CARING in a practical way for people young and old in all sorts of circumstance is the common link between Prom Coast Aged Care’s retiring chief executive officer Justin Wightman and new CEO Tracey Gibson.
As it turns out, and quite coincidentally, too, Justin and Tracey were professional colleagues in the Gippsland region for several years, 10 years ago.
Both worked for Uniting Care Gippsland, now part of Uniting Vic.Tas, the Uniting Church’s community services organisation for Victoria and Tasmania.
With a background in accounting and auditing, Justin was the general manager of Uniting Care Gippsland’s corporate services.
Tracey, who is also a qualified psychiatric nurse, was the CEO and generally based at Leongatha, and so is already familiar with South Gippsland and with Foster, too, where a Uniting Care Gippsland branch was located in Hyland Street.
When Justin discovered that Tracey had been appointed as his replacement, he was glad and also a little relieved as he knew his beloved Prom Country House residents and their families as well as the staff would still be in kindly and empathetic hands.
Justin has guided PCAC since January 2019, forming good, solid relationships within the entire PCAC community, including with the “really supportive” eight-member board of management headed by president Bill Bray.
“I’ve always been drawn to not-for profit community organisations, and PCAC has a wonderful reputation both in the Corner Inlet district and the wider community,” Justin said, during his final week as CEO.
“When the opportunity came up to lead such a wonderful community asset nearly two years ago, I wanted to offer the skills I’d gained from earlier corporate and executive roles with the Australian Childhood Foundation and South Gippsland Water in Foster as well as Uniting Care,” he said.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being so very involved with the 68 residents and their families, and with all of the staff here at Prom Country House.
“I’ll be keeping in touch with the many friends I’ve made, and my wife Tiff and our two sons, Mason, who’s eight, and Sam, seven, and I are staying right where we already live in Foster.
“The building itself works really well, with big open areas full of natural light as well as individual spaces, along with easy access to gardens,” Justin said.
“You walk into Prom Country House and it feels nice and homely, right from the first moment.
“There have been several highlights during my time here, including PCAC gaining reaccreditation for three years and a really complimentary report soon after I began, and witnessing the introduction of the residents’ community council,” he said.
“I’ve always tried to be involved with the residents as much as possible, including attending residents’ entertainment, and spending time just listening and having a chat.
“I’m proud of starting the residents’ community council, and the monthly CEO’s barbecue lunches where everyone’s invited!”
Justin said he was also pleased to have helped improve PCAC’s overall financial sustainability and to have been part of implementing the board of management’s long-term strategic plan.
“Our staff are our biggest asset, and the staff’s teamwork and culture mean that they will do anything to care for our residents and to help and look out for each other,” he said.
“I’m incredibly proud of the staff and the work they have done over the past nine months under extremely trying circumstances.
“We’ve all got a lot of pride in this place.”
New CEO Tracey said she was delighted not only to have been appointed to the PCAC position but also to continue and to build on the achievements of her respected colleague Justin.
“It’s been a gift to work together with Justin for a time before his departure and to meet the board, the residents and key staff, and get a good feel for the place and its future direction,” she said.
“This period has allowed us to have a seamless changeover, with the best interests of Prom Country House’s lovely residents always at heart.
“Justin has done a lot of good work to bring the organisation to a sustainable position, and I’m stepping in at the right time to carry on,” Tracey said.
“It’s also great to see the strong partnerships that exist between Prom Country House, the Foster Medical Centre and the South Gippsland Hospital, and the good interconnectivity they bring.”
Tracey and her husband, retired Victoria Police officer Steve Gibson, have lived at Inverloch for the past 20 years, where their daughter Hayley and her husband and family of three children have settled, too.
“Before accepting this position I’d spent many years working in Melbourne, staying up in town a few nights a week and spending a lot of time stuck in freeway and city traffic as well as driving back and forth to Inverloch,” she said.
“Now it takes me about 35 minutes to get to work and I’m home again at the end of every day with time to go for a walk on the beach before dinner!
“While I was CEO of Uniting Care Gippsland, the Uniting Church amalgamated 24 of its Victorian and Tasmanian community service agencies into one, Uniting Vic.Tas, and I became one of its general managers.
“This meant being part of an organisation with 3,600 staff extending from Bairnsdale to the South Australian border to Tasmania, and with offices in Launceston and Hobart, offering a range of services including early learning childhood and aged care, as well as establishing the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” Tracey said.
“I have to say it’s great to be back in Foster, and I’m looking forward to getting more involved in the local community, after making a conscious choice to come back to a smaller-scale organisation where I can make a real contribution to local people’s lives.”