Better Boards Seminars in Victoria Encourage Robust Discussion


Local board members came together to discuss the future of regional non-profit organisations at the Better Boards seminars on regional, community & economic development strategies held in Bendigo and Geelong last week.


Discussion in both seminars surrounded the prospect of regional non-profits facing mergers with Melbourne-based organisations as a result of changes to government funding models. Attendees raised concerns about local and regional providers being swallowed up by larger facing mergers from Melbourne-based organisations and the installation of a district “branch office”.The need to work together to prevent the loss of dedicated services and providers who understand local needs in regional areas was also discussed.

Bendigo seminar raises importance of collaboration
Discussion at the Bendigo seminar particularly focused on the issue of mergers and consolidation. Attendees and presenters shared their experiences of collaboration between regional organisations and offered this as a solution to sustaining regional organisations through dramatic changes in the sector and, in particular, funding conditions.

“We must maintain collaboration through all these emerging models [of organisational sustainability],” said Jenny Dawson, one of the Bendigo panel members and Chair of the Regional Development Australia committee for Loddon Mallee.


“This region is good at collaboration. That’s a point of difference for our region that we can build on,” she said.


Jenny Dawson joined other speakers Margaret O’Rourke and Doug Kimberley in Bendigo at the evening seminar. Margaret O’Rourke, Chair of Bendigo TAFE and Director of Bendigo Health Care Group, identified “passion and belief” as a critical success factor for directors driving new strategies.


“Knowing what you want to be involved in and the innovation it can bring… [passion and belief] is something that organisations have to have,” she said.


Doug Kimberley, former CEO of Rural Ambulance Victoria, outlined how strategic thinking is vital to the sustainability of the non-profit sector.


“Real strategic planning that you work on and deliver is the key to success in any business and particularly not-for-profits,” he said.

Geelong seminar focuses on strategy and mission

Discussion in Geelong surrounded the prospect of a changing market paradigm among non-profits as a result of changes to government funding models.

“It’s really important [to look at] where are we now? Where do we want to be? How are we going to get there?” said Elaine Carbines, one of the panel members of the seminar and CEO of the G21 Geelong Region Alliance.


“Smaller non-profits need to get out and go beyond their own sector,” she added.


Elaine Carbines joined other speakers Gordon Mallett and Daryl Starkey at the evening seminar.


Gordon Mallett, CEO of AUSTSWIM, said, “cash is king to survive”, but organisations must never forget their mission.


With regard to AUSTSWIM, Gordon said the key is to make the organisation economically sustainable, and “do a heck of a lot of good while we’re doing it.”


Daryl Starkey, CEO of Karingal Inc, identified the social enterprise business model as becoming increasingly vital to the sustainability of the non-profit sector.


He also touched on the importance of economic safety nets, such as foundations, to ensure longevity in the “very long term”. “We try to get a cocktail of funding for the different things that we do”, he said with regards to Karingal Inc.


Speakers at the two seminars included:

  • Elaine Carbines – CEO of the G21 Geelong Region Alliance
  • Gordon Mallett – CEO of AUSTSWIM
  • Daryl Starkey – CEO of Karingal Inc
  • Jenny Dawson – Chair of the Regional Development Australia committee for Loddon Mallee
  • Margaret O’Rourke – Chair of Bendigo TAFE and Director of Bendigo Health Care Group
  • Doug Kimberley – former CEO of Rural Ambulance Victoria

These seminars were the first stop in a national series on the subject of regional, community and economic development.

Are you interested in a seminar in your area?
Please fill in the expression of interest form so we can determine where best to hold the next round of seminars. Access expression of interest form.

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Better Boards Australasia connects the leaders of Australasian non-profit organisations to the knowledge and networks necessary to grow and develop their leadership skills and build a strong governance framework for their organisation.

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