CEO message

Saying this past year was challenging is an understatement. In Victoria and the other locations we operate in, we have endured multiple lockdowns since the pandemic started. Yet through every lockdown and every challenge that comes our way, it never ceases to amaze me how our staff, volunteers, partners, governments and the community rally together to support one another.

Firstly, I’d like to thank all levels of government for their phenomenal support this past year. As a community not-for-profit organisation, the Y prides itself on being self-sufficient, in fact, generally government grants represent less than 3% of our income. This year, with the majority of our centres closed due to COVID-19 lockdowns, we simply would not have survived to turn 168 years old without the support by government.

So thank you to the Australian Government for supporting our staff and organisation through the JobKeeper Payment Subsidy and Child Care Support Package. Thank you to the Victorian State Government for providing the Y with multiple grants, which allowed us to continue delivering on our vision to inspire young people and support our community. Thank you to our local government partners, who ensured we could reopen to the community when restrictions allowed us to do so. Thank you also to our partners, including our suppliers. Your generosity and kindness in providing rent relief and other financial supports this year was crucial to our ongoing viability.

And now to our staff and volunteers, including our Board of Directors. Each year, I take this opportunity to thank you for your work and collective achievements, but this year I want to express my gratitude along with my thanks. For many of you, this past year has been the one of the most difficult years in your lives. You’ve been separated from your families and friends for months on end, your movement has been restricted and the majority of you were unable to work. I am grateful that through all of these challenges, you remained patient and kind to one another as we navigated our way through the pandemic. We still have a way to go before we reach some kind of normality, but I know that with your continued support, we will come out stronger on the other side.

It's easy to take for granted the impact the Y has in our community. Normally, 17 million people participate in our services each year, so with this impact halved to nine million this past year, we have been heartbroken to have our camps no longer filled with the sound of children laughing and our pools devoid of hundreds of wriggling learn to swimmers splashing. Our staff were sent home and we have been unable to live up to our promise of providing a career to believe in. Victorian children and young people in particular have missed out on too much.

Thankfully, a few areas of our organisation have continued to operate. Thank you to YMCA Children’s Programs, YMCA ReBuild, Virtual Y and our shared services. Many of you have worked without a break since the beginning of the pandemic, demonstrating your dedication and resilience.

While this year has been difficult, we managed to achieve some incredible things that you can read about in this report. We developed the inaugural virtual YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament program, we hosted another successful Australian Skateboarding League National Championships, we renewed a 20-year contract to manage five Sport and Recreation Victoria camps – the list goes on. I encourage you to take some time to read our stories from the Y and across the community, as they are a great reminder of why the Y exists.

Looking forward to the year ahead, I know that we will continue to work through every challenge that comes our way. We may have a long road to recovery ahead of us, but we will get there. To support the organisation on this journey, we have refreshed our Organisational Strategy 2025 and focussed our immediate efforts on recovery and rebuilding as we move into the ‘living with’ COVID-19 world. With vaccination rates increasing, we plan to reopen and stay open next year. We want to get back to doing what we do best – inspiring young people and supporting our community.

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