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Acting on an enormous responsibility

e-connect welcomes the new territorial social programme director, Netty Horton.

Earlier this year Netty Horton concluded her service as the general manager of community services for the Victorian arm of the Catholic Church’s St Vincent de Paul Society. Ms Horton has a long history of working in the area of homelessness, beginning as an outreach worker with rough sleepers in 1988. For 12 years she served as the CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons, during which time she established and ran the first and second national conferences on homelessness in Australia. Ms Horton chaired the ministerial advisory committee on the development of the Victorian Homelessness Strategy, and founded the Council for Homeless Persons Australia, a founding entity of the Australian Federation of Homelessness Organisations and Foodbank Australia.

‘I am delighted to be working for The Salvation Army. My background is in housing and homelessness, which has, historically, been a strength for The Salvation Army.’

We have an enormous responsibility, which is also highly complex in a multicultural society. In many faith-based organisations the main driving force is social justice. There is an inherent challenge, also, to evaluate our resources and confirm if we are making a relevant response: does the ‘how’ of our efforts match the ‘why’?

Do the actions we undertake – does what we do – preserve, promote and enhance the dignity and quality of life of those we help?

When it comes to responding to community needs, we must always ensure that the needs we are addressing are still the needs that are out there. There are occasions when organisations look at their activities and realise that in some instances the time for specific programs has passed. The Salvation Army’s sale of its Bethesda Hospital in the late ’90s, to the Uniting Church’s Epworth Hospital, is a case in point. Other examples include the territory’s withdraw from large-scale aged care and, in a much earlier historical examples, the Army moving away from institutional care for ‘unwed mothers’.

It’s obviously early days for me, and I am aware that the territory has been examining its core business as part of a strategic planning process. To that end I’d suggest we remember that we should always do what we do well, and what we do best, as part of our service. Part of the beauty of being a non-government organisation is that The Salvation Army can respond to issues more independently (and with more flexibly and rapidity) than government agencies.

The Salvation Army has the staff and the nous to predict trends and needs. We can listen to researchers and harness their research to meet human need. We can consult with out frontline services and centres, picking up form them what emerging needs they are addressing.

In all ‘core business’ discussions and re-alignment processes there is always a balancing act between consistency of services and flexibility of response and approach. We need to do what we’re good at.

Earlier this year Netty Horton concluded her service as the general manager of community services for the Victorian arm of the Catholic Church’s St Vincent de Paul Society. Ms Horton has a long history of working in the area of homelessness, beginning as an outreach worker with rough sleepers in 1988. For 12 years she served as the CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons, during which time she established and ran the first and second national conferences on homelessness in Australia. Ms Horton chaired the ministerial advisory committee on the development of the Victorian Homelessness Strategy, and founded the Council for Homeless Persons Australia, a founding entity of the Australian Federation of Homelessness Organisations and Foodbank Australia.