Cootharinga has made deliberate efforts to create a workplace learning culture which strives toward achievement and celebrates and encourages success and innovation. A key strategy has been to provide learning opportunities for staff to improve work performance, individually, as a team and for the organisation as a whole. The central focus for enhancing staff’s personal capabilities is due to the continuous improvement of:

  • internal communication processes
  • and the incorporation of individual knowledge into new work structures, processes and norms.

Cootharinga has implemented processes which reflect that of a learning organisation. Staff work together to provide services to people living with a disability which are high quality and individualised. To do this effectively, staff are consistently encouraged to be involved in planning and to take an active role to improve workplace culture and performance. The following are some examples of the processes in place to foster learning as a core characteristic of the culture of Cootharinga.

Training Needs Analysis

A Training Needs Analysis was conducted to identify the resources required to meet Cootharinga’s Strategic Plan 2005 – 2010, Goal B – ‘Highly Skilled, Appropriately Trained, and Staff focused on the people we support'. Following completion of the Training Needs Analysis, a Training Plan was developed to provide a framework which prioritised the delivery of training and development, and addressed gaps in skill requirements. Staff at all levels were encouraged to participate and contribute to the development of the Training Plan.

Training Plan

With the Training Plan implemented, staff are encouraged to participate in further learning and development activities. Staff assist to develop learning resources and deliver training internally and externally as necessary. This practice is seen as an important step in sharing information and experiences between staff, volunteers, and outside agencies to improve services to people living with a disability.

Continued Growth and Development in the Workplace

Pre-requisite training is delivered on 19 different topics to new Support Workers over a three and a half day period. Volunteers are also encouraged to attend the training where necessary. These topics are viewed as the most important areas relative to the services of people we support. Discussions focus on the opportunities, support and encouragement available to build upon the skills and knowledge acquired during this training. Staff development and the learning of new skills is a primary focus of Service Managers striving for excellence.

Structures in place to Foster a Learning Culture

Cootharinga provides Induction and Orientation training to new Support Workers over a three-day period. Again, Volunteers are encouraged to attend where necessary. This provides staff with training specific to the organisation and an opportunity to learn, observe, and gain on-the-job experience during a buddy shift, prior to commencement of work. The people we support are also involved in the Orientation program where they host staff visits to specific services and discuss specific needs, requirements, and duties required of support staff.

Career Identification and Personal Development

Staff are encouraged to actively plan their future career paths through discussions with Managers during Staff Performance Appraisals. This has resulted in staff being supported to undertake tertiary studies, work in acting and higher duty positions, as well as being provided with the opportunity to take on additional duties. The multi-skilling of staff is seen as a benefit to Cootharinga and the individual. Staff are encouraged to become skilled, not only in their specific job roles but also that of others, to expand their knowledge base and contribute to lifelong learning.

Teamwork and Decision Making

Contribution to the improvement of individual and team capabilities are encouraged by staff attending regular monthly meetings to discuss quality assurance, service improvement, and teamwork. Through these meetings, staff actively work, as a team, to problem solve matters related to the people we support and the workplace. It is through their hard work and dedication that these matters are resolved. What staff gain and learn is shared with other Managers, staff, and external agencies. Improvements are made to workplace processes and procedures, where necessary. Service Managers actively encourage staff to be involved with and learn from this process. Team meetings play a central role for enhancing personal growth and the integration of teamwork and decision making in the organisation.

Going the extra mile

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Reprinted with permission from Going the extra mile: highlights of Queensland community awards, Department of Communities and Disability Services Queensland, 2007.


With a focus on team spirit and networking, there will be lots of  fun and exciting activites, great speakers, a yummy lunch, morning and afternoon tea, followed by our Christmas party. 

Cootharinga regards it's staff highly!  With over 200 staff attending from Cairns Mackay and other areas of North Queensland,   we reward outstanding performance and strongly encourage personal development through training and other activities.  The annual staff conference is the perfect avenue for the recognition of continual effort and achievement through out the year. 

The Christmas party,  where we welcome partners and volunteers,  is a wonderful way for us to say thank you for the years hard work!  We look forward to the following year where we as a team will continue to strive towards Cootharinga's vision of ..."Building a better world with people of all abilities"