North Coast

Linda Hayes

Key community support organisation sets up lived experience advisory panel

Social Futures, a not-for-profit organisation delivering community supports as diverse as disability inclusion to homelessness programs, is setting up a ‘lived experience’ advisory panel of people who have accessed support services.

Chief Customer Officer Linda Hayes said Social Futures was one of the biggest community support organisations in regional New South Wales and determined to keep improving.

“That’s why we’re setting up our first Lived Experience Advisory Panel,” Ms Hayes said. “We aren’t going to rest on our merits, we strive for constant improvement.”

People aged 18 years and over who have accessed services in areas including disability, community aged care, domestic family violence, mental health, homelessness, and children and family support are sought to join the Social Futures Lived Experience Advisory Panel.

“If you have been in a Social Futures program or accessed support services from another community organisation or government agency, then you can volunteer for our Lived Experience Advisory Panel,” Ms Hayes said.

Social Futures was set up by the Australian government as a regional development council in the mid-1970s to support regional people to live well.

Linda Hayes

“We began operating in 1976 when Malcom Fraser was Prime Minister, The Sullivans was a TV hit, and Sherbert was at the top of the pops with Howzat,” Ms Hayes said.

“Over the past 48 years we have grown and now deliver disability support, employment services, community mental health care, and supports for those impacted by extreme weather events.

“We have around 30 varied programs funded by state and federal government and support some 27,000 people. We have offices as far south as Gosford, west to Broken Hill, and into Queensland, with a base on the Gold Coast.

“We want people who have experienced community services in the past to guide our programs into the future. We want you to work with us to shape service design and delivery. We believe in a customer first approach and the value of a customer service guarantee. The panel will be a safe and welcoming place to share experiences, and we will listen and act.

“We want to hear from people from diverse backgrounds – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people who identify as part of the LGBTIQSB+ community, young people (18 years and older), and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.”

Ms Hayes said there was a need for ‘sitting members’ to attend quarterly meetings (either in person or online) every three months, as well as general members, who can complete surveys and give feedback in other ways.

Expressions of Interest for the Social Futures Lived Experience Advisory Panel are open now until Thursday, 29 February 2024. To apply go to or call 1800 719 625 for more information.