Jun 15

A southeast Queensland disability service provider based on the Sunshine Coast, 121 Care, is taking an innovative approach to leadership by co-sharing the Chief Executive Officer role between two of the region’s most experienced and forward-thinking women in the not-for-profit space.


The $12.5 million turnover service provider, which employs 185 staff, will benefit from the wealth of experience from existing 121 Care CEO Kym Chomley as well as award-winning executive Feda Adra who joins Ms Chomley as co-CEO.


121 Care President Faith Baigent said she was confident that the two vastly experienced and capable women, would forge a strong relationship to provide the organisation with a robust and sustainable future.


“Feda, the former CEO of Be (formerly ComLink), has a wealth of knowledge and experience in aged and community care that will be of tremendous value when combined with Kym’s extensive experience in disability,” Ms Baigent said.


“Together, Kym and Feda share six decades of senior management experience that are complimentary and broaden the skillset that one CEO would traditionally bring to the role. Kym’s strengths in accounting, finance, IT, administration and organisational development are complimented by Feda’s strengths in people and culture, resource development, innovation and marketing.


“CEO job sharing is an extremely rare form of leadership arrangement, done only a handful of times across the world – think Netflix, Oracle and Salesforce to name a few.


“Job sharing is done at lower levels in organisations, but rarely at an executive level, which is what makes this unique and even more exceptional in the not-for-profit sector. With Feda on board, we will now have twice the capacity and capability with a broader range of skills and experience that will be of immense value to the business.”


Ms Adra is the founder of Vitality Village – a health and wellbeing hub which is the first of its kind in Australia. 121 Care will also be moving in to the new hub later this month and the team looks forward to working in collaboration with the other villagers at Vitality.


Co-CEO Kym Chomley said COVID-19 saw organisations like 121 Care realise the importance of being adaptive, flexible and creative through a continuously changing environment.


“This pandemic has taught us that we need to future-proof our business to withstand disruptions in an already crowded space, to continue as before would be foolhardy,” Ms Chomley said.


“CEOs have their work cut out for them. They need to focus on strategies to balance the immediate needs of the customers, employees and the communities they serve, with the need to be sustainable.


“By including a second CEO, we are preparing for the future, and I couldn’t think of a better person to share the role with than Feda. Our skills are very complimentary, we share similar values and have a mutual respect for one another.”


Ms Adra agrees.


“Not all businesses would consider a role share like we have, but it is worth considering when you look at the benefits it brings. But for it to work, the parties in the chair must have aligned values, good communication and respect for one another,” she said.


“I would like to acknowledge the committee for placing their trust in us and for their progressive approach in determining the best outcome for the organisation.”


121 Care’s annual turnover has grown from $2 million in 2013, when the organisation was only delivering in-home supports for people with spinal injuries on the Sunshine Coast.


This year, the business is projected to turnover $12.5 million through the delivery of a wider range of services across southeast Queensland that include in-home supports services, supported accommodation, supported independent living and supports coordination services for people with physical, intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.




More on job-sharing – Most recently, co-CEOs Trina Spear and Heather Hasson from FIGS became the first female co-CEOs to take a company public in the US last week while here in Australia, we have organisations such as The Creative Collective on the Sunshine Coast and Environmental Justice Australia who have benefitted from the co-CEO model.


On women in leadership – While Australia is making progress when it comes to leadership, women only make up 18.3 per cent of CEO positions in the country[1], despite evidence suggesting women in leadership roles deliver improved business outcomes[2].


The 121 Care story – At the turn of the 90s, a group of people living with spinal cord injury on the Sunshine Coast decided that they wanted to be in a position to tailor the supports and services they needed, to when they needed it and how they wanted them delivered. They wanted to exercise choice and control. This flipped on its head, the idea that the only supports and care to be provided for people with disabilities (PWDs), would be in an institutionalised or medical setting.


121 Care (formerly Quality Lifestyle Alliance) was formed in 1992, and this changed the way that people with disabilities received supports, it also ensured that they could continue to live independently and enjoy a better quality of life on their terms. In the years following, 121 Care expanded its supports from spinal cord injury to include other disabilities with neurological conditions or physical conditions such as cerebral palsy, amputees, traumatic brain injury.


On its 25th anniversary, 121 Care took another step forward by expanding services to include support for people living with mental illness and intellectual disabilities. This meant operating supported accommodations and supported independent living.


This was a significant milestone for a community-based not-for-profit because a need was identified, knowing that with the model of care that it provided; it would work well for those in supported accommodation and supported independent living.


An accredited NDIS service provider, 121 Care continues to provide in-home supports, and support coordination services across the Sunshine Coast and south-east Queensland. Through Guardien Group, 121 Care offers supported independent living facilities on the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane. For supported accommodation residential services, 121 Care operate Colville Lodge in Brisbane and Cooloola House in Gympie.


121 Care will celebrate 30 years in 2022.

For more information visit www.121Care.org.au.

[1] https://www.wgea.gov.au/women-in-leadership

[2] https://www.wgea.gov.au/newsroom/women-in-leadership-positions-improve-business-outcomes


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