Anglicare WA Chair John Atkins joins 450 company directors nationally to support Yes!

Oct 10, 2023

John Atkins AO – Anglicare WA Chairman

As Chairman of Anglicare WA, I am proud to stand united with more than 450 company directors and board members across Australia in declaring support for the Yes vote in the Referendum in October.

As directors, our day-to-day concern is ensuring good governance of the organisations we oversee. If an organisation doesn’t have the expertise required in a particular area where they are struggling for breakthrough, they will appoint someone in an advisory role who does. So why shouldn’t the leadership of our country?

For Anglicare WA, this shortfall in expertise tends to be what we call “lived experience”.  As competent, knowledgeable, and skilled as our executive leadership may be, we cannot know what we have not experienced. Our core business is delivering the highest quality community services, in the most appropriate way, to the people most in need. Our purpose is to drive positive outcomes with those in need and to challenge barriers to them thriving. We acknowledge the best – and only – way to ever achieve this outcome, not just aspire to it, is by seeking the guidance from the people who have lived the experience.

For example, Anglicare WA has long advocated for support to be extended for young people exiting out-of-home care – you may know the campaign as ‘Home Stretch’. Until last year, support ended once they turned 18. Four years ago, the then Minister for Child Protection Simone McGurk appointed Anglicare WA to design and trial a program of extended support in a small region of Perth.  For this to be successful and deliver lasting systemic change, we recognised we needed guidance from the people most affected: care leavers. A Youth Advisory Group was established, with young people who had experience of out-of-home care and the transition out of the system. Then as the co-design process continued, the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people in foster care became apparent, so we engaged more specialised expertise, partnering with WA’s only Aboriginal foster care agency, Yorganop. The result has been a statewide reform which provides the support needed for young people, often traumatised from their interaction with the out-of-home care system, to grow and thrive.

This is just one reason why I support a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

For more than 25 years, Anglicare WA's leadership has been guided by a First Nations Voice at multiple levels. An Elders Council, and more recently Aboriginal Advisory Group, advising the Board, a Director Aboriginal Engagement appointed to our Executive Team, and General Manager Aboriginal Service Development to our service leadership group, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Lead working within the People and Culture department.

Having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as entrenched advisors within Anglicare WA gives us the chance to deliver better services, do better work, and be a better organisation.

Anglicare WA has a long history of working closely with First Nations Peoples across Western Australia, as colleagues, clients, advisors, and partners in social change. We are proud of our history and of the support we provide to more than 5,000 Aboriginal peoples state-wide each year. We have been an ally on Voice, Treaty and Truth in support of the Uluru Statement from the Heart since 2017. The support of our entire board for a Voice to Parliament is unanimous and unwavering.

To meaningfully accept the invitation so generously expressed through the Uluru Statement from the Heart, to walk together towards a better future for all Australians, Anglicare WA recognises the need for a dedicated voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to inform decisions at the highest levels. However, while this is our corporate position, supported by our Board and Executive Leadership, our staff have been encouraged to vote in the way they feel most comfortable.

I firmly believe, it is time to walk together towards a better future for all Australians.

It is time for a First Nations Voice to our Federal Parliament and Executive.



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If you’re not sure where to go, call us on 1300 11 44 46.


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