By Roger O’Halloran, Executive Director of Palms Australia 2000-2024
Goodbye, Farewell and Thank You
This was the heading when I last left Palms. In September 1997, after two-years in the role as Palms Coordinator I moved to begin a new role at Caritas Australia as the Coordinator of Network Development. I wrote then:
“I am sad about letting go, but happy I have come to know you. You are now part of me.”
I returned to Palms as Executive Director at the beginning of 2000, so now, after 24 years, with just a few days left in the office to assist handover to our new ED, what does one add?
First, be reassured.
Those who visited “Our People” page on Palms website in the last month (doesn’t everybody) will have noticed a new face. The welcoming face of Soraya Kassim, my replacement, needs little in the way of handover. I suspect we have found the perfect ED for the development Palms needs at this time in our lives.
Soraya was described by one of her referees as a force of nature and it is obvious to me that she is the activist Palms needs. As Palms pivots to apply the experience and genius gained in global mission to mission in Australia (NWB and mentoring in remote Australian communities) Soraya has bobbed up with more than the required credentials. Her extensive engagement at the grass roots in Australian communities, is also informed by strong intercultural experience globally.
Soraya’s excited enthusiasm for Palms Values, Vision and Mission has been obvious since she first applied for the position, and her participation at the January orientation course has enriched her appreciation of how we induct program participants into living them. Clearly her presence there, and since, is enriching us all with the possibilities she sees for taking our programs forward.
In your open hands Palms will continue to thrive.
I’ve been privileged to work closely with diversely talented staff sharing personal and cultural stories that made the essence of what Palms does so enjoyable and easy to achieve, despite, or maybe because of limited resources. Our experiences and moments together provide some of my favourite Palms memories. You have combined to teach me love; justice; humility; tenacity; gentility; good humour; loyalty; responsibility; conflict resolution and so much more. The team worked because you freely brought your gifts to sincere relationships that lie at the heart of true human development.
I thank Palms overseas partners and communities for welcoming us into your lives. Your trust confirmed my faith in solidarity. You reinforced all of the values listed above and your lives abundantly enrich our understanding of faith; hope; charity; resilience; acceptance and dignity.
Supporters offer time, publicity and funds to back Palms approach. Australian Catholic Dioceses, school systems and religious orders who trust Palms genius and experience allow us to authentically bring our shared values, vision and mission to fruition. Thanks to the individual donors, small and large, who continually share their earnings. In extraordinary faith some are regularly giving $10 K, $20 K or even $50 K per annum, and others have left legacies of a 100 K; 200 K, or even 780 K.
Clearly Palms is doing something right by most who undertake a global mission. So many of you continue to give so much back. Your stories about the importance of your experience reinforce the paths to engagement we undertake and the processes that prioritised relationships developed in one-, two- and three-year placements. Giving this time, as you and our partner communities frequently convey, is crucial to share worlds of meaning in the deepest sense, with a people of a culture different from one’s own. You have assisted Palms to avoid the ‘hurry to achieve results’ we so often witness in the more patronizing and paternalistic approach of shorter-term interventions.
In 24 years many from all of the above groups mentioned have taken particular responsibility for Palms governance. It is no light duty and I’ve always found the board’s guidance and feedback essential. The constancy of your availability has piloted the ship that is Palms through both storms and exciting periods of growth. Thanks to all for the faith and assistance you have given me to open my hands and reach far beyond what would have been possible without you.