B10 Frontier Services
Since the Fourteenth Assembly, Frontier Services has entered into a new phase. Frontier Services’ story is changing and has a positive outlook as we look to the future and its new purpose. Frontier Services is still strongly committed to people in outback Australia, beyond the furthest fences. It is just as important now more than ever that we maintain our presence to those living in remote Australia. The gap between metropolitan and remote is widening. More and more services are withdrawing from remote Australia and as one of the oldest charities in inland Australia it is critical that we don’t abandon those who are left. How we meet the needs has changed but our purpose and need is still strong.
Frontier Services has taken a long term overview of the organisation to realign it with its new purpose and strategic plan. Since the last Assembly meeting a significant amount of work has transpired to reposition the organisation. One of more substantial changes has been staffing. This adjustment was required to align with the new purpose. It has enabled a shift from a community services organisation to a fundraising organisation. This hasn’t been without its challenges, as it has also taken time to exit from community services. There are still some residual matters outstanding but we are working hard to resolve these issues so that we can focus all our attention on what matters. Our future.
It is an exciting time for Frontier Services as we look to our future and face unique challenges. We are essentially taking an established brand identity and creating a startup organisation. This presents a unique set of challenges that will only ever be experienced during this period.
A number of other challenges are being met to give Frontier Services long term sustainability. Updates to systems, policies, procedures and governance controls are all being put in place to position for the future. These are focused on ensuring that we have proper controls for reputational risk and operational performance.
- A new strategic plan outlining direction and vision for the future. (see Appendix A)
- A brand refresh to revitalise the organisation, provide support for the new vision. (see Appendix B)
2. STRATEGIC PLAN FOR FRONTIER SERVICES 2018-2022
As part of the strategic review we have looked at our brand and what donors, volunteers, corporate partners, congregations, board, staff and the ministry team thought we do. We also asked them to describe what we do. This piece of brand research from those who knew us best was enlightening. It pointed out a number of inconsistencies and told us that we need to improve our messaging before we can improve our brand.
3. BRAND REFRESH
The rationale behind the brand refresh is to allow Frontier Services to tell a new story. Frontier Services needs to reach people beyond the Uniting Church in Australia to ensure we create substantial and ongoing revenue streams. Primary areas of sizable fundraising are not necessarily inside the Church; the secular world is a challenge but is essential for long term survival. Our tax deductible status and PBI status is an essential platform for fundraising from a secular audience and one which we need to ensure we are maintaining our compliance.
4. BUSH CHAPLAINCY
In order to develop an appropriate product for people to want to engage with us in an already crowded market place, we first need to talk about what we do in a positive way. One of the more significant issues was the language and way in which we were talking about Remote & Regional Area Ministry. We have called it Patrol Ministry for 100 years but the Australian language has evolved substantially and we need be forward-looking. These two words, when looked at through a modern lens, are not describing what we are funding or what Frontier Services stands for. What makes Frontier Services unique is that Remote Area Ministry outside a congregational setting, which creates a different engagement with the Church. There are three services this ministry provides; practical, pastoral and then spiritual care. In a congregational setting this happens in the opposite order, the conversation is reversed to spiritual, pastoral and then practical assistance.
The term “patrol” is a policing term and is used to describe military and police; Border Patrol, Sea Patrol, Highway Patrol (these are all recent shows on TV).
In developing our new positioning we have initiated a lot of consultation and discussion to find a term that adequately describes what our Patrol Ministers do in a positive way. The new terminology is bush chaplains. The rationale is that the ministry team in some way are referred to currently as chaplains in their community whether it be police chaplain, hospital chaplain, school chaplain, SES chaplain etc. As a community relations role they are already being described in this term. The terminology of bush is used in the Australian vernacular and importantly in the First People’s vernacular. Bush tucker, going bush, bush wedding are all terms redolent of regional and remote Australia. The term Remote Australia means something different to First Peoples.
Frontier Services is also changing its language to be inclusive. We are committed to the Uniting Church in Australia’s Covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and as such to ensure we are wherever possible thinking about our language and our relationship to First Peoples. Our tagline has changed to reflect that we are no longer in a paternal relationship with First Peoples, instead, we are standing with people in the bush, not “supporting remote communities”. We are thinking about how to be more inclusive of First Peoples and also ensuring our language is gender inclusive too.
5. REMOTE AREA MINISTRY
All Patrol Ministry has been handed back to the Synods and supporting Presbyteries across the country. This transition has been affected including the establishment of the Remote and Regional Ministry Working Group. This group has also had to transition with the changes and establish its advisory role.
Remote and Regional Area Ministry Working Group has taken time to get the transition working effectively and at the most recent meeting, principles have been reestablished. Frontier Services is an active member with the Remote and Regional Area Ministry Working Group. The last face-to-face meeting took place in Queensland in February where we reaffirmed the needs of Remote Area Ministry. It was a positive meeting, enabling a robust discussion in a supportive environment. The discussion had ensured that outcomes are being considered effectively. The group has established a process for proposals for funding by reflecting with the wider church group, contribution and encouragement. South Australia has taken the lead on establishing a get together of bush chaplains in new environment.
This transition has taken time, patience and understanding from all parties to be effective. There have been many challenges with this transition. Details become clearer as time goes on and we are dealing with the practical nature of those changes and challenges. Some of those issues have included items such as;
- Establishing an understanding of each other’s role and interactions.
- The practical nature of how the funding model works in terms of financial sharing with the Synods, retention of our Deductible Gift Recipient status as a Public Benevolent Institution.
- Fundraising roles and transparency required to meet public and donors’ expectations.
- The reporting processes required for the board of Frontier Services to meet their statutory obligations to ensure that at all times they are legally compliant in relation to fundraising, income tax and related matters.
During this transition period, a new National Director Jannine Jackson was appointed in March 2017 and at that time Grahame Ryan concluded his appointment. He worked for Frontier Services during one of the most difficult periods. Grahame became the Acting National Director during this transition and had to negotiate a large part of the exiting from service delivery. Glenn Price, his second-in-charge, was also heavily involved travelling vast distances across remote parts of Australia to ensure transitions happened favourably. This was a challenging period not only for Frontier Services but also a significant challenge for all staff and board involved in this process. It is important to acknowledge the hard work and dedication required both personally and professionally for all those involved. Frontier Services is in a better position now because of their commitment to this large task.
A new team has been employed with specified marketing and fundraising skills to modernise our fundraising strategies. We have invested in the right tools to ensure we are meeting the needs.
The Board operated as an interim board from July 2013 until late 2016 at which a new charter became a permanent board again. This has now enabled stronger focus on governance and ongoing business oversight. Current members are:
|Jim Mein, Chair|
Jul 2013 - Present
Chair July 2015 – Present
|Financial, business, audit, taxation skills, and extensive Uniting Church involvement.|
|Lisa Sampson||March 2016 – Present||Fundraising, Marketing and Uniting Church involvement|
|Dorothy Creek||April 2016 – Present||Remote and Uniting Church involvement|
|Dianne Torrens||July 2013 – Present||Congress and Uniting Church Involvement|
|Chris Budden||July 2013 – Present||Congress, Ministry and Uniting Church Involvement|
|Colleen Geyer||March 2016 – Present|
|Terence Corkin||July 2013 – March 2016|
|John Baxter||July 2013 – Present||Legal|
|Will Pearson||April 2016 – Present||Ministry & remote|
Frontier Services has a diverse range of skills on our board reflecting the needs of the organisation from legal, ministry, remote areas, fundraising, First Peoples and has people of both gender. This skills matrix is ensuring that conversations at a board level are considering many views and the appropriate questions are being asked of the operational team.
Diligent management is ensuring we are meeting our current operational requirements and not making ongoing commitments beyond our capacity. Frontier Services is maintaining a balance sheet which allows for operating capital six months ahead. We have paid down the UFS debt and are now working on paying down the Assembly debt.
A majority of the assets have been liquidated and what is now left is complex in its nature and in a depressed market the asset itself will not generate much revenue. We are working through what is left with deliberation as they are small in their value and difficult assets to realise. The transition has involved substantial sales of real estate, aeroplane, motor vehicles and other assets in depressed markets in outback Australia. We are utilising the proceeds for debt minimisation for repayment of the substantial loan from Uniting Financial Services (NSW/ACT Synod) was achieved in December 2017. We are still process of repaying the Assembly working account at the minimum rate of $300,000 per annum.
Recently Frontier Services has been in a position to support two new remote area ministries those being Kennedy Remote Area in far north Queensland and West Coast Remote Area in Tasmania. We will continue to expand our funding when revenues increase to meet the increase in costs. Frontier Services has a strong desire to give priority to the UCA’s Covenant with the UAICC in the establishment and funding of future ministries.
Frontier Services has also completed the exit from aged care and other community services formerly run by Frontier Services and is managing the funding consequences. The Frontier Services balance sheet shows a deficit of assets over liabilities. The board of Frontier Services appreciates the support of the Assembly in maintaining our ability to be treated as a going concern during this divestment and rebuild.
Part of the financial implications for exiting services has required significant negotiations with various Government departments to reduce our financial and legal obligations. These negotiations in some instances have taken months, even years to resolve due to complexity in their nature. These negotiations took place to minimise monies owed for incomplete services and for acquisition of real estate.
9. JOHN FLYNN FOUNDATION
The John Flynn Foundation is a separate entity and sits outside the church in its operation and legal compliance. Frontier Services has been working with John Flynn Foundation board to bring this entity in step. Recently a new constitution has been updated which has enabled a rotation of trustees where trustees are now a three-year appointment for a maximum term of nine years. This is a significant change as all of the trustees of John Flynn Foundation are the founding members. Two new members that are Frontier Services appointees are Sharon Lee and Andrew Markwell. In addition, the outgoing President of Assembly will be appointed following the completion of his Presidency. It is important to acknowledge the two retiring trustees, Rosemary Young and Storry Walton, and their significant contributions not only to the John Flynn Foundation but also to Frontier Services. None of these changes would have been possible without the astounding support of Gregor Henderson and Bruce McKay who have been instrumental in getting the John Flynn Foundation functioning.
10. OUTBACK LINKS
Outback Links is proving to be an important part of the practical ministry and a way to engage wider audiences who haven’t heard of Frontier Services previously. We are working with each of the bush chaplains to determine needs and areas of support. Outback Links is a way that volunteers engage with their local community in a meaningful way. Outback Links is also how members of congregations are living out their faith through service. Outback Links continues to provide demonstrable outcomes assisting those who are vulnerable in remote communities. These outcomes ensure we are continuing to meet our PBI compliance.
11. CHALLENGES AHEAD
Frontier Services will continue to ensure that we are investing in fundraising. As with any investment strategy, there is always a period of negative growth to increase ongoing sustainable revenue. For Frontier Services to meet the needs of funding requirements of bush chaplains in remote Australia we need to more than double the revenue.
Frontier Services operational and governance requirements are essential to ensure we are meeting all our legislative fundraising requirements these oversights will ensure we do not jeopardise any of our tax concessions.
The “hangover” from previous years still is being dealt with and the remaining issues are often complex in their nature. It needs to be acknowledged that the majority of the issues are resolved and Frontier Services has a clear path forward.