I recently went to the cinema to see a blockbuster animation Early Man, in which one of the main characters tells a tribe of cave people (who are generally down on life at this point in the storyline), ‘If we work together, we might just get this done.’ This is akin to the sentiment in Helen Keller’s call for collaboration used as the title of this piece.
My role as the CEO for the Foster and kinship Carers Association (FKAT) is similar: if I do not collaborate in this landscape with the many stakeholders in the out-of-home-care space and the community sector as a whole, then my role naturally becomes more challenging, demanding and isolating. Working in any silo environment really does not provide many benefits, either organisationally or for the community of our extraordinary foster and kinship carers in Tasmania.
So, with a passion and vision to strive towards achieving a systematic outcome in relation to support and advocacy for all foster and kinship carers in Tasmania, and a desire for foster and kinship carers to have better access to training and resources, I thought (with the support of the Board) that it was necessary to seek additional funding elsewhere as the available government funding for FKAT does not allow us to truly fulfil our strategic vision, plan or approach for carers in Tasmania.
As you can appreciate, many individuals, stakeholders and organisations contact me daily in this role on many issues, which are in most cases not without challenges. Fortunately for FKAT, I had the privilege of being contacted in 2016 by an insightful representative of the Sidney Myer Fund who (like myself) recognised the importance of the role that foster and kinship carers play within our community.
From the initial meeting, the relationship has grown from the desire to provide better support for carers in Tasmania and an overall spirit of collaboration to a generous capacity-building grant from the Sidney Myer Fund (one of only four grants nationally by the fund at that time), which is to be completed in October 2018.
With this grant and the relationships that I have formed along the way, I believe that working collaboratively is the only way to go. As an African proverb states: ‘if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others’. While I am keen for the out of home care reform to be faster, I recognise that as a community we need this particular reform to be successful not only for the sake of all carers but also for the children and young people in our care and for the community at large.
It is so important to recognise that a goal shared with other people or stakeholders can be achieved sooner through collaboration. I believe that leadership is synonymous with collaboration, and only with collaboration can your full vision or strategic focus be crystallised and truly realised.
Resources and skilled support with wrap-around services are required right now. When recognition, collaboration and resources come into the sector, this may be achieved locally, nationally and internationally.
Building trust, respect, and validity in your purpose, will inevitably open doors and provide opportunities for collaboration and success.
Kim Backhouse lectures law at the University of Tasmania. She is also the CEO of the Foster & Kinship Carers Association of Tasmania. Here she writes for the Communicating: The Heart Of Literacy initiative – find more at chattermatters.com.au.