When I (Trudy Gepp) was first elected as Board Chair about a year ago, it was a bittersweet moment for me – I’d served as Interim Chair after the passing of my friend and mentor, Deb Clark, who had devoted much of her time mentoring me to eventually take on such a role.

Stepping up as Chair, I had a to-do list of ten things I wanted to achieve. An important lesson I learned from Deb was the importance of getting out there and understanding the experiences of customers from different backgrounds. So, one of the items on my list was to meet our customers and their families who lived in the Riverland.

Last week, I’m pleased to say I finally realised that goal. Chris (my husband, for those who don’t know him), Michelle (my Lifestyle Attendant), Tim (our CEO), and I travelled up to the Riverland to attend a Lifestyle Lunch. An early start of about 4:30a.m. allowed enough time to get up, get ready and leave by 8:30. If you can believe it, the longest part of our trip was going about 10 kilometres down South Road, but the moment our wheels hit the Northern Expressway, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the journey.

The drive took a little over three hours and we arrived at Berri at 12:05 – just in time for lunch! We unloaded the van, headed inside, greeted customers, and enjoyed a very welcome meal after such a long journey.

It was a great turnout, with 14 customers, eight Lifestyle Attendants, and one informal carer in attendance. I was really pleased to see so many happy faces – old and new alike – around the table. Between us four visitors, a lot of in-depth discussions were had with many different people. Throughout the lunch, I heard many ideas for improvements, gained a lot of insight into challenges faced by our customers and Lifestyle Attendants, and also received some lovely feedback. I found these conversations most informative, and judging by my debrief with my travel companions, I wasn’t the only one.

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Being a member-governed organisation, this type of open communication is a big part of our ethos; hearing directly from customers about what’s working and what’s not working is so valuable for continuous improvement. It’s also a way that customers can get involved in a less formal setting than the Board or our Member Advisory Group (though I recommend checking them out!).

After several hours of networking and socialising, we took another drive – this one much shorter – to visit our Berri office. On the way, my head was absolutely spinning with all the ideas I had after the lunch, and my conversations with local staff only served to create more.

We then went on to Renmark where we unpacked the day’s events over a meal. Making good use of our night, Tim and I took the opportunity to discuss some Board business, before everyone retired to bed. We were up early the next day to return to Adelaide by mid-morning, and then I was off to a Board meeting in the afternoon.

All in all, the trip was memorable, invaluable, and worthwhile. Thank you to our wonderful Riverland customers and staff for making us feel most welcome and sharing openly with us.

So, with that goal officially ticked off the list, what’s next? Well, I’d love to visit Enhanced Lifestyles’ customers and staff in the beautiful Limestone Coast region!