This year is The Helmsman Project’s fifth anniversary and our organisation has seen many changes as it continues to evolve and develop further into new programs and opportunities. We have seen changes in management, staff, and programs, coupled with increased corporate sponsorship. Most importantly, we have witnessed vast changes in our most recent cohort of graduates.

Andrew Stainer as co-founder has been a steadfast leader as Chair of The Helmsman Project since its inception, but geographical constraints led to Andrew stepping down from the role at the end of 2017. Andrew has been a huge driver of The Helmsman Project, and I want to express my thanks to him for all his work, vision and continued support. Andrew remains involved as one of our invaluable Ambassadors. Whilst I had big shoes to fill this year, I was very pleased to transition from my role on the Board of directors to that of Chair.

We have also welcomed many new people into positions with The Helmsman Project in the past year. Having been a volunteer coach since the birth of The Helmsman Project, Leon Naufahu was welcomed in July 2017 as our first on-staff coach. We also established the position of Head of Fundraising, with Carrie Elton being the first person to take on this role. December saw the Board farewell two directors, being Andrew Stainer and Travis Kemp. We also welcomed three new board members: Dave Pendleton who was the ABC’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) and CFO before leaving the ABC in July 2017; Andy Donaldson who is the Chief Technology Officer of Everlight Radiology and has held CIO, CTO and Technology Director positions across multiple industry verticals; and David Bartholomew who is a company director of a number of high profile energy, utility and industrial companies in Australia and overseas and was the CEO of ASX-listed energy and utilities business DUET Group until it was acquired in 2017. All our new Board members bring diverse skills which have proven to be invaluable and I thank them for dedicating so much of their time to The Helmsman Project.

We have also welcomed Michaela McGlinn as our annual Board observer from the Westpac Board Observership Program – Michaela was Head of Investments Distribution at BT Financial Group, part of the Westpac Group, and oversaw the distribution strategy, management and leadership of a national sales team. Michaela has been instrumental in making new connections and leads and I thank her for not only observing, but for actually “doing” and “doing” with great enthusiasm. This year we saw the appointment of our first CEO in Kim Larochelle’s promotion from General Manager, representing the growth of our organisation and Kim’s evolving role over the past five years. We also welcomed a new interim CEO, Robert Milne, whilst Kim is on parental leave. Robert has extensive experience in General Manager roles at both large organisations like Telstra and BBC Worldwide, and fast growing small businesses such as Global By Nature and his own startup. Robert brings agility, a vast network and highly relevant skills. I would also like to thank Kim for always remaining on hand to help when tricky questions arise!

Our Council of Ambassadors (“COA”) was launched with a remit of assisting with our strategy, in particular focussing on sustainability and leadership. The COA continues to be a great support with its Chair, Michael Easson, bringing great insights and focus which will be instrumental in helping us achieve our goals, particularly in the social enterprise space. An exciting new initiative was launched this year with the creation of The Helmsman Project Youth Board whose members are all graduates of The Helmsman Project and include Justin Whiting (Chair), Rader Antwi (Secretary), Adwithiya Puri and Rashad Nadir. The Youth Board is busy creating an alumni community and enhancing our website.

We strongly believe in a world where young people realise their potential. This was the motivation for the founding of The Helmsman Project and underscores our 2018-2023 strategy. To date, The Helmsman Project has helped over 360 students reach their full potential at schools in Western Sydney. Our mid to long-term hope is to impact the lives of 3,000 to 5,000 young people per annum.

The feedback we receive from school principals, teachers, parents and participants is incredibly positive, with extensive qualitative data evidencing this. The Helmsman Project is also nearing the end of a longitudinal randomised control trial overseen by the Australian Catholic University. The aim of this globally unique research is to evaluate outcomes and inform future program enhancements.

We plan to attract and retain the best leaders, staff and coaches and we are streamlining our operations and embracing technology. We have invested in a new IT project adapting Salesforce for use by The Helmsman Project and its external users, school principals, students and coaching staff – this is in line with the scalability objective of our five-year strategy. The Helmsman Project has secured the long-term funding support of major corporate partners, including Goodman Foundation, EG Funds Management, Westpac Foundation and, most recently, Brickworks Limited and Endeavour Energy. We express our gratitude to those investors, for having faith in what we do and for having the foresight to see the positive impact we are all making not only on the lives of the students undertaking our program, but also on those around them who are also impacted.

We continue to drive the organisation. What we can achieve together for young Australians, however, is far greater than anything we manage alone. 

Sam Evans

Samantha is the General Counsel for the Australian business
of Goodman Group, which is an ASX listed global property
group. Samantha is a qualified lawyer in the UK and in
Australia and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of
Company Directors. Samantha also holds a certificate
in Governance Practice from Governance Australia.

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