The following article is by Ralph Penning, NZARC Advisory Trustee.

Anybody who was tuned in to National Radio Nine to Noon on Thursday, 25 July and again later the following day on Radio Live would have been impressed with the two-way interview that featured Diane Vivian and Hon Paula Bennett. The subject was the mandatory return to work of beneficiaries with parental responsibilities. Diane, speaking on behalf of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust NZ argued successfully that a special case existed for carers in this category for exemption on a case by case basis. This may significantly have been the first time where a Minister of the Crown made a significant concession on public radio in the face of valid arguments, competently presented, for what amounted to a change in government policy.

Diane Vivian, as founder and spokesperson for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust New Zealand requires little introduction, as she appears fairly regularly on Radio and Television. Her reasoned and coherent presentation style unaided by PR coaching and spin doctors can serve as an example to other cause related organisations. She exemplifies the development of GRG as a potent force in voluntary social services that can serve as a model for other similar entities. Being directly affected in their retirement from a successful business, Diane and her husband Erin reacted spontaneously to their daughter’s relationship break-down in taking care of their dependent grandchildren. This brought them into contact with other similarly affected grandparents and aware of the high incidence of neglect, violence, substance abuse, mental illness and in some cases murder and suicide of their adult children resulting in increasing numbers of vulnerable children in the face of inadequacies in state sector intervention. This laid the foundation for the establishment of the GRG Charitable Trust in 2001 with a current membership approaching 6,000 and growing.  Drawing on their experience, Diane adopted a business model for the Trust. This involved incorporation, capable governance and a sequential development programme that placed government relations and image building ahead of the rest to lay the foundation for successful marketing and fundraising.  With emphasis on branding, member services and advocacy, backroom functions were contracted out to an association management company to enable the early appointment of field officers to stay in touch with the increasing constituency. As the organisation developed it enabled the board to engage a chief executive officer with primary responsibility for stakeholder relations, corporate sponsorships and fundraising…  This enabled Diane, who chairs the Board of Trustees but prefers to call herself Member Support Manager in preference to a more grandiose title, to concentrate her efforts on external relations and public affairs to maintain the high profile that attracts media attention. This was rewarded with the 2013 Mitre 10 Community of the Year Award.  This resulted in further publicity, sponsorship and membership growth. Diane Vivian as founder and first sponsor deserves most of the credit for laying the foundation for a soundly based organisation that plays a decisive and meaningful role in the social services fabric of New Zealand. It fully lives up to its original vision “To become and be recognised as the primary kinship care agency in Aotearoa/New Zealand.” Well done, Diane.

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