Guest writer

Kelly Sumner – Sector Development Officer, QCOSS

Governance – the framework in which safe and effective work can be done – is one of those terms, which for some, will evoke a sense of red-tape, not always adding value to the work being done. “Sounds like bureaucracy,” my uncle said dismissively in a recent conversation. But being one of those who see the critical role of governance, I wasn’t ready to let that go. While uncles are difficult to convince – many Christmas arguments show that! – it wasn’t hard to win my uncle over on the importance of governance. In fact, it just took one sentence.

It might sound bureaucratic, but one of the things we’re focused on at the moment is helping organisations see how they can change the ways they operate and their physical spaces to reduce the risk that children will be abused.

Why governance matters to me

I spent years in service delivery before moving into an education role then coming to QCOSS. When I was busy delivering services in mental health, sexual violence and domestic violence responses. I dealt with lots of crises, managed risks, argued for better guidance for those of us in outreach work, and generally did a lot of things that were related to governance. But I didn’t really think about governance, at least not knowingly. That was, until I joined a management committee (MC) in 2017. After five years on that MC – most of them spent as Secretary with some serious legal responsibilities – and a similar period developing learning and assessment materials for community sector students and workers, I think about governance all the time.

Governance is intrinsically linked to whether organisations do good rather than harm, the wellbeing of workers and communities, and the safety of children and other vulnerable people. Governance can be the difference between financial sustainability or bankruptcy. For the organisation’s employees, this could mean either job security or redundancies. Commonly misunderstood as “bureaucratic red tape”, governance should be an enabler and a safeguard for those delivering and receiving services.

Governance in practice

As my recent conversation with my uncle shows, when people recognise the connection between governance and essential issues, its real importance becomes clear. The vast majority of people across our communities care about the safety of children and want to see investment in identifying and reducing risks to child safety. Similarly, concerns about human rights, the effective and ethical use of government and philanthropic funds, promoting quality service provision, and many other governance-related matters are common. When people see the real-world implications of governance practice, I think their opinion of governance will change.

25 June 2024
Focus area: