Oak Possability, supporting Tasmanians with a disability for more than 50 years
The 2016 introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) brought significant changes to the disability sector right around Australia. Many organisations needed to revise operating structures and service offerings, as well as adapt to new administrative and compliance processes. And in a sector dominated by not for profit organisations, these sorts of changes can really put a drain on resources.
Two highly reputable Tasmanian providers used the introduction of the NDIS to position themselves for the future: the merger of Optia Limited (trading as Possability) and Oak Tasmania in July 2016 formed Oak Possability, building on a legacy of more than 50 years providing support to Tasmanians with a disability.
Today, Oak Possabilty is the largest disability service provider in the state, with more than 800 employees servicing 650 clients. This month, they will continue the growth with an expansion of their services into Victoria.
Business mergers can be fraught with challenges, comments David Nelan who joined the organisation in September 2016 as Executive General Manager, Commercial and Finance. “Bringing together people from two different organisations that have travelled different paths is never easy. Having strong and effective change management strategies and resources is critical.”
“We’ve done a lot of work to have the right people in the right roles and ensure all staff are involved and on board with the process.”
Merging systems, procedures and processes adds to the complexity and David and the Oak Possability team were smart enough to draw on external expertise to ensure the best outcome.
“WLF contributed to us achieving a relatively smooth merger from a financial and governance perspective. We were able to discuss strategies and processes with WLF to ensure that the decisions made and actions taken were the most appropriate.”
“Audits play an important role in governance and funding acquittals in our sector. We have a great working relationship with WLF and want that to continue into the future.”
“They’ve also helped me personally build some historical understanding around the financial journey of Oak Tasmania and Optia Limited and they have a very strong understanding of the funding environments under which we operate” says David. “As well as support services, WLF is across the complexities of running our social enterprises that include, timber manufacturing, security shredding, mailing services, and firewood, potting mix and nursery operations.”
While the merger is complete, David is quick to point out that this doesn’t mean the team can sit back and relax.
“The launch of the NDIS has seen significant growth in demand for services across Australia” says David “… We’ve expanded our services to include Out of Home Care for children at risk and support for people with acquired brain injuries.”
“Going forward, it is likely that service providers will continue to look for opportunities to combine resources and expertise. The ability to scale your business and compete in a competitive market place is becoming quite important.”
“Our newest challenge (the expansion into Victoria) will achieve one of our strategic goals of sustainable and well-planned growth. We need to be nimble and responsive to opportunities and challenges as we continue to grow.”
There is also the need for ongoing client education around what they are entitled to under the NDIS, and the process and time required to get a Service Plan in place. David is conscious that this requires resourcing and future workforce planning is yet another important factor to be considered.
“We have an aging demographic in Tasmania and attracting young people to forge a career in the community service sector is a challenge. There are so many opportunities in the sector and we want to get that message out to job seekers.”
Despite the many challenges operating a not for profit organisation, the whole team is driven by enthusiasm and the satisfaction of seeing the outcomes of their work.
David says he is continually in awe of the staff and what they achieve, “The dedication and passion of our support staff never ceases to amaze me.”
“Oak Possability is values driven. All of our business goals are aimed at achieving our vision, a world where everyone has the opportunity to pursue their potential” remarks David.
“We see ourselves as being the catalysts for change to happen. We are dedicated to helping individuals develop to their full potential and live a satisfying life.”