Looking back at last year’s Chairman’s report, it commenced with “what a year we’ve had”... so it feels a bit repetitive to say it again, but it needs to be said….What a year we’ve had!
Thankyou to those that put faith in me to take on the role of Chairman after the inimitable Sheena made the decision to take a quieter path in life. There was never a suggestion that I could fill those huge shoes, and it is only thanks to the strength of the committee and of course, Rachel, that this organisation has kicked even more goals this year.
We said a sad farewell to Suzi Cameron who has moved into an invaluable role within the organisation as foster and volunteer co-ordinator; and to Sue Gilbert, our treasurer, whose parting gift was to suggest the introduction of targeted professions to our board. And so we actively recruited from the legal, accounting, veterinary, and most recently marketing, sectors and now have a very strong skills base to draw on. And, we managed to find crazy cat people while we were at it! Welcome, and thank you, to Rowena, Tania, Lisa, and Rain. Coupling your much needed skills - overhauling our HR systems, policies and procedures; implementing long term financial vision and oversight; the input of Tassie’s favourite and highly experienced feline vet; and communication of our vision to external stakeholders clearly; - with the passion and wealth of experience that Tracey brings from the animal welfare sector along with her experience as the longest serving committee member, plus the unstoppable vision and drive of Rachel - and I believe we have an organisation that will be hard to stop.
While we started with the seed of an idea to create a mobile desexing unit, this dream was quickly replaced by an even bigger one, as the need to have our own veterinary clinic became apparent, both logistically and financially. And we welcomed Sheena back as a volunteer project manager, working tirelessly with Lisa, Rachel, and external stakeholders as well as securing a vital grant - to bring this into reality.
We are moving towards the vision of establishing long term financial security - a bequests program, with Tania at the helm and bringing her expertise to this; and the more recent exploration of an op shop as both fund raiser and social enterprise by Tracey. Knowing that finances are secure will allow Just Cats Tasmania to bring a lasting benefit to the state and its felines. Rain’s experience in crafting messages that connect to the community will be invaluable in driving these projects forward.
To summarise the year - we started with a new shelter, and have ended with our very own veterinary desexing unit, a shelter vehicle…. and an almost empty shelter. Covid 19 so far has had only positive outcomes for Just Cats, a result we couldn’t have envisaged let alone hoped for. I hardly know how it all happened - so thankyou not only to our committee members but also a huge thanks to the staff, volunteers and community that have made this all possible.
At the end of the day - we are all here for the kitties (to quote a certain board member) - and they are what really matters.
Carolyn Budai - Chairman 2020
What a year we’ve had at Just Cats!!
I’ve been so privileged to play a part in this wonderful organisation as we’ve more than doubled in size over the past 12 months .
The year started with the decision by the Board to investigate submitting an application to the State Government (DPIPWE) for accreditation as a registered Cat Management Facility. As this has never been done before in Tasmania we worked closely with Michael Askey-Doran from DPIPWE to firstly, get an understanding of what the process might look like and then set to work on making application.
From developing Standard Operating Procedures for all Shelter tasks, ensuring cat containment units were at appropriate cat number ratios, installing additional workplace Health and Safety equipment, emergency procedures and many more small but very important operating policies and procedures.
While the application was taking shape , so was our wonderful new Longford Shelter. This was a huge task, project managed by Rachel Beech, while continuing to run our usual efficient shelter operations and adoptions from the old site. Having both the accreditation and the new building happening at the same time allowed us to incorporate those added necessary building works as required of a registered Cat Management Facility. This included a fully operational laundry area with hot and cold running water, staff lunch room area, seperate Isolation room and a medical procedure unit (Sila’s Unit). The new big adoption rooms have made our Longford Shelter a very special place for the public to visit and spend time in with the cats and kittens while choosing their special new family member.
Our VIP shelter opening in November was long awaited and well worth the wait. Attended by around 50 people, including the Premiers representative, DPIPWE representatives, local Council reps, Tas Community Fund Chair (Sally Darke) media reps and our wonderful team of Volunteers and Board. To top off the special event Michael Askey-Doran (DPIPWE) formally announced that our application for accreditation as a registered Cat Management Facility had been approved!
During the year we also introduced new Shelter Management software. The research and commitment put in by Carolyn Budai fine tuning this software to meet our needs, coaching us on how to use the system and managing the change process with Rachel has been invaluable. Thank you Carolyn.
Before we had time to fully enjoy the new shelter and our accreditation, the RSPCA in Northern Tasmania announced they would not be continuing Shelter services in Launceston. After much consideration the Board agreed that the only real option for us was to express interest in taking on the Cat Management Facility from the RSPCA at Mowbray. Our fear if we didn’t express interest was that we would be inundated at Longford with surrendered cats that we wouldn’t be able to accomodate at the Longford Shelter. The Mowbray Facility would give us an additional 33 rooms, an Isolation area and a reception building. Our expression of interest was accepted by the Launceston City Council and with just a couple of weeks after their decision we moved into the Mowbray Facility.
The smooth transition to our 2 Shelter representation was remarkable. Yes we had some sleepless nights and stressful days ( and will continue to...) but all those who supported over the Christmas/New Year to ensure the transition was as smooth as it was are to be congratulated. Without them it simply wouldn’t have been possible.
Our first 6 months of dual site Shelters has been enormous. We have more than doubled our cats in care numbers and are beginning to see a nice upward trend in adoption numbers. This has meant financial decisions on a day to day basis have been very considered and we thank Rachel for her ‘tight rein’ on the purse.
As always our supporters, Donors, staff, volunteers and Board are what makes this organisation as special as it is. So many large charities ( for that’s what we are now) have a high number of paid staff handling Donors, Bequests, Marketing, Events, Media and a myriad of other necessary tasks. At Just Cats the donations we receive go back to those we care for, the welfare of the cats and kittens. That means it’s our Volunteers who ‘dig in’ and make things happen’.
Our monthly donors are continuing to grow and the support of our Corporate Business partners like Bunnings, Petstock and Hills Science Diet has been exceptional over the past year. Our focus over the coming year from a fundraising perspective is to build a solid Bequests program that is known and supported widely. With the average Australian Bequest amounting to $70k this is something we need to be a part of for our own financial stability.
Phew, I feel tired as I look back at what has been achieved over the past 12 months but I also smile with glee at what a magic year it has been in recognising Just Cats as the amazing organisation it is.
As I stepped back from the Chairman role in April I felt more than comfortable knowing the depth of knowledge and,more importantly, the drive and vision of the remaining Board Members (and those Board Members to come) would guide Just Cats onto even better things in the years ahead ( after a period of consolidation).
Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being Just Cats Chairman. I will always be your biggest supporter.
Sheena Harris - Chairman 2019