System change – it shouldn’t be about numbers; it should be about the real and lasting change achieved.

Recently MPF has been acknowledging outstanding achievements in educational interventions, the appointment of some highly credentialed specialists to our board and some amazing funding support from donors like The Ross Trust and others. These successes are so important, and they are creating real change. They are worthy of celebration.

But it’s just as important, maybe even more-so, to refocus perspective on the still failing systems that are letting so many vulnerable people down. Because when systems fail, people can die. And individuals and families can be torn apart. Often in silence and without recognition.

As a place based, local foundation, MPF is a catalyst, facilitator, and incubator for locally led social change, particularly through early intervention and prevention initiatives. Our critical role is to step back and take a whole system view, to see what is working and what isn’t through insights from people experiencing it. Then to trial and test adjustments that can ultimately inform true system change. We have the privilege (and sometimes the tremendous heartache) to meet some of the people who have simply fallen through the cracks. People whose needs remain unheard and unmet, despite the hoops they’ve tried to jump through to satisfy the system. People who end up metaphorically shredded as a result.

The continued corporatisation of many of our educational and welfare organisations, where profit is the primary objective, is reducing vulnerable people to commodified objects, counted for reporting purposes, but not valued. Organisational success is determined by numbers, not by true change and positive outcomes.

The fallout of these failing systems on the Mornington Peninsula is hidden from most people, amidst the picturesque publicity of the place. But it is felt deeply and unrelentingly by those who live it – especially by those who have chosen to work within the education and welfare sectors. Some people who can’t stand the futility that has duped their early career aspirations, quietly leave. Those who remain, either stoically create workarounds so at least some benefits can be accrued, or they leave their ‘selves’ at the door each day and simply go through the motions. Critically, those who make the policies stay far from the day to day, instead bringing a ‘we know best’ attitude through their top-down approach to policy formation.

No one wants this and it doesn’t have to be this way. As much as we are sometimes daunted by the challenges, we must continue to be buoyed by the successes we are beginning to see through system changes. Changes that truly reflect the needs of the people they are about – by hearing their voice, by actively including them and working together with them to do things differently.