The AGM and Jubilee Dinner to celebrate Palms’ fifty years of international development volunteering was attended by 140 guests. Roger O’Halloran (Executive Director) welcomed eight tables of returned volunteers, thirty of whom he aptly dubbed “our pioneers” from the 1960s.
AusAID’s Dr Gemma Edgar’s keynote address, “How grassroots agencies like Palms enhance Australia’s development effectiveness” highlighted:
- the value to government of interactions with “small” but very experienced agencies like Palms;
- Palms Australia’s deep community connections mean we “can deliver in places and in ways that others, including governments, cannot”;
- AusAID’s program benefits from “informed criticism” from the community, which comes from initiatives such as Palms’ CommUNITY;
- the commitment and drive of small organisations that arises from having a limited number of staff or committed volunteers to undertake our work;
- AusAID is considering improving its accreditation process for small NGOs;
- the importance of continued engagement between Palms and AusAID, directly and through ACFID;
- delivering aid through organisations such as Palms allows AusAID to “benefit from your networks, your areas of specialisation, and your presence on the ground”, which is demonstrated to improve aid effectiveness.
A new board of directors was elected (pages 18–19) for a 3-year term with Benjamin Oh—a former staff member—elected as President. Benjamin was one of a few respondents to Dr Edgar’s speech.
Bookends of five decades speak of revolution
During the dinner, Mary Gilchrist, who has been active in every facet of Palms’ life from the beginning, was called on to introduce a volunteer speaker from each of the five decades.
In the following pages are excerpts from the two bookend decades. First is Clair Redfern (née Toohey) from the ’60s who can now be referred to as the revolutionary-inspired missionary. And at the other end, Louise Maher, who was part of the revolution, which was the development in Timor-Leste not long after gaining independence.