Chair message

Unprecedented. It’s probably the most overused word in 2020, but accurately describes the devastating events we as Victorians, as a nation and as a globe have experienced this year.

Before I reflect on the year that was, I want to thank our staff and volunteers. Your hard work and dedication is always inspiring, but this year you have shown incredible resilience and made sacrifices that have helped the Y get through the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s hard to put into words how grateful and appreciative I am of you.

I also want to thank and congratulate Carolyn Morris on her first full year as CEO – a year where she, along with the rest of the leadership team, faced extraordinary challenges. Thank you, Carolyn, for your leadership, for helping get the Y through this pandemic and for maintaining empathy and a sense of humour even in the darkest of times.

I’m sure many Australians, like myself, have compartmentalised the last financial year into two parts – before and after the summer bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s difficult to remember a time before this, it would be a shame not to celebrate our collective achievements and highlight some of the incredible work that we did in the first part of the year.

In 2019, the Y held another successful YMCA Bridge Project Breakfast event, awarded the Victorian Father of the Year, hosted the inaugural THRIVE forum and publically backed young people in their strike for climate change. These are just a few of highlights you will find in this year’s report.

When the bushfires wreaked havoc across the country, we opened our doors to CFA firefighters and provided free access to our recreation centres so that the people who fought the blazes could find some respite.

Then in March, our world changed when Australia went into lockdown. As an organisation, we had to respond quickly to restrictions and temporarily close more than 90% of our business. Our priority has always been the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, clients and the community, and this has been paramount throughout the pandemic.

We worked incredibly hard to ensure the Y would survive and, as I mentioned previously, our staff made many sacrifices to ensure the organisation is now in a position to reopen safely and sustainably. Even in this environment, we managed to support young people and our communities through initiatives such as Virtual Y and through innovation in service delivery so that we could continue to safely engage with as many people as possible.

As we look forward, I believe we will benefit from many legacies that we established throughout the pandemic. We have innovated our services and the way in which they are delivered. We have developed new ways of engaging our staff, partners and communities. And, we have strengthened our profile and voice as a leader for young people and healthy communities within our industry and with local, state, and federal governments.

I believe we will emerge from this pandemic as a stronger and more connected Y. A YMCA that will continue empowering young people and positively engaging communities long after this pandemic is over.

Thank you again to our staff and volunteers (I really can’t thank you enough), and to my colleagues who sit with me on the volunteer Board of Directors. While this year has been hard, it has been a pleasure to govern such an incredible and resilient organisation with you.

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