March eNews – Honouring the Past, Embracing the Future

Honouring the Past, Embracing the Future: Farewell from Our Outgoing CEO

There have been a lot of ‘lasts’ over the past weeks as I prepare to take my leave, and here I am writing my last newsletter message as CEO of Spiritual Health Association. There is a lot to reflect on since I began in 2002 as the inaugural CEO of what was then the Interchurch Chaplaincy Committee of Victoria (formed in 1974), but very soon was renamed the Healthcare Chaplaincy Council of Victoria. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the organisation, and it has had a remarkable history and influence on the spiritual care landscape in Victoria, and in national and international contexts. I am incredibly proud to have been a part of that story for the past 21 years.  

There are so many people who have been a part of that journey over the years and who should be acknowledged and thanked for their contribution. From committee members, council members, the churches, the faith communities, board members and of course the wonderful people who have formed the staff team in various organisational structures, restructures, new names and transitions. It is important to recognise the financial support of the Victorian Government over all these years, and indeed since the mid-1950s. This support enabled the organisation to be leaders in the field and for that we are grateful. We have always had someone, somewhere in government, and the Department of Health, who was able to understand the importance of our work and was willing to champion our cause. However, this work should not be dependent on whether one or two people in government can be found who are supportive. The World Health Organization recognises the importance of spirituality as a domain of health, yet spiritual care in health in Australia remains piecemeal and continues to lack real investment. 

One of the disappointments in my time has been that spirituality and spiritual care remains largely absent from any health policies, except in relation to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples. This ignores the importance of spirituality in the lives of many people in the Australian population and its role in their health and wellbeing. This must change.  

SHA has worked, and continues to work towards this goal, to see a bio-psychosocial-spiritual model of healthcare in place and embedded across the Australian health system. 

The future is positive. There are some exciting and innovative new directions on the horizon and as I prepare to leave, I pass the leadership on to capable and caring hands. Working with SHA’s dedicated Board, there is a strong leadership team in place with Craig Exon as Interim CEO, Dorothy Donaldson as Business Development & Partnerships Leader, and Christine Hennequin as Transition Consultant for the next 3 months. Together with SHA’s Mental Health Leader, Jenny Greenham, and Communications & Administration Officer, Joey Goh, Spiritual Health Association is ready for the next big adventure. 

I am so thankful for the opportunity I have had to lead this organisation for the last two decades. It seems apt to be finishing at this time of the year which coincides with holy week and Easter in the Christian calendar. Holy week is a journey that reflects many events of celebration, friendship, betrayal, death, and new beginnings. There are so many stories held within the past twenty years – and the story hasn’t ended yet. Thank you to all who have sent such beautiful messages to me in these last days. We have achieved so much together and what an adventure it has been!

Cheryl Holmes, CEO

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