News: Executive Director’s Report

Revisiting the past through new directions

The past financial year has been exceptionally busy, but exciting. So what’s new? Any who have been on what I described in this report last year as the Palms roller coaster know that it is rarely dull here. While the horizon during 2005-06 remained steadier than we found on the big dipper of 2004-05, we need to be sure as we begin 2006-07 that we are not looking at a mirage.

Given the withdrawal of over $120,000 of Government funding some could have thought that we would now be ready to close the doors on Palms Australia, but very clear messages from supporters did not allow me to entertain that thought at any point during the last year. We had wound back expectations and prepared for a budget deficit of some $70,000, but the combined efforts of you all created a surplus of over $150,000 even after removing the income deemed as profit on the sale of the building.

The last of the artefacts, bar some special items, were sold and without the need of a warehouse the building was disposed of before the Sydney real estate market stalled. Invested funds allowed us to rent back the office with some extra to spare, which gave us the confidence to explore, albeit cautiously, the possibility of a commercial enterprise to keep us buoyant into the future. It was clear that any such enterprise needed to support our ethic as spelt out in our vision and mission.

The Fair Trade Coffee Company at 33 Glebe Point Road, Glebe is now giving us extraordinary opportunities to further

“develop networks that link and engage people across cultures in order to cooperate in reducing poverty and achieve a just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful world.”

Fair trade enterprise is, of course, one of the ways in which we have visited the past and it is apt that elements of the décor at the café come from New Guinea Arts. Many of the lessons of commercial enterprise from that experience have also been brought to mind to ensure good ongoing development.

As well, the café provides a new way of achieving another objective from the past. We are able to engage and build community outside the network of usual suspects. Many of the evenings’ activities at the café will generate discussion on issues determined by patrons from the local and broader communities. Unless I am looking at a mirage I think we might be able to apply this model in other cities or localities.

Needing to source an income independent of Government also revisits the past. In the year gone we replaced what the government withdrew from other sources, although AusAID did still cover the costs ($127,000) of winding up the placements of volunteers sent to the field using AusAID funds in previous years. That also is unavailable in 2006-07. To maintain a viable volunteer program we need now to retain contributions that replaced lost government funds last year and find a further $127,000 of fresh contributions.

This will require current donors to stay on board, new donors to join them and a very successful café. Nothing has been or will be achieved without the continuing contribution of many open palms. Open palms that provide money have been great, but as important are the open palms that give time and spirit at the office, the café and overseas. We are truly blessed by a strong God-sent community of volunteers that allows us to contribute even more justly, lovingly and tenderly to the many overseas communities requesting our volunteers to help reduce poverty through skill exchange.

Revisiting the past through new directions has made us busy, but perhaps as it was in the beginning (circa 1958) we have experienced an energising new life. I am profoundly pleased and privileged to be at the centre of this new life.
Thank you one and all.

Roger O’Halloran
Executive Director

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Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural.
It is man made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. - Nelson Mandela