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Intereach appoints new Chief Executive Officer

Intereach has announced the appointment of its new Chief Executive Officer.

Outgoing Intereach Board of Directors chair Pat Fogarty – in one of her last duties in the role – said they were delighted to announce that Rick Lawford will take up the position of CEO, with a start date of Monday, July 26.

Pat said Rick has nearly 30 years’ experience in CEO and leadership positions across a vast range of aged, youth, disability, social enterprise and community services, with specific involvement targeting greater independence, connectedness, wellness and enablement. His experience stretches across rural, regional and metropolitan settings.

“During the recruitment process, along with his diverse experience, Rick demonstrated significant leadership talents within state and national peak bodies and special purpose sector forums.”

Pat said while Mr Lawford would be based at the organisation’s administrative headquarters in Deniliquin, he has committed to work from all other offices on an ongoing basis.

“He is especially keen to visit all our 17 offices within the first 60 days of his tenure to meet as many staff and volunteers as possible, within the confines of any COVID restrictions of course.”

Rick said he is looking forward to taking on the challenges of leading the consolidation of Intereach’s recent growth, as well as achieving future growth and diversity throughout regional NSW and Victoria.

“I am genuinely excited by the opportunity to contribute to Intereach’s continued success and expanding its engagement with stakeholders to build equitable, connected and resilient communities that inherently care for their vulnerable members,” he said.

“I look forward to ensuring our culture continues to support this endeavour through the emergence of exceptional leadership from within and a genuinely challenging, well-resourced and enjoyable environment for all our valued employees, volunteers and partners.”

Pat said she wanted to acknowledge incoming chair Rob Brown “who volunteered significant hours ensuring a rigorous process achieved a great outcome with the CEO appointment”.

Rob was elected chair unopposed at the monthly Intereach Board meeting, held yesterday.

Pat said it was always her intention to step down as chair at the upcoming Intereach AGM in October, however the recruitment of a new CEO had “brought it forward”.

“This allows a new chair to start afresh with the new CEO, as opposed to me working closely with Rick for a few months and then standing down from the role. This just seemed like the sensible thing to do. I’ll obviously remain on the Board and support Rob and Rick with this transition.”

Pat also acknowledged the commitment, support and hard work of Acting CEO Yvette Buhagiar and General Managers Michelle Tai and Ashley Lythgo during the recruitment period.

“They ensured it was business as usual, while still facing the challenges of the pandemic. In fact, I would like to thank all staff and volunteers for their continued commitment to Intereach and their communities.”

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Many changes in 25 years with Intereach

Trish Khalil has seen many changes throughout her career as a family support worker.

That is not surprising when you consider she is the longest-serving employee with community service provider Intereach, having recently achieved the 25-year milestone.

This was recently recognised by Intereach with a celebratory morning tea for Trish and other team members who have reached significant work anniversaries. She was presented with flowers, a framed keepsake and a gift voucher by Intereach chair Pat Fogarty.

While technology and infrastructure have changed enormously since she started, the work Trish undertakes helping families who need support remains much the same.

One of the biggest differences she has experienced is the physical work environment.

“I started with playgroup under the Deniliquin Council for Social Development when it was located in Wood Street. DCSD had various services, but they were scattered all over town. We were in a small three-bedroom house, with an office in one bedroom and an interview room in another bedroom. The photocopier was in the shower recess of the bathroom, with stationary on a board in the bath,” Trish recalled with some amusement. There were initially no computers until five second-hand ones were donated.

After a stint leasing premises from Country Energy on Barham Road, Trish and other support staff moved to the modern, purpose-built Intereach building at the corner of Napier and Trickett Streets.

There have also been numerous name changes, including funding programs, with Trish currently working under the Targeted Earlier Intervention program, funded through the NSW Department of Communities and Justice. The organisation with which she works has also undergone name changes. When she started, the local organisation was known as Deniliquin Council for Social Development, which became Regional Social Development Group and more recently Intereach.

The other major change she has seen is in technology.

“With today’s computers and communication we can now work from home or the office. Intereach supports us to work from home, where I have my laptop and mobile phone, and access to everything I need. However, wherever possible we still need to have face-to-face contact. This is important to identify issues, develop a rapport and observe individual situations so we can help provide the strategies and build the skills required so those we support can be better parents,” Trish explained.

She is grateful that Intereach has provided a work environment that has enabled her to assist local families for so many years.

Trish described Intereach as a “very family orientated organisation” which provides support for team members whenever it is required. “That’s why many of us have been here for a long time,” she said.

And what does she see for her future?

“I have a few years until retirement, so I’d like to stay with Intereach until then. After that, if possible we would like to travel, especially to Western Australia to spend more time with family.”

At the morning tea, other team members who received recognition for their years of service were:

  • 20 years – Janette Cowhan (Community Support Worker – Deniliquin).
  • 10 years – Aaron Bright (CSW – Deniliquin), Heather Hussey (CSW – Deniliquin), Leonie O’Brien (CSW – Deniliquin), Carla White (Early Childhood Early
  • Intervention Program Manager – Deniliquin), Peter Taylor (Community Transport Driver – Griffith), Catherine Velthuis (Community Linker Customer Support – Wagga).
  • Five years – Debbie Rowbottom (CSW – Albury), Nathan Lorenzon (Community Links Senior Manager – Albury), Karma Newman (Local Area Coordinator – Deniliquin), Vickie Wigg (Child, Youth and Family Worker – Griffith), Chris Johnson (Child, Youth and Family Worker – Mildura), Kerein Mullins (LAC Community Linker – Wagga).

Intereach has a total staff of more than 440, working across its 17 offices in the Murray and Riverina regions of NSW, as well as north and central Victoria. The organisation supports children and families, older people, people living with disability, mental health and carers. If you, or someone you know, needs support you can contact the team at Intereach on the toll free number 1300 488 226, or go to www.intereach.com.au .

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Intereach continues to deliver important community programs

Two important community programs delivered by Intereach will continue after contracts were issued by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services.

The Children and Parenting Support (CaPS) program has been extended for a further two years to June 30, 2023, and the Reach Out And Relax (ROAR) program as part of Family and Mental Health Support Services will continue for at least a further five years to June 30, 2026.

Intereach General Manager Operations Michelle Tai said it was “with great pleasure” she could confirm the extension to the programs.

“We are very pleased to have the opportunity to continue delivering these valuable support services to our local communities. I would like to thank our Family and Mental Health team for their efforts in successfully delivering the programs, which has been instrumental in achieving these extensions,” Ms Tai said.

The Intereach Children and Parenting Services (CaPS) program offers in-home or centre-based services, including parenting groups, one-to-one parenting support, outreach programs, peer support groups, workshops and information sessions. The Parenting Program is available in the local government areas of Edward River, Murray River, Murrumbidgee and Berrigan.

“Under our Parenting Program, Intereach works alongside parents and carers to develop their skills and confidence as a parent,” Ms Tai said.

Reach Out and Relax (ROAR) supports young people, aged up to 18, and their families, who are showing early signs or are at risk of developing a mental health issue. ROAR is delivered across the local government areas of Balranald, Wentworth, Berrigan, Hay, Edward River, Murray River, Federation, Murrumbidgee, Narrandera, Wagga Wagga, Lockhart, Leeton, Temora, Griffith, Carrathool, Coolamon, Cootamundra-Gundagai and Junee.

Ms Tai said ROAR is a free and confidential program that provides important supports to young people and their families.

Intereach supports children and families, older people, people living with disability, mental health and carers. If you, or someone you know, needs support you can contact the team at Intereach on the toll free number 1300 488 226, or go to www.intereach.com.au.

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Victorian Intereach offices to reopen

Intereach’s Victorian offices will reopen to the public from 9am on Monday, June 7, following the Victorian Government’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions in regional Victoria.

Intereach has offices in Seymour, Shepparton, Bendigo, Echuca, Swan Hill, Mildura, Gisborne and Maryborough, open 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday.

Acting Intereach CEO Yvette Buhagiar says the organisation will continue to follow government directives to ensure the safety of Intereach participants and staff and the wider community.

“Our offices will reopen and operate under the government restrictions that are in place. We’re still encouraging our staff and participants in Victoria to utilise phone or virtual meetings where possible, and only have face-to-face when necessary.

“We understand that this is a tough time once again for Victorians and we encourage everyone to look out for each other and stay safe, especially our city cousins in Melbourne.”

Yvette said Intereach recognises that some programs such as Aged Care Services and Children’s Services have unique needs and considerations. These programs continue to operate under appropriate COVID-19 precautions.

“We’re well prepared as an organisation to respond to COVID situations, given we’ve been through this before, and we developed a comprehensive COVID-19 Safe Plan which we’ll continue to follow.”

Anyone showing symptoms of Coronavirus – such as coughing, fever, flu-like symptoms – should self-isolate and contact the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398. Anyone with queries about Intereach’s COVID-19 response, or any other matter, can phone 1300 488 226 or email contact@intereach.com.au.

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