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Members of the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service (TAIHS) met last night and elected a new Board of Directors.

In an overwhelming show of support for the previous Board, a motion of no confidence was defeated and four of the six previous Directors were re-elected.

Two new Directors were elected from the floor.

The new Board is Dorothy Smith  (returned), Michael Illin  (returned), Randal Ross (returned), Simeon Duffy  (newly elected), Topsy Mola (returned), and Tyson Cassady (newly elected).

Immediately following the AGM, the new Board met and re-elected Randal Ross to continue as Chairperson. The new Board confirmed John Bearne (previous Townsville Hospital and Health Service Board Chair) as a Specialist Independent Director.

Chair Randal Ross said it was heartening to see so many TAIHS members turn out to support the organisation and send a strong message that TAIHS is doing well and working effectively for the local community.

Mr Ross said now it was time to get on with the vital health and wellbeing work TAIHS does in the regional community. “We have a very exciting future in front of us.”

“TAIHS is a community owned and operated organisation which does its best to provide health care for our community. To continue being effective at saving lives and raising living standards for our community the organisation has to be above politics, family and all the petty issues which can distract community organisations”.

“The TAIHS Board has already committed $1.8M of our surplus funds to support the Federal Governments Grant to the Primary Health Care programme. This is core business and will assist our doctors and medical support staff to cope with the increased demand for our services along with increasing costs.”

“The Board is pleased to announce we have moved to the second round for a $15M grant for a new Holistic Health Hub at the Garbutt Centre. This is an exciting development which will complement the existing Gordon St Health Clinic.”

In his welcome to Members, Mr Ross praised TAIHS staff, saying he was proud of TAIHS’ 170 staff who have worked professionally in difficult circumstances.

“Since COVID, all organisations have trouble finding and keeping staff and TAIHS is no different, but we must be doing something right because our staff stay with us an average of almost 5 years – a lot more than many organisations. I have no hesitation in backing the quality of this organisation, its staff and management against all comers – TAIHS is doing its job well and we know things will continue to improve.”


Dear Members,

A petition was signed by about 100 Members asking relevant questions of the organisation. This is the response from the Board answering the questions to help clear the air for this AGM.

TAIHS is a community owned and operated organisation which does its best to provide health care for our community. To continue being effective at saving lives and raising living standards for our community the organisation has to be above politics, family and community conflicts.

You might not know that in the past year your TAIHS has provided more than 25,000 GP visits, 2,782 locals had “715 health checks”, 4,353 hours of support at the Youth shelter given to 460 young people, 2,320 students competed the Deadly Choices program. TAIHS also employs more than 170 local staff, with 62% being First Nations people and average length of employment is almost 5 years. More detail on TAIHS achievements is in the annual report.

To answer the questions from the petition simply:

  • The Board has tried five times to hold last year’s AGM but without enough Members present it couldn’t go ahead – there is nothing we can do to change this until people turned up
  • The AGM is where the Board reports most things (like those asked in the petition) to Members and without an AGM we have not been able to report as we would like. We will change this in the future to find better ways to get more information to Members
  • If we can hold an AGM tonight, the current Directors will all stand down as normal, and per the Rule Book open elections will take place for a refreshed Board for the year ahead
  • Apart from the issue of not having an AGM so far, ORIC, the Department, our independent external auditors and the RACGP have no concerns with the way TAIHS is being run
  • CEOs are hired to implement the strategy set by the Board. In the past few years one CEO was not offered a permanent position at the end of his probation period, and a second decided to work elsewhere. Legally the Board can’t comment further
  • Our previous Board Chair stepped down for family business and a new Chair was appointed by the Board as per the Rule Book until this election can be held. A second Director quite properly stepped down after ORIC identified a ‘family relative conflict of interest’
  • The Rule Book allows the Board to appoint specialist external Directors who are not Members. The Board asked former Hospital Board Chair John Bearne to join. He has been a volunteer on the TAIHS Finance, Audit and Risk Committee for more than a decade
  • TAIHS spent about double the average amount on legal expenses last year because the organisation needed more advice than usual with a new building, two CEO payouts, questions about the Director conflict, and the usual questions raised operationally
  • In the Rule Book, the Board is granted standard CPI increases on Director stipends annually, the last one in July 2022 (backdated to July 2021). The current Board has not accepted a pay rise in the 2022/23 or 2023/24 financial years.

More information about these answers is available if you want it, and was sent direct to all those who signed the petition.

Randal Ross