RULES FOR LIFE; PANDEMIC EDITION

I was told it was about time for another CEO’s blog and given a suggested topic:
What I’ve learnt living and leading an organisation through a global pandemic
Blimey, thanks Faye! OK, here goes. I have some rules which I stand by whenever something difficult comes up; and a global pandemic rates right up there as difficult!
  1. Find someone to blame
  2. Find someone else to follow it up
  3. Ignore it
However, a global pandemic, creates some specific challenges to this approach. First, there is no-one to blame (in spite of ‘stupid‘ blaming everybody). Secondly, we literally all have to address this and finally, it’s very hard to ignore!
So with great reluctance I have sort of had to do stuff and yes, I have learned some things:
  1. There is a real problem having your pantry and fridge within a few steps of your workplace;
  2. Zooming with children can make you motion sick;
  3. Our dog has developed an over attachment disorder;
  4. Without driving to work my podcast library is out of control;
  5. People have learned to appreciate the art of walking; and
  6. This room needs a paint!
Beyond that, living with and leading an organisation through a global pandemic is really the same approach people should have to living and leading an organisation without a global pandemic. So here are my Rules for Life; Pandemic Edition:
  • Surround yourself with good people.
  • Find people who are smarter than you and work with them.
  • Understand what may happen, what the issues are, and what is most important.
  • Appreciate that people will respond in many different ways.
  • Act in good faith.
Whatever actions are decided upon ensure that they meet the following three criteria – be kind to all people, protect those that are vulnerable and be fair. Ultimately if you follow this approach you will get most things right and those that you stuff up – own it, apologise, fix what you can and move on.
Strange and significant events have occurred and will occur again. The strength of an organisation like Interchange Outer East is always going to be the collective team of people who work together to support families and each other through any disruption. Leadership is the process of allowing that to happen.

Cheers,
Fred.

THE NEW NORMAL

Almost three weeks of the new normal and this working from home gig has its benefits. No commute. If I forget my lunch (most days), I just walk into the kitchen. When seeking a distraction I just play with the dog. There are no children in my house so it’s all quite peaceful really. I can hear the muted tones of Monash University online in the background (my niece is staying with us – our dog attends many of the lectures!) and with Jules spending her days in the garden (online playgroups are not happening) it means I have a very peaceful and serene workplace.

I compare this peace with some of the sounds I hear and see when talking and zooming with co-workers. WWE bouts live in the lounge room, wall decorating behind mum during a Zoom session, unrelenting screaming and giggling in the background, co-workers being shot with Nerf guns whilst trying to be attentive, staff being used as climbing frames now that playgrounds are off limits, and I love the …’will you guys just be quiet, can’t you see I’m on the phone!’ or the ‘go annoy mum she’s trying to work too!‘ rants in the middle of conversations.

It has been a busy few weeks and I feel for all our families, volunteers and staff dealing with the additional challenges. I have been really proud of the way staff have adapted and accepted that we need to do things differently and that what they are doing now isn’t necessarily what they signed up for. Given the situation the response from staff has been brilliant and families have been able to continue to access the support they need. We made a commitment to all that we would get through this challenge together without leaving anybody behind and we are working hard to make that happen.

To all our support workers, I want to thank you for all you have done for families. Coordinators, plan managers and all office based staff – juggling work and home life whilst ensuring families are able to access support, have been brilliant. In the background have been our finance and admin people that have ensured that IOE can keep working and ensuring people get paid.

There is other work happening that we hope will be rolled out in the near future. Online social group opportunities and other online options are being developed. It might be nice to have a virtual overseas trip, a road trip or a camp, to connect up with friends or other carers whilst doing a yoga or exercise class. The options are endless and we hope to be bringing them to you soon.

Easter is nigh and I wish everybody all the best at this time. Just watch out for the Easter Bunny, I’m not sure how that works with social distancing, visiting all those homes! So be sure to arm your children with alcohol spray to clean any eggs that may land in your vicinity.

Cheers,

Fred

2020 AND BEYOND ,,,

Alexander Pope: “to err is human, to forgive divine …”   I have been pondering how we are traveling along the road of good intention as poetically described by Mr Pope in the 17th century. Sometimes I think we live in a world that demands accuracy and we are becoming less tolerant of people making mistakes. Yet at other times we accept people choosing not to err but to downright lie and not seek forgiveness but perpetrate the myth…and getting away with it, and still being supported!

We live in a technological age that can check for accuracy. Now while sport is a game, there is this focus on ensuring that human error is eliminated. VAR, DRS, Goal review systems and other technologies are introduced to ensure that truth prevails in sport. This is technology trying to turn art into science … colour by numbers rather than accepting the imagination and interpretation of the person doing the drawing. I yearn for the much loved dodgy decisions made by people in sport. It may affect a moment in time but it all works out in the wash. “Analogue” decision makers (aka people) can be creative, have a bit of fun, and even do a little good. I remember an umpire giving a free kick to a kid in a football game for absolutely no reason except that he hadn’t had a kick and his opponent was too good.

At the same time we demand accuracy in sporting decisions, we accept and support leaders who tell lies, perpetuate myths, claim fake news and even attack young people who have the temerity to say … hey its getting a bit wild in the climate area – why don’t you do something? Are we too focused on achieving divinity that we just accept our leaders talking tripe and forgive them? Is world leadership and diplomacy not as important as Carlton being given a goal when it hit the post? Do we hold a goal umpire more accountable than the so called leader of the free world? Where is the technology holding elected bullies to account?

As much as some would like a technological solution (I don’t) for the worlds “errs” it will always be imperfect. Humans will make errors. Interchange aims to offer a human service that gets it right most of the time, however if we were to aim to totally eliminate errors, it would only serve to eliminate service, creativity, flexibility and humanity from the agency. I want Interchange to give a dodgy free kick here and there. Moving into 2020 we will make mistakes, we will own our “errs” and continue to improve.

My only hope is that our world leaders will own their “errs”

I wish all a great holiday period and a happy new year.

Cheers

Fred

30 YEARS AGO …

We dug into the IOE archives and came up with our CEO Fred Brumhead’s first ever report for the 1989 Annual General Meeting. IOE was a very different service back then. Interchange had been built around sharing the care of children with disabilities and in 1989 the Volunteer Host program was the sole program area. Already Fred’s vision of  growing services to meet families’ changing needs, is evident in this first report. As is the importance he places on supporting families.  30 years on the change in scope of services provided by IOE is immense but the values and vision remain unchanged.

Interchange Outer East Annual General Meeting 21 September 1989 – Coordinator’s Report

The Interchange program has undergone many changes over the past twelve months. The Program numbers have ranged from 45 matches to 25 and seem to be settling at about 35 matches. There are 115 registered families involved in the Interchange program, a drop of 8 from last year. Yet while everything seems to be dropping (except for the waiting list) I feel strongly that the program is in a sound position to gain and develop to meet the needs of families and children with special needs.

From 1 October 1989 the funding for the Interchange program will be transferred to the Home and Community Care Program (HACC). The outcomes of this change are still being negotiated, however it is anticipated that the changes will be positive and supportive of the program.

In the 4 months I have been with Interchange I have come to appreciate the benefits and frustrations of such a program. The fun part is meeting the families and, although this has meant overdosing on caffeine and biscuits, it has been most rewarding. When I began this position, all I could see were names floating on a sea of paper. Now, having met most of the families I can appreciate why the program can be of such benefit to both Host and Natural families.

The major priority for Interchange is to consolidate. To get the program into a position where the matches are running well, and suitable structures of support and communication between families and myself are clear. Other matters requiring attention are: the recruiting of new host families, the recruiting of new Committee members, seeking supplementary funding for the program and the development of new programs to meet new and changing needs of families.

The support I have received since beginning this job has been fantastic. From Margaret Curtis in the office to Hanna (first child I matched), everyone has been encouraging and helpful.

So to the Committee, Margaret C, Cheryl (OIDS), Sandra (KSS) and all the families, Thank You
Fred

RESPECT – CALL YOURSELF WHAT YOU WANT

I once worked for the Mentally Retarded Citizens Welfare Association and I can clearly remember when Scope was the Spastic Society. There were ‘wogs’ and ‘chinks’ at my school. At that time I thought these titles and words were wrong. They were disrespectful and enabled generalisation and assumptions about all who fell under those banners. At university it was hammered into students that ‘person first and description second’ was the only polite way to go. Terminology was changed to ensure that words which had been appropriated as abuse were no longer used. ‘A person with an intellectual disability’ or ‘a person with Cerebral Palsy’  were considered the correct terminologies.

So it has been somewhat challenging to see the development and revisiting of how we should refer to people within the community of the neurodiverse. The terminologies ‘autistics’ and ‘autistic people’ have become more common in language now, particularly within the community of people with autism. They argue that the term ‘person with autism’ likens the autism to a handbag that can be picked up and put down as required, rather than an acknowledgement that autism is a description of neurodiversity. It’s not bad nor good, it just is.

The issue is when words are imbued with other meanings. When words become culturally appropriated as terms of abuse, the use of such terms in polite society is enough to cause the ‘pearls to get a good clutching’. Retarded, spastic, wog, chink are (or were) terms used to put people down. The only reversal of that has been the appropriation and redefinition of the term ‘wog’ which has been reclaimed by people of southern European descent and worn as a badge of honour and distinction.

Perhaps ‘autistic’ is yet to gather abusive status.  I do know of one young lady who was suspended from school for delivering a right hook to some kid that called her a ‘stupid autistic’ (was the punch delivered for the ‘stupid’ part?).  Suspension? I think she should have got a medal … and a suspension!

Perhaps the people with autism are keen to develop the superpower notion of neurodiversity. Whatever it is, I think the important thing is RESPECT. Call yourself what you will, but that is your choice alone to make.

For a non-wog or spick, intellectually diverse, movement diverse, neurodiverse person I think I will call you by your name. You can call yourself what you want but I can only respond with your name (if I can remember it) or collectively as a group of people with superpowers/Xmen (or should that be Xpeople).

Food for thought

Cheers
Fred

WHAT’S NEXT – A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

Sitting writing a Christmas or end-of-year piece of ‘wise’ thoughts it’s natural to reflect on the year that has just about passed. Unfortunately doing this at the end of the year does a disservice to everything that happened in the first 11 months. I figure it’s the same cognitive function that enables people to have more than one child. As time goes by it all seems fine. Perhaps it’s a function of age and I literally cannot remember what happened.

Reaching back into the, albeit murky, sands of time, it turns out lots of stuff has happened both the good and not so good. From an Interchange point of view, the year provided us all with the joys of NDIS, but also lots of new creative and fun adventures. From my perspective the inaugural carers retreat, the family camps, Sport 4 Fun, Boys 2 Men and the ASD leadership program have been high points of the year. It has also been a year when I have developed a new appreciation of working in partnership with other organisations that share interests and are focused on doing things that support people well. Different Journeys, The Misfit Project, Achieve2B, Carers Hub and Spot On Travel are a few of the organisations that I have worked with across the year.

So what is next? For Interchange it’s a constant process of working to improve the support we offer families, continue to create more and varied opportunities for people, and to revere the benefit of ‘niceness’ to people.  For myself, whilst I don’t make new year type predictions, I do like to think about what I want to do …

  • Be with the people I want
  • Improve, challenge, push myself
  • Learn about stuff
  • Invite Adventure
  • Keep my mouth shut – listen

It is the season when that spooky elf travels around the house and we prepare for a couple of weeks of gatherings of the clans. Whatever this time of year brings, I wish you all the happiness and joy that you  deserve. Be kind to yourselves and enjoy.

Fred

A TIME FOR KINDNESS

Too often there is a lack of inspiration, of humanity and of goodwill in today’s world.

World leaders lying – or at best obfuscating; the normalising and acceptance of human rights abuses; the climate going nuts yet the denial sycophants say nothing is wrong; un-civil wars creating massive humanitarian crisis; xenophobic rantings about people who are different … the list goes on. The template is that to get ahead in the world you have to beat down all opposition and appeal to the lowest ebb of thought. You have to be tough, yell and bully your way through or else ‘they’ will take advantage of you. We seem more and more willing to accept this behaviour and irrationality from people in the spotlight and each other.

So where do we turn to shed some hope and light?

Japan’s world cup soccer team.

Not only did they do really well on the field, they attracted world wide acclaim when, after they lost in the knockout stage, they tidied up their change room and left a note – in Russian – to say thank-you. The Senegalese team did the same through the group stage. After their group stage match both Japanese and Senegalese supporters were also seen picking up rubbish from the stadium terraces before they left.

It was a simple act of respect, yet it was reported across the world as some kind of quaint, strange thing to do. When doing something thoughtful, kind and pleasant is being seen as being exceptional we must stop and question what is going on. It is readily noticeable that people are more intolerant and less willing to accept mistakes or omissions. Yet this time of significant change and disruption is exactly the time to practice more random kindness. We should all take a lead from the ‘Blue Samurai’ and be thankful and kind to each other even during times of stress.

Cheers

Fred

Fred leading the Dads on 2017 weekend away

SUPPORTED FAMILIES ARE STRONG FAMILIES

Families are not easily definable. They can be all shapes, all sizes, functional, or not, bonded by blood or circumstance, they can be a given or created. It’s a connection we all have irrespective of the choices we make. They are important as they are the supports that help us become the person we are. In the vast majority of cases they are who we turn to in times of difficulty. The better able and equipped a family is to deal with adversity, the more likely the outcome for an individual will be positive.

Yet, they seem to be treated somewhat ambivalently in the current age where the individual is the focus of institutions across the country. Nowhere has this been more apparent than with the NDIS, where it seems at times that the family the person with a disability is connected to is ‘out of scope’ for consideration within NDIS supports. Family support is seen as the responsibility of other parts of the government or community. Unfortunately it is not apparent who is actively supporting families of children with disabilities. What has been clear is that some services that were previously available to families cannot be accessed once a person transitions to the NDIS.

Interchange aims to support families not only in the way they provide services but also in actually offering and running services to support family members of the person with a disability. Mums, Dads, siblings and the whole family are offered the opportunity to meet others and share the sense of collegiality and mutual recognition of a path less traveled.

Of all the family support services my favourite is family camp. They are an opportunity for families to come together and experience a ‘community’ where acceptance and understanding are freely given and opportunities for all are provided. For me family camp equals soccer, activity and sore legs from all the running and walking. What people get out of family camp is largely based on their approach and attitude. For some it’s relaxation, for others total madness. IOE has run two family camps so far this year – the first at Coonawarra and the second at the CYC camp on Phillip Island. We have played sport, swung, traversed, run relays, run tournaments, answered tricky questions, sung, danced, created, sung the national anthem, acted, improvised, canoed, swum and walked at night on the beach and in the forest. Sure there are the usual injuries – mostly on the dance floor – but most people walk away from family camp tired but in a happy space for a few days.

Family support services are important as they work to aid and assist the most important people for an individual with disability. NDIS services will come and go but, if we get it right, a person’s family will be there for a lifetime.

Fred – Interchange Outer East CEO

  • Today, 15 May, is International Day of Families an annual United Nations initiative which this year celebrates ‘Families and Inclusive Societies’.
  • It is also the start of  National Families Week. Held annually between 15-21 May, it’s a time to celebrate the vital role that families play in our Australian society.The theme for National Families Week is ‘Stronger Families, Stronger Communities’ which fits perfectly with IOE’s integral role of strengthening families through support.

Today, this coming week and throughout the year let’s celebrate families!