It was with much excitement and trepidation that I accepted Stephanie’s generous offer of casual employment in an administration role at the Mornington Peninsula Foundation (MPF). The job description Stephanie sent me was very enticing if not overwhelming, given my lack of formal experience in certain aspects such as social media and business platforms I’d never heard of. Countless YouTube tutorials later, as well as lengthy social media instructions from my teenagers had me feeling slightly more qualified for the position.

It was straight in the deep end starting the week before a Board meeting however all was completed in time and I managed to meet several Board members which was excellent. The following few weeks flew and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed submersing myself in the Foundation. MPF’s philosophy is very in line with my own values and beliefs. Addressing disadvantage is such a tricky slope to work on, and evaluating the impact can be even trickier, despite my firm belief in its importance. MPF’s difference is that Stephanie develops relationships with the Community Partners who receive funding for projects, so there is a constant open line of communication. By staying with the projects, MPF is able to evaluate successes, failures, learning curves, mistakes, and second attempts (and third’s and fourth’s). And everything is ok as long as everyone is still learning, communicating and striving to get it right. Stephanie prioritises building relationships with everyone she liaises with, as those relationships are paramount to addressing the greater picture of making a positive impact on people experiencing disadvantage and marginalisation on the Peninsula. It is admirable how Stephanie never seems to lose sight of the people and communities at the heart of each project. And she reiterates to everyone that despite MPF’s need for evaluation, reports and/or evidence-based data, the vital aspects are keeping the people in the centre of the projects and communicating with us.

I’m a Peninsula girl from birth, apart from worldly travels and adventures, and although the MPF office is Melbourne-based it is wonderful working on positive change for my home turf. The Peninsula is blessed with world class environmental and man-made resources and it is difficult to remind ourselves of the many individuals and families struggling to live adequately day by day. All this alongside incredible wealth and booming tourism. Having spent my first location-based day traversing the Peninsula last week, I revelled in the opportunity to meet several names I had become familiar with in the office or on the phone, and to be able to witness Stephanie in action! Her humble, yet enthusiastic approach to everyone we met was inspiring, reminding me of much I learnt in my social work degree on use-of-self. Stephanie does not appear to stop, apart from when she is listening to people, and I’ve had some amusing comments from those who know her well suggesting I take her up to Seawinds for a relaxing stroll.

Nikki and Daniel at Advance College – @Oceanfrypictures

It has been quite common for Stephanie and I to get momentarily lost in conversations focused on pockets of concern on the Peninsula, and then brainstorming ideas or thinking of names who would more adequately be able to brainstorm such ideas. I love how no-one in Stephanie’s business life is wasted, everyone has a value in their knowledge and expertise and she doesn’t hesitate to go to those working at the forefront of each issue to seek advice, knowledge, information and suggestions in her quest for a better Peninsula. The value of these conversations astounds me and reminds me to slow down myself sometimes to honour that time bouncing around ideas and immersing myself in group thought. I can’t help but think of the hours of brainstorming that most likely has gone on behind the scenes of organisations before they even approach MPF for support with a potential project.

Slowly things are coming together for me in the office at MPF. The office staff have been amazing answering all my questions and pointing out the location of items I need. I’ve had wonderful conversations with community partners and volunteers carrying out their amazing work despite the barriers and limitations they regularly seem to come up against. I get to enjoy the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens (see pic’s) at lunchtime and a plethora of food options if I don’t bring my lunch in. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity, and knowing MPF’s philosophy and Stephanie’s drive, I now have a stronger sense of hope for those doing it tough on the Mornington Peninsula.


Author: Nikki Devis