Ula Cavanagh, REFOCUS

REFOCUS Chief Operating Officer Ula Cavanagh was determined to use the Human Services Quality Framework (HSQF) to make the organisation shine.

Based on the Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and Gympie, REFOCUS specialises in providing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities in the wellbeing, recognised entity, disabilities and foster care world.

The organisation is proud of its culture and its ability to deliver its services to its clients.

Preserving this culture, while satisfying the rigorous requirements of the HSQF, became Ula’s key goal.

A visit from Queensland Council of Social Service Project Officer Shelley Birrell helped Ula and REFOCUS plot their path.

“Because of Shelley’s input from the start, we were able to engage and enrol the team in the whole process. Supporting staff to understand the reason for the licence was key, because we needed them to make time for it and provide us with their deadly work,” Ula said.

“Then I created a team around the whole HSQF process to really look at our policies. We needed to ensure that it was real and not just a bunch of technical jargon. As a team we clearly understood that our cultural practice must be embedded not only in our service delivery but in our policies and procedure. So from that point it was all about planning.”

“You had to have other eyes on it all to make sure the language was right in the eyes of the law but still ensure that it had our heart.”

Finding the right auditor was another important step for REFOCUS, who reached out to the sector and other agencies for recommendations.

“We had to ensure that we had an auditor who understood Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and how we deliver our service to our people. The business and auditor that we contracted to conduct our HSQF audit understood Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values, beliefs, practices and culture.  The auditor came to visit us and hear our story before we even did anything. It created a space of being able to be comfortable and allowed open conversation,” Ula said.

Gaining their HSQF licences was a year-long process, but REFOCUS’ planning and attention to detail earned them a rare outcome: an audit report containing no major-conformities, non-conformities, no recommendations, and just two observations.

“I broke down in tears because it was such a massive few months for us, we had two big new projects start, on top of the HSQF. We did it and we did it our way, so we were overwhelmed and super excited,” Ula said.

“The great thing about the HSQF is that even though it is quite a stressful process it showed me that we can improve and it showed gaps that we can create possibilities in. We need to remember that we are not just there to pass a licence but that we need to showcase our organisation, the uniqueness of our service and the richness of our amazing cultures. We are different and have specific needs, and we wanted to get that across in the process.”

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