The past week has been extremely busy with plenty going on, so let's jump straight into it.
It was one of those weeks where the weather was the topic of the day in many places across Australia: torrential rain in the Top End, a heatwave across SA, Victoria and Tasmania and intense bushfires in NSW and WA.
We kicked into gear as we always do, including through Monday night in Daly River where evacuations are taking place. We encouraged those we work with to take precautions in the heat and urged people to Get Prepared and look after themselves.
Our mandate to advocate for the vulnerable
We lodged a submission to Federal Parliament in response to proposed legislation that was originally aimed at limiting political donations, but widened its scope to restrict civil society advocates. Under the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, charities would need to be registered as a ‘political campaigner’ if we express a view that might be seen to influence an election.
This would restrict the legitimate advocacy role of charities whose role in speaking on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society is so vital. It will also create a heavy compliance burden.
The work of our movement in educating people in the laws of war is critically important, arguably more so now than ever. And yet, it is with great sadness and regret that again we are mourning the loss of colleagues killed in a war-ravaged country where they were trying to save lives and alleviate suffering.
Gunmen stormed the Save the Children aid agency in the Afghan city of Jalalabad on 24 January, killing at least five people and injuring 24.
This was not a misdirected missile attack; this was a deliberate, targeted incursion. Then on the weekend, we saw the terrible attack in Kabul where an ambulance laden with explosives was used to kill and injure hundreds of people.
With these horrific attacks, it is the people of Afghanistan or South Sudan or Nigeria who suffer. As aid agencies withdraw from these countries due to the danger posed to their staff – as Save the Children and the ICRC have done in Afghanistan – it is the locals who are deprived of vital resources and medical aid.
International humanitarian law, which is meant to protect those not involved in combat, including humanitarian workers, is being routinely trampled. So how do we maintain a presence in these countries when our desire to help is threatened, indeed targeted?
It is a vexed question challenging the operations of aid agencies internationally.
Our Pulse Surveys
We launched Our Pulse last November to give us all an insight into how we’re progressing as teams and overall.
We have just completed the third survey with more than 1,000 responses to the first two surveys and just less than that for the January review. This is in line with Pulse check surveys in other industries.
Here are some of what’s been kicked off already:
We have just launched Thumbs Up – anyone can send a Thumbs Up to recognise others.
We’re also about to launch Leading First across the country. This is for new or first-time managers. For our middle managers we start our next Thrive program this week. Delivered in partnership with Melbourne Business School, this program is focused on developing skills in change, people, finance and strategic management. There will be two more of these programs held this financial year.
Annette Plowman, Renata Robinson and the team on Tiwi Island (pictured) are using the results to explore how what they are doing connects with the wider community.
The Tasmanian leadership team is incorporating the state Pulse results into their regular meetings and has set up a dedicated mailbox for discussions.
In Queensland, State Director Leisa Bourne and HR Manager Elizabeth Clarkson are working together to address questions that come through the Pulse survey, responding through Leisa’s weekly newsletter.
Queensland HR Business Partner Renee Barlow is finding that the results help her to support and coach managers in how to lead their teams.
Each month I have one-on-ones with my direct reports and I will be using the Pulse results to guide our discussions. The Culture and Capability team has developed a tool kit to support managers in how to understand and explore these results and I will be using this resource during my meetings.
I wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge some stand-out team members who have received glowing praise in the surveys: well done and thank you to Annette Plowman, Alenka Jarem, Tom Scarborough, Noel Clement and Gary George.
While many businesses wound down over the Christmas period, our retail stores had some of their busiest weeks of the year. From Albany to Townsville, we opened more stores than ever during the holiday period, thanks largely to the generosity and commitment of our volunteers.
Our trading patterns changed, too, with many coastal stores run entirely by volunteers opening for the first time over the break to take advantage of the influx of tourists. Rather than taking time off themselves, our retail team thrived on the extra visitors and enjoyed the frantic pace to produce record sales, putting us on track for a record year.
Pictured below: Our Ipswich volunteers who kept the store open during the break and improved our financial performance.