauntlet in unison to ensure their members are equipped to recognise and support their clients, employees and themselves in dealing with mental health issues.

Accountants, as trusted advisers, are on the frontline and are often the first to recognise such stressors amongst their clients, particularly SMEs. The Australian Federal Budget, handed down last month, announced the world’s largest investment in support of small business owners’ mental health.

This project builds on last year’s $1 million grant through the National Health and Medical Research Council which is developing the training material while the latest grant will enable the roll out of the mental health training to more than 5,000 accountants over the next two years across Australia. This grant was achieved in collaboration between the professional accounting bodies, Deakin University, Beyond Blue, Mental Health First Aid Australia and Worksafe Victoria.

The Federal Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash, said the Morrison Government had made mental health a priority during COVID-19. 

“The government is making record investments in mental health services and support with expenditure estimated to be $5.7 billion this year alone," Ms Cash said. "Small and family business are the lifeblood of our communities and the backbone of our economy, so it is crucial that they emerge from the pandemic in the best financial and emotional shape possible.

“We have committed $7 million to the BusinessBalance program, including $2.24 million in Deakin University and other stakeholders to train more than 4,000 accountants in mental health first aid to support their critical small business networks," she said.

“The government is proudly partnering with Deakin University and professional accounting bodies to deliver this vital training that will change lives.”

IFAC CEO Kevin Dancey said, "The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) commends this collaborative effort to bring attention and significant funding to the issue of mental health. This is meaningful not only for members of the profession and SMEs, but for society more broadly. Australia is leading on this important work and setting a strong example for others to follow.”

Deakin vice-chancellor, professor Iain Martin welcomed the grant and said it recognised the numerous and significant mental health challenges that both business owners and accountants are currently facing because of the global pandemic.

“With a recent departmental study showing nearly one in three small-medium enterprise (SME) owners had identified a diagnosis in the last 12 months of either experiencing stress, depression or anxiety, now more than ever we must pay close attention to our mental wellbeing," Prof. Martin said. 

“This crucial Federal Government grant will help fund the rollout of a sector-wide continuous professional development program for accountants and will be delivered by Australia’s three accounting professional bodies.

“The program will upskill accountants to provide mental health first aid to their small-medium enterprise clients. The project also provides an important avenue for the early identification, management, or prevention of various mental health conditions.

“I congratulate the many stakeholders involved in securing the funding required to undertake such an important body of research,” Prof. Martin said.

A 2020 study commissioned by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources reported that nearly one in three SME owners had identified that they had a diagnosis in the past 12 months of experiencing stress, depression, or anxiety. The main factor contributing to SME owners' stress is related to financial issues and the impact of those stresses on family and personal life.

“Our combined research grant funding of over $3.24m through the Centre and insights gained through our members and the small business community highlight the significant challenges that SME owners are currently facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” IPA chief executive officer Andrew Conway said.

“We have been long term advocates in recognising the vital role accountants play in supporting their client’s mental health.

"By upskilling accountants, we believe there will be tremendous positive outcomes in supporting SME owners and ensuring they get the professional help as required. They are not there to play the role of professional health clinician, but they can be better equipped to point their SME client in that direction when required,” Mr Conway said.

“CPA Australia CEO Andrew Hunter said, “This project comes at a critical time for the accounting profession. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, accountants have played a frontline role in helping individuals and businesses manage the economic fallout, and this has put them under enormous pressure. Mental health is a whole of industry issue and, more so than ever before, needs a collective approach which supports all our members. 

Chartered Accountants ANZ CEO Ainslie van Onselen said, “By training accountants to provide mental health support to their tens of thousands of small and medium business clients, we will have a larger societal impact.

“Mental health is a whole of society issue and as one of Australia’s most trusted professions accountants have a unique and vital role to play on the front line. Every day accountants see the huge impost that has taken place on their clients and this project will make a huge difference quickly.” 

Through this IPA, CA ANZ and CPA Australia project, more than 5,000 accountants will receive training in providing mental health first aid and be ready to assist clients across Australia.

www.publicaccountants.org.au

www.charteredaccountnatsanz.com

www.cpaaustralia.com.au

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WESTERN AUSTRALIAN community services group, United WA, has been able to improve staff safety and significantly reduce costs with a major mobile phone systems overhaul through Macquarie Telecom, after "hitting breaking point' with two tier one telcos".

Macquarie Telecom, part of Macquarie Telecom Group (ASX: MAQ), announced it had simplified Uniting WA’s mobile services, reducing costs by more than 60 percent and providing improved support at a time when the organisation was more dependent on its mobile services and data than ever before.

Uniting WA is a Western Australian not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of vital community services. These include support for mental health, disability, homelessness, housing, financial counselling, and re-entry to society for prisoners. 

Following years of poor service and erratic costs from two tier one telcos, which rendered mobiles a heavy burden, Uniting WA realised it needed to reduce costs and find a new provider. 

Issues for Uniting WA included mobile costs growing at an unsustainable level, poor support, outdated services and unexpected billing spikes.

The not-for-profit switched its mobility services to Macquarie Telecom, which was able to reduce mobile spend by more than 60 percent by creating a shared data pool between staff, to share data without bill spikes and provide real-time access to data and call usage to help Uniting WA more effectively manage resources.

“It became clear we had become just a number to our two former telco providers,” Uniting WA principal practice lead, Luke McNiece said.

“There was zero account management and no local support, and we didn’t have the resources in house to manage our mobile services," he said. "With Macquarie that all changed – the NPS score was telling and it truly exceeded expectations and almost instantly slashed our mobile costs while improving reliability and management.”

MOBILES KEEP STAFF SAFER

The organisation’s need to maintain a reliable mobility service is greater than most – many staff work with potentially high-risk members of the community through Uniting WA’s services. Many staff use the Safe Haven app, which allows them to activate an SOS if in a dangerous situation.

“Most organisations are more reliant than ever on their mobiles in the current climate, but for us they’re an essential part of how we keep our people safe, no matter what. Knowing that our mobile services are now in safe, reliable hands gives us great comfort,” Mr McNiece said.

Uniting WA will also consider additional services such as network infrastructure, SD-WAN and cloud with Macquarie, following the success of the mobile overhaul. The organisation has transitioned non-essential staff to working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions and is looking at implementing long-term work-from-home (WFH) capabilities for those staff.

“Sometimes you don’t realise how low down the pecking order you are with a telco until you decide to make a change,” Macquarie Telecom group executive, Luke Clifton said.

“Most of these providers don’t have the ability or willingness to provide any decent support to mid-sized companies and the results are telling. Our business has literally been built on doing the opposite and doing it locally, and the impact is clear in organisations like Uniting WA that can instantly gain such significant benefits.”

www.unitingwa.org.au

www.macquarietelecom.com

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By Leon Gettler >>

ST JOHN AMBULANCE, like many Australian organisations, has had to deal with the recent social isolation of its people. In the case of St John Ambulance, the question was how to keep its 130 volunteers engaged.

The strategy employed could be a lesson for other Australian businesses.

St John Ambulance used technology to support its 130 strong team of volunteers to remain connected and engaged with the organisation during this period of strict social distancing. 

This is a critical component for the organisation as it relies on a team of volunteers who are engaged to support the community. 

The Granville Division of St John Ambulance exists to support its local health services with first aid support and services, and equipping individuals, families, and workplaces with high quality equipment. The team also has a critical role in major incidents – such as COVID-19 – where they will work alongside emergency services in times of need. 

Specifically it used the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse in Sydney, an automated pre-built survey that enables employers to gather vital information about its employees in near real time.

SYSTEMS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

Didier Moutia, the commissioner of St John Ambulance Australia (NSW), said the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse technology delivered results and kept the team engaged. But much of it was also due to the systems that St John Ambulance already had in place.

“When this happened we had to look at alternative ways to provide contact with our members and also provide that social outreach to members so we looked to technology as a potential to solve that issue,” Mr Moutia told Talking Business

He said the Qualtrics’ Remote Work Pulse was used to reach out to all its volunteers and it was done in a confidential way that allowed the organisation to understand how they were tracking.

The survey is sent out to volunteers every Monday and asks them some simple questions: how are they feeling, what’s contributing to that feeling, and if there is anything St John Ambulance could do to help them, whether it was a physical requirement, such as helping to get their shopping, or whether it was a social or member welfare requirement, such as having someone contact them, or include them in social activities online.

“So it’s really just an ability for us on a week to week basis to monitor the membership, but on an individual basis, to be able to see what people are doing and what we can help them with,” he said.  

“The challenge with volunteers and any people in a group is we can ask them collectively how they’re going and they will say okay, however, what often happens is people will suffer in silence,” Mr Moutia said.

“But when you do reach out to them, our experience with this particular product is we get real feedback from people, particularly those who are struggling or who would otherwise not put their hand up or to offer that in a public forum.”

He said some of members had struggled with the social isolation aspects.

There had also been volunteers who had lost their jobs or family members to coronavirus.

When certain responses are elicited in the survey, an email is sent to leaders like Mr Moutia.

St John has an extensive peer support and chaplaincy program and leaders can engage those services for the volunteers.

He said it has well received by the volunteers who have remained totally engaged in a challenging time for everyone.

www.stjohnnsw.com.au

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

COLES has announced it will donate extra food and groceries to the retail value of $1 million a week "to help Australians who are facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus".

The food donations will be directed to food relief organisations, Foodbank and SecondBite, which will in turn distribute the food to up to 3800 community food programs across Australia. 

Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said the decision to increase Coles’ food donations was in response to increasing demand for food relief from vulnerable Australians.

"For many years, we have donated surplus edible food from our supermarkets and distribution centres but sadly we are hearing that an increasing number of people in our community are facing particularly tough times as a flow-on effect of the Coronavirus,” Mr Cain said.

“We hope that by donating an additional $1 million in food each week to SecondBite and Foodbank, we can help get food and essentials to people who are especially vulnerable at this unprecedented time.

“It goes to the heart of our strategy which is to feed all Australians and help them lead healthier, happier lives.”

The announcement comes just days after Coles introduced a dedicated Community Hour at its supermarkets to improve access to essential groceries for the elderly and disadvantaged during the period of unprecedented demand.

Community Hour is held on weekdays from 7am to 8am in all Coles supermarkets, with access exclusively for customers who hold a government-issued Pensioner Concession Card, Seniors Health Card, Companion Card, Seniors Card, Disability Card or Health Care Card.

SecondBite CEO Jim Mullan welcomed the additional food donations.

“A key issue for us at the moment is keeping up with the growing demand," Mr Mullan said. "Coles currently donates surplus food from around 780 supermarkets and these additional donations from its distribution centres will help us to reach an increasing number of people in need."

Foodbank CEO Brianna Casey said the combination of drought, bushfires and coronavirus had placed unprecedented pressure on the charity’s food supplies.

“We are already assisting 815,000 people a month, but the need for food relief is skyrocketing at a time when donations of essential food and groceries are reducing," Ms Casey said.

"The additional donations from Coles will help ensure Foodbank can bolster its supplies to ensure vulnerable Australians can continue to be assisted."

www.colesgroup.com.au

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THE Hornsby-Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shelter is calling for greater collaboration between medical centres, hospitals, emergency services, pharmacists, mental health professionals and domestic violence services to cope with an expected surge in demand from women facing abuse or homelessness, throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

President of the Hornsby-Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shelter, Louise McCann said women at risk were especially vulnerable during this critical period of safe social distancing and isolation.

“Social distancing and isolation throughout COVID-19 means vulnerable women in our community face greater barriers to accessing help,” Ms McCann said. 

“It’s critical that at this time that health professionals and domestic violence service providers work together to ensure women have access to the vital support services they need.” 

Ms McCann said HKWS is launching an awareness campaign to reach out to local and regional health professionals and services to inform them about the essential services HKWS can offer their patients.

“Women turn to doctors and nurses in emergency, often suffering critical injuries. However, health professionals often don’t know where to refer their patients after they have been treated,” Ms McCann said.

“HKWS has dedicated Shelter professionals on hand, delivering comprehensive case management programs to women in need, assisting them to get their lives back on track.”

PREPARING FOR SURGE IN VIOLENCE

Ms McCann said the Shelter, along with health professionals, was preparing for a surge in domestic violence as a consequence of COVID-19.

HKWS, as part of the Women’s Community Shelters network, is preparing for a potential 30 percent increase in demand for support services because of COVID-19.

“Fear of uncertainty, job loss and financial stress are key risks that could lead to an increase in domestic violence,” Ms McCann said.

HKWS housed 58 clients last year, but was forced to turn away 105 women because of a lack of resources.

HKWS is seeking pro bono assistance from health providers including psychologists or counsellors who can provide services digitally.

“HKWS is expanding our outreach services to help more women in need during this difficult period,” Ms McCann said. 

“As part of this we are extending the provision of mental health support, which is even more important at this time.”

Ms McCann said Hornsby-Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shelter aims to provide temporary supported accommodation for women in times crisis such as homelessness and/or domestic violence.

Women stay at the shelter for up to three months and are allocated specialist caseworkers who support them to assist necessary legal, health, employment and financial services. Women who cannot be housed can access out outreach program.

www.hkws.org.au

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AUSTRALIAN shipping is playing an important role in the relief effort following the devastating bushfires in NSW and Victoria.

Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the crew of the Norwegian-flagged Far Saracen supply vessel was tasked by the Victorian Emergency Co-ordinator to deliver much needed relief supplies to 4,000 people stranded by bushfires in the Victorian town of Mallacoota.

“Australian and Kiwi seafarers were the first on the scene with much needed supplies of food, water and diesel,” Mr Crumlin said.

“While the Federal Government was resisting calls to activate the Australia’s Defence Forces, our seafarers were able to get those supplies to Mallacoota a full 24 hours before the first naval vessel arrived in the area.

“This was an important mission for a ship which is usually engaged in the resupply of off-shore rigs, so they are well versed in the logistics of resupply,” Mr Crumlin said. 

“In this case their efforts not only took the pressure off a population of locals and holiday-makers stranded by the bushfires, but also brought diesel into Mallacoota to power generators and fuel CFA fire trucks.”

Mr Crumlin said the MUA was well aware of the importance of maintaining a sovereign shipping capability while successive governments had failed to appreciate the vital role shipping plays in times of crisis.

“Our MUA seafarers have been the backbone of relief efforts throughout Australia’s history and this was the case in Mallacoota,” Mr Crumlin said.

“The civilian crews of the training vessel MV Sycamore and the supply vessel Far Senator and the Sealink Kangaroo Island Ferries are also doing their bit to back up our fire fighters and bring relief to those stranded and cut off by fire.”

Mr Crumlin said Western Australia was currently cut off from the rest of the country because fire had closed the highway across the Nullarbor and shipping would be needed to maintain supply links until road transport could get through.

“Our island nation’s blue highway is a proven alternative however the lack Australian coastal shipping capacity prevents this from being an option,” Mr Crumlin said.

“At a time of national crisis like the bushfire emergency, the need for an Australian merchant fleet has never been clearer. We were a key part of the relief effort following the destruction of Darwin by Cyclone Tracy and we will back up to assist Australians whenever there is a humanitarian need.

“Merchant seafarers have always been at the forefront of our battles and provided support in times of peace and war and this is a timely reminder that our Australian-flagged shipping remains essential to our national interest.” 

 

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