Filling staff shortages in Perth is one thing but achieving the same result for a not-for-profit group in a remote outpost hoping to deliver crucial services to those most in need is entirely another.
Some of Western Australia’s leading not-for-profit groups address this challenge in our series of articles about how charities are trying to overcome the rural versus urban divide.
Attracting good staff to work in regional areas
“One of the challenges we face is recruiting staff to deliver services in specific local communities such as Mount Barker and Denmark,” Uniting WA co-chief executive Jen Park said.
“To attract team members to the Great Southern, we have offered different accommodation options and opportunities to work on a fly-in, fly-out basis.
“We have also offered flexible working arrangements to meet the needs of team members, and opportunities for Perth metropolitan residents to relocate on a permanent basis.”
Regional staff needed to feel well-connected to and well-supported by their head office counterparts in Perth, Ms Park said.
Provisions are made for Uniting WA’s Great Southern team to regularly visit Perth headquarters for meetings and events, including learning and development sessions, leadership forums and conferences.
And, as far as recruitment went, attracting local talent was always a priority, Ms Park said.
Staff from Uniting WA’s Albany office often attend local expos such as the recent Great Southern Ability Festival to promote work in the NFP sector.
They also go out to speak to high school, TAFE and university students, acting as advocates for the organisation’s aims and in turn sparking interest in the next generation of NFP employees.
Involving locals in future service delivery
It’s a smart way of giving ownership to those on the ground locally for any future projects, which would require their participation.
“Where possible, that might involve bringing communities in from the design phase, ensuring we’re providing what they want and need,” Mr Glasson said.
“Our corporate supporters are essential in this process; not only for funding, but also to help to connect us with other like-minded organisations, or to enable us to extend our impact.”
Key to this long-term approach to delivering services is working with local corporate organisations, which assist with funding and, occasionally, voluntary personnel.
“Our partnership with Chevron and Headspace Pilbara is a great example of this,” Mr Glasson said.
“Funded and facilitated by Chevron, we’ve been able to work with schools in Onslow and increase our support for young people in the area.”
Philanthropic and corporate funding can also have greater flexibility when compared with the traditional system of government tenders.
“Regional communities can have unique and complex needs and, having corporate supporters, who back our ability to work with locals to identify the issues and execute solutions, allows us the agility to shape and tweak our programs and delivery to respond to the requirements of an individual community,” Mr Glasson said.
“We are very fortunate to be working with great corporate partners in BHP and Horizon Power.”
Both companies are committed to building social capital in regional and remote WA, particularly in education and setting children up for their workplaces of the future.
“Of course, this corporate support is tied to communities in which our partners operate, which in BHP’s case is the Pilbara and Goldfields, and with Horizon Power we are partnering with the Nullagine and Norseman communities,” Mr Glasson said.
“We are also able to deliver programs that don’t sit within corporate communities of interest through Healthway, ensuring that we are able to cover most of WA’s regions through a combination of corporate (and) government support.”
Nurturing long-term relationships
For AWESOME Arts, one of the key determinants of its success is the development of long-term partnerships with communities as well as with existing corporate partners.
“These long-term relationships enable us to build upon our community achievements in an ongoing collaboration, whereby both parties learn along the way, co-develop strategies and, importantly, continue to build upon the work that has been done with mutual respect and understanding,” AWESOME Art chief executive Jenny Simpson said.
“In terms of support, our corporate partners cover the costs of program delivery, which includes travel and accommodation (and in recent times these costs have increased).
“Often our corporate partners connect us with their local team that is on the ground in communities.
“We always find working with these staff to be of great benefit in helping help us to stay up to date with things that are happening in a community and also to connect us with other service providers with whom we work, or support.”
A thorny issue with no easy answers
For Anglicare WA, filling staff vacancies is an issue in remote and rural locations, with no simple solutions.
“It’s an ongoing challenge for us and other organisations in our sector,” Mr Glasson said.
“While we pride ourselves on having a great reputation and attracting great people, placing staff in the regions can be difficult.
“This is exacerbated by the same issues that make our presence in these communities so important: access to affordable, suitable housing, availability of childcare, and ongoing increases in the cost of living.”
Anglicare WA’s 2022 Rental Affordability Snapshot showed just how few properties were available in Kimberley, Pilbara, South West and Great Southern, ironically in areas where the organistation’s staff might have to compete for housing with the people they were supporting.
“While the housing crisis will take time to resolve, we’re exploring ways of dealing with these issues to ensure we continue to place top-quality candidates where they are needed most,” Mr Glasson said.