Presidents Message – September 2019

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Presidents Message – September 2019

Incoming Presidents Report

Dear Members,

We had our Annual General Meeting in September and it is with great honour that I inform you that I have been voted in by the members present to be the elected President for the coming two years.  A little about myself and what I see my contributions to TCFQ will be.

I am a bereaved mother of two Eric and Maree. I am a nurse, educator, and an author. I come from a successful family business, I have assisted my husband for 18 years with his business and I currently have a small education business of my own. I have been volunteering in the community throughout my life span.

As President I can say that my contribution will be based on listening and participation.

I will listen to the membership on how you see the service being delivered.

In participation I will be actively broadening our community interactions so that all of QLD know about our services with this being done through:

  • – More interactive ties with our rural and regional areas
  • – Gaining feedback through membership when undertaking our strategic planning
  • – Exploring the right innovative ways to keep our fore founding members vision while bringing todays technologies into our service
  • – Ensuring that we are tapping into funding and other opportunities that assist our office and membership
  • – Giving opportunities to our regional and rural counter parts to have a stronger voice
  • – Maintaining current successes
  • – Strengthen our cause

I am deeply humbled to be given this opportunity and for the next two years will always keep TCFQ as my driving principle.

At the AGM we were able to move forward with voting on the topics of: further review of the constitution; and, changes to annual membership. Both resolutions were passed. 

Our new board with the assistance of TCF Australia will get straight into business of strengthening our support and relationships within the broader community commencing with the five-year strategic plan. As we act on behalf of our membership, we will be seeking feedback from you and suggestions for your area. Please keep an eye on your emails for further information.

We had our first Father’s Day Steak and Beers Night. Although a small turn out it was successful and like the Mother’s Day morning tea, we believe this will grow with each year. These occasions can be filled with polarising emotions, by coming together we can offer support through discussion, sharing of memories, a laugh and a tear or two.

Last month we were a part of Grill’d fundraising jar competition with the Fortitude Valley outlet, and we were able to raise awareness through this initiative. We came second that consists of $100 donation to us.

We recently have taken steps to now assist women within the correctional system. Lorraine, Kristie from the office, and myself have been inducted so that visits can be undertaken with those bereaving the loss of a child/children, and to give support whilst transitioning through the justice system.

We are now in October which brings us even closer to our Candle Lighting service in December. Please consider what you would like to include in the ceremony (slideshow and booklet) by way of photos, poems and songs. Further information will be provided to you in this newsletter and via email.

As I end this month’s report, I must give acknowledgement to two valued members of TCFQ. To our previous president Heather Smith, who took leadership on a short notice but was tremendous in moving TCFQ forward within the community over that period of time. With much gratitude and appreciation, we thank her for her guidance, support and leadership and wish her well in her future endeavours.

To our outgoing Treasurer Roger Grehan. We are deeply appreciative of all the work you do and have done to keep our organisation moving in the right direction. This role has a lot of responsibility and you have handled this with great poise and professionalism. We thank you with gratitude for the work done.

Trish Schafer
Mother of Eric and Maree

Presidents Report for the AGM

This past year has been a challenging one for TCFQ.  The board has had a number of changes due to resignations.  That is how I have come to be interim president!  All of our executive positions have interim members.  We have only one ongoing board member, Tony Vayro, who will be entering the second year of his term following his election to the board at the last AGM.  Though of course, Tony has been on the board for quite a few years now. Thankyou Tony. Thanks must also go to all the interim members who stepped in, keeping us as a viable board, and of course, compliant with regulations.  Recognition and sincere thanks must also go to our coordinator, Kristie McGrath, who has been a constant through all the changes.

Despite this, TCFQ has continued to provide its core support services and its secondary education/awareness services. This demonstrates the inbuilt strength of our organization.  Following is an overview of the last twelve months. 


Our member services are growing.  Over this past year, we have opened up support services in regional areas of Stanthorpe, Maryborough, Townsville, Cairns, Mt Tambourine and Gympie.  Our support group here in Brisbane continues. 

We are now also providing our support into the women’s prison here in Brisbane on the invitation of the Minister for Police and Minister for Corrective Services. The project has taken considerable time and effort to get off the ground.  It is also extending us culturally as the majority of women in the prison are Aboriginal. Qld is the first TCF in Australia to offer our services into the prison system.  The other states are looking as to how we model this type of support so they can do the same.

The QLD Police Service now includes TCFQ on their list of organizations to which they refer people.  This is a service where vulnerable bereaved families, with their consent, agree to be contacted by us within a couple of days, usually by phone so we can offer our support and let them know how we can help. 

We are now also working to provide help through the Employee Assistance Programme.  The EAP, run by the Qld Government, provides free confidential support services to employees and their immediate families for both work and personal problems.

Our annual Walk to Remember was another successful event this year.  This event has a twofold purpose.  It commemorates our children who have gone before us and is a great support event for parents, grandparents and siblings.  The other outcome is raising public awareness for our organization.  A large group of people with banners preceded by a piper walking along the river in New Farm Park is hard to miss!

Once again we staged a very strong annual Grief and Loss Seminar.  Our range of speakers and presenters and their topics varies from year to year. We are always on the lookout for presenters who are able to demonstrate best practice in the field of child loss. As well as it being an informative day, it also offers opportunities for bereaved families to socialise, and give and receive support amongst each other.  Our seminar is open to anyone interested in grief and loss, particularly professionals.  We hope to see this area of attendance grow strongly in the future.

Last Christmas, for the first time, in conjunction with Queensland Homicide Victims Support Group we staged a children’s Christmas party. This event is in its early stages and more work will be required to make it an ongoing event.

Our annual Candle Lighting Service was, as usual, held in December last year.  Some changes were made to the running of this service.  Member feedback indicated that we should revert to our customary running of this event, so this year will see a return to the traditional service.  Member feedback is extremely important. As an organisation we constantly seek to improve what we do but we have learned that there are times when change is not necessary and certainly not without consultation with membership.

Community Awareness

TCFQ participated in the “Dying to Know Day” again this year.  “Dying to Know” promotes ‘death literacy’, ie, it encourages conversations around end of life plans and death. As D2K says, “Too often, we feel ill-equipped to support loved ones who are dying, caring or grieving.”  Once again this is an opportunity for promoting our organization and raising our profile.

The new areas we move into such as regional support services, women’s prison, EAP and police referrals, all contribute to community awareness.


Early this year Jillian Hamilton of Manage Damage (Jillian was our board secretary at the time) ran a strategic planning workshop specifically for TCFQ.  This was followed up by a session with Jillian and Kristie working on the implementation, process and procedure of some of what had been workshopped at the earlier session. 

The AGM last year adopted a new constitution with the idea that it would be reviewed over the following year, with any changes necessary being put to this AGM. With the number of board changes we have experienced over this past year, a complete review has not been possible.  It will be put to this AGM that the review be extended another year. 

One of the inclusions in the constitution is to allow associate membership.  This is new for TCFQ.  Associate members do not need to be bereaved in accordance with our usual requirements for membership. This allows us a wider scope to bring required expertise to the board, eg, treasurer or secretary.  Indeed, we had our secretary, Jillian Hamilton as an associate member in the position of secretary, until her resignation a few months ago.  However, to maintain the integrity of our organization, associate members cannot hold the positions of President or Vice President. 


Queensland Homicide Victims Support Group runs an annual award night and dinner.  Some of our TCFQ members are also members of this organization.  This year recognition was given to our Coordinator, Kristie McGrath.  Kristie received from QHVSG the award of “Compassion in Service”.   This is a great demonstration of the strength we are building between our two organizations, thanks in no small part to Kristie.


Volunteers play a key part in supporting our organization.  However, the nature of volunteerism has changed in recent years and this is presenting our organisation with some challenges, particularly with regard to administrative volunteering.  Volunteers now tend to offer their help and services for a shorter time or for projects only.  As a NFP organization we have to adapt and take a more flexible approach with those who do offer their assistance.  May I take this time to sincerely thank all those who have volunteered over the years in any role what so ever.  Thank you so much also to those who have volunteered to run our new regional groups.  Our organization would not be what it is today without the help of our volunteers.

TCFQ suffered the unexpected and sudden loss of long time member and volunteer Vera Caltabiano several months ago. Vera gave of her time freely and without expectation of return.  For many of our bereaved, Vera was their first contact, some going on to form firm friendships with her.  Vera, along with Lorraine ran support groups gatherings here in Brisbane for many years, as well as visiting our regional groups. TCFQ board also benefited from Vera’s time and talent, not only as an ordinary member but also from her holding the executive positions of president and vice president over many years.


QLD Health has renewed our funding from July this year for a further three years.  We express our whole hearted thanks to QLD Health for this. As most members here would be aware, we could not function at our current level without this grant.

For the first time this year, QLD Health also provided us with a grant towards the running of our Annual Grief and Loss Seminar.


Our annual Golf day is specifically run as a fundraiser.  This year saw us raise $11413 from the event. Some significant prizes were donated and the day was a great social event.

This fundraising and the monies we generate from jam stalls and sausage sizzles along with donations, supplements the QLD Government grant.  The more money we can raise, the more we can build and strengthen TCFQ, because unfortunately, there will never be a time when our services are not required.

Other News

TCFQ is building strong relationships with both the Victorian and New South Wales state chapters of TCF. Overlaying all chapters is TCF Australia.  TCFA is undergoing a rebuilding after having gone somewhat quiet a few years ago.  This change is being driven by TCFV.  All states appear to have a more enthusiastic ‘buy-in’ this time around with strong leadership on the board.  A strong TCFA will open opportunities for federal funding that most chapters do not have at present.  As well, a strong TCFA will give us more credibility as an organization, therefore making us a more attractive proposition for funding from government and philanthropists.  

Economies of scale are achieved through cooperation with TCFV/TCFA.  An example is adopting common literature.  This project is progressing and literature should be ready late this year for all chapters to use. 

Another avenue that can benefit us is back office support.  Currently TCFQ and TCFNSW are using finance support, such as BAS submission, provided by TCFV.  TCFV has also adopted a Customer Relationship Management system to better manage membership information. We are looking at how this system may better replace our current database that has its limitations.  We could ‘buy in’ to TCFV’s system, but retain complete record confidentiality and independent operation.  Of course, cost will be an important factor. 

Ten Australian representatives are attending the Compassionate Friends 50th Anniversary Gathering in the UK in early November this year.  This event is commemorating fifty years since TCF was founded.  TCFQ is fortunate to be represented by two volunteers.  This is an opportunity to further push our Australian profile and in particular, for us, our TCFQ profile.  We look forward to our representatives’ report.    

In concluding, sincere thanks to those board members and staff who stepped up to provide extra assistance for my position when I was not able to fulfil the role of President to its full extent.

Many thanks to board, staff and volunteers generally.  Without us all working together we would not have the strong organization that TCFQ is today. Whilst we have experienced change and instability over this past year, I am in no doubt we have come out stronger for it.

My best wishes to the new President and incoming board.  May your contributions continue to strengthen TCFQ, with support for our members always at the forefront.

Heather Smith

Mother of Richard

Sister of Noel

Outgoing President of The Compassionate Friends Queensland Inc.