28/06/2021

Positive future as MDAS reform journey continues


Setting MDAS for a stronger future


An overhaul of north-west Victoria’s key Aboriginal service Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) has delivered significant reforms and set the organisation up for a stronger future.

Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) this week welcomed the release of a report by Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (VACCHO), which details the MDAS Reform Project delivered over the past nine months.

At the request of the MDAS Board and the Victorian Government, VACCHO has worked with MDAS to deliver major reforms since late last year. With the reform project now complete, VACCHO will step back from MDAS operations at the end of the June.

MDAS Executive Director Jill Gallagher said she was proud to this week deliver a report on the completion of the nine-month reform project to MDAS Members and the broader Mallee Communities.

“These are important, lasting reforms, and even more remarkable considering the project started during Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions,” Ms Gallagher said.

“The reforms that have been implemented include a membership drive, a successful AGM with a competitive election for the Board, and recruitment of a new CEO.  We have also started implementing significantly strengthened controls for finances, assets and operations,” she said.

“Importantly, a new Constitution is now in place that is based on best practice governance and truly reflects the aspirations of Communities.”

Ms Gallagher said while MDAS was now a robust, democratic organisation, the challenge remained for Mallee communities to stay involved and to drive the future of its organisation.

“None of this would have been possible without the courage and persistence of Elders who demanded change to return MDAS to community control,” she said.

“Aboriginal organisations get our strength from our Culture, our community control, and our self- determination. The changes outlined in this report are critical first steps.  They lay the foundations for MDAS to build on.  However, there is much more to do, and the staff and Board cannot do it alone.

“MDAS Members got us to this point.  Now is the time to stay engaged and help MDAS grow even stronger.”

The MDAS Reform Project provided lessons for VACCHO and other Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations across the State, Ms Gallagher said.

“The MDAS experience is a clear demonstration that ACCOs need a broad membership, and to continually promote membership, as well as offering many ways for Communities to participate,” she said.

“Constitutions need review to ensure they reinforce community-control, self-determination and best practice governance, and that there is a system to ensure robust whistle-blower protections are in place.

“And for strong governance to be embedded in ACCOs, they need to invest in their Boards through good quality training and independent support if they need it.  There needs to be a strong culture of continuous governance improvement to support Boards to fulfill their obligations.”

Ms Gallagher acknowledged the role of MDAS staff, led by new CEO Jacki Turfrey.

“They have stayed focused on providing the best services and supports to Aboriginal Communities in the Mallee and have worked hard to implement the changes we’ve identified and made,” she said.

“The reform project is over, but VACCHO will still be there to support MDAS and the State Government is also committed to continuing to work in partnership with MDAS to make it even stronger.

“There are still challenges ahead in embedding these reforms throughout the organisation and responding to any issues identified by IBAC and governments in relation to financial management.

“But I encourage all Aboriginal people in the Mallee to be part of this reform journey – to join MDAS, to speak up and have your say, and, importantly, to think about working for MDAS.

“I look forward to MDAS’ continued reform. There is nothing we can’t do when we are driven by our Communities and based in our Culture.”

The full report on the MDAS Reform Project can be downloaded here.

Pictured: Jill Gallagher

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MALLEE DISTRICT ABORIGINAL SERVICES  “Our Vision: Generations of vibrant, healthy and strong Aboriginal communities”
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MILDURA
120 Madden Avenue Mildura
Phone (03) 5018 4100

SWAN HILL
70 Nyah Road Swan Hill
Phone (03) 5032 8600

KERANG
9 Nolan Street Kerang
Phone (03) 5412 6004




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MDAS - Quality Innovation Performance Accredited
MDAS - Quality Innovation Performance Accredited