Hi. My name is Kim. As Head of Service Innovation, and Acting Head of Programs, my role is to ensure our families receive best possible outcomes through the services and support we deliver.
As Head of Programs, I work closely with all Program Managers to ensure that we deliver high quality, appropriate services every day. This is important more now than ever due to COVID-19 and other disasters.
I also look at how we can do things more creatively, effectively and efficiently, working with our client families and other partners to strengthen our services and develop new, innovative service models. Ensuring that we are meeting the needs of our rural and remote communities, and of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, is a really important part of this.
Describe your typical day
There’s always many things happening at once, from planning for future service delivery, to workshopping new service models, listening to the voice of our children and families, recruiting staff, supporting my teams, and working with people across all parts of RFW to make sure we are doing our best for country kids.
I also meet with different organisations and coalitions that are actively working to improve practice around child development and rural health, such as ARACY’s Brain Builders Alliance and the National Rural Health Alliance, to ensure we stay on the cutting edge of best practice and are contributing to the bigger picture.
At the moment, a lot of my time is spent on our new online client portal, which is incredibly important, as it will mean when families and schools connect with us they can view all their information and reports and log in to their telecare sessions all in one place in a way that is easy and convenient for them. We are really excited to be launching it for all of our clients very soon!
What’s your biggest project?
This would be the redesign of our longest running program, the Paediatric Developmental Program (PDP), which provides multidisciplinary assessment, diagnosis and support for children from rural and remote NSW with complex developmental needs and no access to local services. There is a long waiting time to access this program, which has been further impacted by COVID-19.
Over the last few years we have spent a lot of time speaking with families, staff and partners to understand their needs, and then changing the way we deliver this program to reduce the waiting list and reach more families, including through greater use of technology. This held us in good stead when COVID-19 hit and we had to change our model to deliver everything via telecare.
What else is exciting?
So much of my job is exciting! We are looking at using new or existing technology to make our services easier, quicker, more engaging and effective. We’re also working with some fantastic research partners such as Charles Sturt University to identify and respond to gaps in evidence on developmental vulnerability and interventions, with a focus on rural and remote needs. I am also really excited about working closely with the Windmill team to improve and expand the Windmill program this year, to reach more children with a disability living in rural and remote Australia.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen?
The biggest change is the increasing need and increasing complexity of that need in rural and remote communities. Wait lists for local services are getting longer and the recent drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and now the mouse plague have had a significant, life changing impact on many rural and remote children and their families.
On the positive side, there has been a huge shift in the acceptance of telecare as a way to access services and to offer choice to families. When I first started, there was a small number of services being delivered in this way, and now all of our clinicians deliver sessions via telecare with confidence. Families, schools and service partners are more confident too. We are continually improving how we use telecare/telehealth to transform access and outcomes for rural and remote children, including exploring ways to combine telecare and face-to-face service models, and I’m really proud of this.
Tell us why you joined RFW
I’ve always had a big passion for children’s health. I’ve worked in health for nearly 20 years, with a degree in Community Development and a Masters in Health Development/Health Promotion. I started in ACT Health, then moved to the UK, where I worked for health-focused charities including Asthma UK for five years, before coming back to Australia where I worked in government and not-for-profit organisations. I now have two small boys of my own and this has made me even more passionate about making sure all kids have the support they need.
I joined Royal Far West in 2014 when we had one small tele-speech program, and my role was to help grow and extend it to other disciplines like Psychology and Occupational Therapy. At the time, we were scheduling with excel spreadsheets and manually crosschecking sessions for 120 kids, and we knew we needed to become more sophisticated. The journey the organisation has gone on since 2014 is incredible, particularly in terms of the number of services we offer to the families, schools and communities we support.
When children access the right services at the right time, by health professionals who are specialists in children’s health, you see a dramatic change. This is what we do every day at RFW, and this is one of the reasons why I love my job.
What do you think makes RFW unique?
It’s the people, particularly the country families and the RFW staff, who are always solutions-focused, willing to try something new, and who are all incredibly skilled, knowledgeable and totally committed to supporting country kids to access the services they need.
Tell us about a family’s positive outcomes through working with RFW
I have a lovely story about a family where Mum and Dad live with their three kids on a farm, and one of the children struggled with conduct problems. The parents participated in one of our programs and contacted me afterwards to say that what they had learnt about positive psychology had made a huge difference in their family. It also made a dramatic difference to their child’s school life, as the parents and clinician worked with the school to put positive strategies in place for their child, and the school is now also using these strategies to support other kids too.
The family is thrilled with the huge reduction in their child experiencing melt downs, and the family finds it much easier to attend external events and activities, and all three boys have an increase in their social connections and school engagement. Everyone is much happier.
What’s the best thing about working with families from rural and remote Australia?
It’s the connection you feel, there is just so much possibility and resilience. The tenacity and positivity of country communities, often under tough circumstances, is incredibly inspiring and makes you want to get up and do a great job every day.
Edit: Kim’s position has changed since this interview, she is now General Manager Schools and Community Services.