GROWING EMPLOYMENT: CEO of Southern Cross Support Services Cheryl Barrett has increased staff numbers from 200 to approximately 600 in two years.
GROWING EMPLOYMENT: CEO of Southern Cross Support Services Cheryl Barrett has increased staff numbers from 200 to approximately 600 in two years. Geordi Offord

Bundy organisation employs 400 staff in two years

FOR 30 years, Cheryl Barrett has devoted her life to working in human and social services, dedicating her time to help those less fortunate.

Ms Barrett served two terms as a local government councillor in western Queensland, worked for the State Government and has an extensive history working for not-for-profit organisations.

Now, as chief executive officer of Southern Cross Support Services, she has made the transition into working with people who have a disability.

Since taking over the service as CEO, the organisation has grown from 200 to more than 600 staff, with offices in Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Rockhampton and the Gold Coast.

Continued demand for services has the organisation planning to open offices in Brisbane, Gladstone, Mackay, Cairns and Townsville in the immediate and near future.

"We strive every day to deliver the best services possible. The bigger we grow, the more people we could look after. Our staff and our clients come first. If we don't have good staff, they are not going to provide good services for our clients.

"We are always striving to support our clients to grow and fulfil their dreams and goals.”

Ms Barrett said the organisation provided services which allowed clients to take part in their community, develop valuable social relationships, grow skills and live their lives as independently as possible.

"Southern Cross provides great opportunities for our clients. We have two farms where we facilitate an equine program and animal husbandry experiences, our new office is equipped with a commercial kitchen and we have over 60 residential properties in which our clients create and design their own homes rather than living in a share/host house kind of situation,” she said.

"In Bundaberg, The Crib is a shared space where clients are welcome to 'drop-in' and hang out with their peers independently or with support.

"There is always fresh fruit and drinks available and clients are invited to participate in board and card games; there is a dedicated electronic games room and some after-hours activity brings our clients together for themed nights and celebrations such as an upcoming Easter Sunday brunch.”

Ms Barrett said SCSS offered services with a difference, allowing clients to escape routine and enjoy activities such as cruises, trips to the State of Origin and Gold Coast theme parks.

"We have some beautiful beaches on our Queensland coastline and have four-wheel drives in our fleet, so clients go fishing and camping often or may just duck away for a day trip to the Maryborough Markets or water park at Hervey Bay,” she said.

"We cater for everyone regardless of age, mobility or capacity. What I love about this organisation is that all of our staff, from directors to front-line workers, have the same values and a genuine desire to walk alongside of our clients in their lives. We have a very happy and supportive environment.”

Cheryl said it's rewarding to be working in the industry.

"I love to celebrate the outcomes and achievements of our clients. To many of the people we support, we are their family, a community looking after a community,” she said.

"I am proud of the fact that our growth has come only through word of mouth because people are satisfied with their services. one can not simply grow at the rate our organisation has without true and genuine intention and values that are delivered respectfully.

We are currently working in collaboration with another national service provider to transition their Supported Independent Living clients to our own service provision. This is a significant acknowledgment from our industry peers of the fantastic services our support workers provide.

"Our growth has really come from the great service our staff deliver every minute of every day and I certainly take my hat off to our staff, who work day in and day out for us.”

Cheryl said she and SCSS welcomed the upcoming Royal Commission into the disability sector.

She said the recommendations would inform best practice and guide the industry in delivering quality services.

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