Looking out for kids

Andrew Mathieson
LOOKING after the wellbeing of vulnerable families might be part of Nola Ganly’s job but it has rewards beyond measure in dollars and cents.
Nola heads the Office for Children and Disability Services in the Barwon South West region.
Others might see it as another meaningless government job but not Nola.
Her dedication, spanning more than 30 years in child and family services, is unmistakable.
“I certainly have a desire to do the best for children and I think parenting is such a vital role in our society,” Nola argues with passion.
“We need to support parents as much as we can and make sure children are taken care of and have the right environment to reach their potential.
“I could see that when I initially worked directly with the children as a family consultant but gradually as I got into management I could also see the need for more systems’ change to achieve that.”
Nola is reputed in department circles as having a knack of anticipating what the sector needs and where it should be going.
Now her reforms on family support services are being adopted statewide.
It earned the community services manager a state award in September for inspirational leadership.
Nola describes the honour as “a big thrill”.
“I wasn’t able to achieve what I have been able to without the support of my staff, colleagues and even parents along the way,” she says, spreading the credit.
Nola attributes a simple management philosophy to keeping her in touch with grassroots issues.
“With anything like that, you have to have the bigger picture in mind about all the steps you need to achieve because you can be overwhelmed by it – the need for change and the need for support,” she believes.
“But I think it’s important to have the end goal in mind but to also set smaller goals that you can reach so you’re developing a service system that’s going to be more responsive in the end.”
Nola started out as a visiting child health nurse in 1976, observing many parents struggling to cope with sick young children or newborn babies.
After partaking in a research project for a Geelong paediatrician at Royal Children’s Hospital, she then turned to intervention team leader in supporting young disabled children.
That’s where she helped develop an inclusion support service integrating the disabled into kindergarten.
The mother of four supportive children aged 27 to 36 now proudly quips about being a grandmother.
Nola feels lucky to have lived a life of service, only wishing others could be shaped by her experiences.
“The skills in parenting children need to be passed on from generation to generation,” Nola says.
“Some families just don’t have that kind of support.
“I can see it now having a granddaughter how much that can be passed on to my daughter with parenting of her child.”

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