Monday, 21 February 2022

I am pleased to accept the invitation from Jan and Mark to address you today at this gathering.

In this room, we have a myriad of different organisations serving the community, all making significant contributions in your own ways.

Growing up in South Australia, the culture of caring was evident to me, and since returning, I have been struck by its strength and resilience.

As I remarked at my swearing in as Governor, South Australians have a sense of community to be proud of, exemplified by a deeply rooted culture of volunteering.

Collaboration, sharing of experiences and lifting each other up is undoubtedly part of the way we do things here.

It makes us stronger. It’s why you are here.

I congratulate the Australia Day Council for organising these series of informal lunches after the success of last year’s gathering.

After all, few of us had a road map for how to navigate a pandemic and one which would test us over such a long time.

It has challenged our thinking, our management style and practices, our service delivery and even our own lives as we endured isolation and quarantine.

As leaders, your usual plans had to re-examined and adjusted for greater risk management, be flexible to accommodate staff who need to isolate or have children needing home schooling or adjusting to working from home. Against all this, there is the need to be mindful of mental health imperatives, now and, in ways we may not yet fully comprehend, well into the future.

Services had to remain relevant and available to your clients, as we steered our way through closures and lock downs, and the need to continue to provide social connections.

For many, probably actually most of you, the pandemic would have had an impact on your own lives, with family illness, personal grief, and caring for relatives having to be juggled alongside work.

For some not being able to visit relatives in hospital, or aged care, or living interstate, or the emptiness of only being able to watch a funeral on a webcast has had its toll on our emotional wellbeing.

I, too, have “attended” weddings and funerals via livestream and experienced the challenges of virtual caring.

Yet, despite many of us having pandemic fatigue, we have adapted to the changing paradigms. We have proven to be resilient; we have coped with disappointment; we have been adaptable; we have been nimble in harnessing technology and social media to keep our human connections. We have supported each other.

While there have been many challenges over the past two years, we can take this opportunity to look back and harness many of our learnings.

How can we focus on not going back to what we perceive as the old “normal”? That has gone.

How can we manage in a world that continues to adjust to COVID or put systems in place to deal with the next pandemic?

How can we harness experiences that were good, were positive and enhanced people’s lives and put them into our management practices?

How can we ensure our most vulnerable are cared for when resources and staffing are stretched?

How can we preserve our social values when people are re-evaluating what they are personally prepared to do for community good?

Who might our most suitable organisational partners be for the future?

And, finally, how can we ensure how high-performing staff and volunteers are appropriately recognised, including through the Order of Australia, for their exceptional service?

I know these issues are important to you, because you are here to gain insights from others.

By being at this luncheon you will help chart a way forward.