Uniting Annual Report 2020-2021

Uniting for social impact in FY21.


We’re driven to generate the greatest possible social impact for an inclusive, connected and just world.”

Throughout FY21, Uniting advanced our work to change the circumstances of people experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability, with a range of targeted programs, partnerships and platforms across all ages and stages of life, and throughout NSW and the ACT.


This year, we’ve also worked harder than ever to uphold the strict accreditation standards of the highly regulated sectors we work in, ensuring high quality, consistency and delivery of care in COVID-safe environments from our early learning centres through to our aged care homes.

Fostering Future Horizons in FY21

Future Horizons is Uniting’s social innovation investment portfolio. Since 2019, we’ve been designing, piloting and proving new ways of working to address some of our communities’ most intractable challenges. Over FY21 we continued to steward 9 targeted programs – investing more deeply in co-design, evidence and partnerships, to ensure our innovations are impactful and scalable.

The 8 impact principles guiding Future Horizons development:

The 9 initiatives we've developed to align with the impact principles:

Links to Early Learning (L2EL)

Access to education for vulnerable preschool-aged children and their families

Extended Care (EXCP)

Support for young people leaving foster care beyond 18 and up to the age of 21

120 Countdown

Mentoring and practice hours to get a driver’s licence and independence

Connect Promote Protect Program (CP3)

A preventative approach to mental health for primary school children


Building stronger communities where children can thrive

Becoming U

Building belief and capacity in young people in hard-to-reach communities

Aboriginal Families Together

Keeping children and kin connected

Feasibility of Opioid Injecting Treatment (FOpIT)

Finding effective solutions to drug dependency

Foyer Central

Giving vulnerable young people the tools, space and time to build a brighter future

Our pathway to scale innovations for maximum impact

Uniting’s approach is based, built and modified on the successes of our many existing innovations. Future Horizons is designed to communicate and guide a clear pathway to achieving scale, and incorporates gateways for accessing and supporting the progress of individual initiatives.

Despite the COVID-19 challenges throughout FY21, two of our Future Horizons social innovations have been replicated to new communities through government support: 120 Countdown, our learner driver-mentoring program; and Links to Early Learning, a program addressing early learning participation among disadvantaged families. Both projects were supported by community partnerships and evaluations which demonstrated the important social outcomes they deliver for excluded young people and families.


Our goal is to see all our social innovations creating impact beyond Uniting. We’re currently inviting partnerships for our Connect Promote Protect Program (CP3), to reach communities recovering from the recent devastation wreaked by flooding, bushfires and COVID-19. CP3 is an evidence-based program for primary school children that builds resilience, emotional wellbeing and community connections and can be delivered in Outside School Hours Care settings. During FY21, we scaled CP3 throughout our own network, and we’re now ready to expand the program through partnerships with schools and community services providers. Find out more about CP3 ahead.

Advocating for change in FY21

This year, Uniting continued to shine a light on disadvantage and drive social policy change through our advocacy work and service delivery. We stepped up our collaborations with local Uniting Church congregations to spread our message about the inclusive, connected and just society we want to live and work in, and we supported people with lived experience to share their stories.

The year’s advocacy focused on the Synod Climate Action Strategy and the Fair Treatment campaign for drug law reform. We also championed policy change in aged care services and funding, COVID-19 supports for early learning services, continued support for young people in out-of-home-care to age 21, early intervention mental health programs for primary school children, and older people’s homelessness.  

Our 5 key advocacy issues in FY21:

1. Extended care

As part of our Future Horizons social investment strategy, Uniting NSW.ACT has funded $7.9 million over 5 years to make a pilot program available for up to 60 young people, to improve their chances of success as they transition from foster care to independence and adulthood.


The Extended Care pilot gives young people the opportunity to continue to live with their existing Uniting carers or access other supported accommodation until the age of 21. State support in NSW generally ends at the age of 18, so this program offers an important extension of care, with the safety net of a secure and stable home, and wraparound assistance from youth development coaches for health and wellbeing, education and employment.


The results so far have been overwhelmingly positive, supporting the international and domestic evidence that guaranteeing care to 21, underpinned by mentoring, makes a real difference to young people in care.   


In June 2021, the Uniting Church Synod resolved to support advocacy for extending care, and to encourage Church communities to participate. We’ve been actively engaging with the NSW Government to ensure that young people in care receive the same supports and start in life as the rest of community, and the rest of the nation. By introducing MPs to the participants in our Extended Care program this year, they’ve seen and heard the positive impacts first-hand.

Parliamentary Secretary for Families, Disability and Emergency Services, Ms Melanie Gibbons MP, took some of our young people on a tour of Parliament in May.

2. Aged care reform

Uniting continued to take a leadership role in the aged care sector during FY21, in active support of reforms arising from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. We’re committed to ensuring that older Australians receive the right mix of care and support, at the right time, in the setting they choose. The Federal Government’s funding announcement in the FY22 Budget is heading in the right direction, with record additional funds of $17.7 billion pledged for aged care over the next 5 years – to make the system more accessible, improve the quality of aged care, grow a more skilled workforce, and help older Australians stay in their home for longer.


This year, Uniting committed to the Aged Care Voluntary Industry Code of Practice, with Executive Director Tracey Burton signing the Leadership Pledge on 27 January 2021. A transition plan was developed to indicate how we’re improving and enhancing our practice in line with the standards of the Code.


Our continued advocacy for hospital transfers of COVID-positive aged care residents, through media and engagement with MPs in areas where our residential aged care services are located, has ensured that COVID-positive residents receive appropriate medical care while the risks to other residents and employees are minimised.

3. Drug law reform

Our support for the Dubbo community’s campaign to establish a drug rehabilitation centre was instrumental in securing $7.5 million of funding in the FY21 NSW Budget, improving access to treatment for regional communities.


This year, we maintained our public campaign to encourage a Government response to the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’ recommendations from January 2000.  Uniting’s Advocacy team supported the voices of our Church congregations to be heard, facilitating 5 meetings with Church community members and their MPs to discuss the importance of a more compassionate approach to drug laws.

Then Treasurer, the Hon Dominic Perrottet MP, met with members of the Epping Uniting Church

Our discussion paper, Possession and use of drugs: options for changing the law, was launched at NSW Parliament House in March 2021, attracting a broad cross-section of Members of Parliament, Fair Treatment partners and community representatives.


Watch the launch here.


We support a more honest, open conversation about alcohol and other drugs. We believe our discussion paper is a starting point for a broader conversation about how changes to the law could work, and what they would look like in practice.”

– Tracey Burton, Uniting Executive Director

Executive Director, Tracey Burton, at the NSW Parliamentary launch of Uniting’s discussion paper on drug decriminalisation.

In May 2021, the Advocacy team also organised the 20th anniversary celebration of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, held at Uniting’s St Stephen’s Church in Sydney’s CBD. This well-attended event culminated in a walk to NSW Parliament House for a presentation of paper hearts to supportive MPs, symbolising heartfelt thanks from people who use the service, for providing a safer place for injecting drug users and access to support services and referrals.


We visited Tamworth in June 2021, holding a series of community meetings to listen to people’s treatment needs. Uniting has recruited and trained a team of Keyboard Warriors for Fair Treatment, to establish and encourage a constructive and positive voice in online commentary on drug law reform. This year, our Fair Treatment partnership grew to 68 organisations.

Presentation of paper hearts at NSW Parliament House, expressing heartfelt thanks to supportive MPs on the 20th anniversary of the Uniting Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross.

4. Early learning

Throughout FY21, we continued to support Uniting early learning services in the face of ongoing funding uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The widespread support of families and staff ensured that their concerns were heard by MPs. We also hosted MP visits wherever we could, to showcase our high quality of early learning care and education.

5. Climate change

Building on the successful Climate Pastoral Care Conference 2020, where 190 attendees discussed how to care for themselves and others while caring for creation, we held the NSW.ACT Synod Climate Action Conference in March 2021. The key focus areas for the 85 online and in-person attendees were: to more boldly articulate and act on our values; to be a place of reconciliation when people are divided on climate action; and to stand in solidarity with and elevate the voices of First Nations, Pasifika, rural and young people.


We also launched UCAN – the Uniting Climate Action Network, which has grown from 62 to 86 members who are actively engaged in a range of forums and training. Meanwhile, our Synod Emissions task group continued its focus on reducing emissions across the Synod, its agencies, boards and schools, and the Youth Climate Action task group continued to drive change through support of the School Strike for Climate movement.


Hundreds of Uniting Church members supported School Strike 4 Climate events throughout the year, by attending rallies across NSW in person, or online when COVID-19 restrictions applied. Many more showed support in other ways, by posting positive messages on social media or on church signs, and contacting their local MP to affirm their call for stronger policy action on climate. More than 60 congregations displayed banners with messages such as Killing the Planet is Against Our Religion and Act on Climate! Leave No-one Behind.

Social impact stories

Glowing report card for CP3

Dubbo needs a rehab

My Life at War podcast