Director’s Report

What an exhilarating ride

“…is the phrase one might hear after alighting from the big dipper at Luna Park apt for the year that PALMS Australia has experienced? Certainly we’ve been to the heights, plunged to the depths, taken some fast and unexpected turns and risen again to new heights. Or has it been more the exhilaration of Major General Peter Cosgrove who used the term to explain what it was like to be alive after feeling a bullet whiz past his ear?

The year has really been very similar to the cycle of one who goes to live cross-culturally. Beginning with a wonderful honeymoon period where on the surface life can seem idyllic before illusions are shattered and the dawning reality can take one to the pits. After time and some soul searching (we put it at six months) the peaks and troughs even out and a new balance is achieved when authentic engagement brings new and attainable horizons into vision.

The Organisational Review in March uncovered new horizons in developing strategies that build on recent experience with community engagement. In July Brendan Joyce was employed as Community Relations Coordinator to facilitate implementation of a number of these. Returned volunteers will hear from him as he seeks their vital support to help develop Palms CommUnity Partnerships.

We have had success in church communities who appreciate the unique value of such partnerships. However one reply indicates that forward planning will be needed to get a space in some parishes:

“Our dilemma is trying to accommodate dozens of regular promotions which have been scattered throughout the available year. The parish calendar is log jammed with special Sundays earmarked for particular projects and ministries.”

It’s not that the good news of cross-cultural relationship is not heard in a church. Catholic Mission has benefited from many PALMS returned volunteers speaking in parish appeals around Australia, but the funds they raise are spread far and wide, and while we are grateful for a grant that contributes to the placement of two global mission volunteers, we must do better than that to remain viable.

Being perhaps too reliant on AusAID and other grants, PALMS has never really developed much of an expertise in fund raising. I sometimes wonder why PALMS did not come to share in Project Compassion when our founder Roy Boylan had so much to do with setting it up and we administered it across Australia when it began in the mid 60s.

I do not accept the view put to me recently that the church appropriates the glory of sending people on mission, but is largely uncomfortable that an organisation independent of the hierarchy, manages the program. If that were true in general the church would be closing in on itself and alienating the people of God on whom we rely to share the good news. For 45 years PALMS has had great cooperation from bishops and other church leaders and I have every confidence it will continue.

On a personal level I have sometimes questioned the value of staying to try and make PALMS work with such precarious funding. Certainly it has often seemed unwise for two members of the same family to be employed in such vulnerable circumstances. However the questions disappear when we consider the underlying values of solidarity with those who are far more vulnerable.

And there is the sacrifice made by so many of you: the individuals and families who offer themselves as v o l u n t e e r s (one couple have even decided they can live with a one third cut to their living allowance), those who provide financial and in-kind support from home, and those who have done both. There are the religious orders that realised the possibilities during the consortium bid for an AusAID contract and returned in faith when it wasn’t to be so. And this year the Catholic Mission Home Mission Fund increased their annual grant from $22,500 to $30,000.

On balance the response to the news that Government funding was to finish promoted tremendous supportive reaction. As a result of this and some savings on expenditure an expected $70,000 shortfall turned into a nearly $100,000 surplus. PALMS books finished 2004-05 on a healthy note, which means all in the field will be able to finish their placements, but we enter a challenging year without major grants and to send new participants on a PALMS Global Mission we must obtain the necessary income. As we leave the exhilaration of the Big Dipper to achieve a new balance (I expect to reveal new and attainable horizons at the AGM) we will be greatly assisted by your continued support through regular giving.

Roger O’Halloran
Executive Director