South West Aboriginal Medical Service

The South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) began in 1997 as a Noongar community-controlled health organisation, founded on the principles of self determination, empowerment and freedom of choice. Starting with three employees, the organisation has grown to over 70 staff across a vast range of clinical and non-clinical positions.

Lesley Nelson joined SWAMS in 2015 as Chief Executive Officer. Since then, she has been determined to set a sustainable direction for the organisation as the authority for Aboriginal health, which includes securing a facility the Noongar community can call their own.

“For us, AMD are the only organisation within the region that have all the qualifications necessary to conduct audits to the standards we require. They’ve been extremely competitive in any tender process we’ve requested with other auditors. However, it’s their ongoing communication and behaviours that really stands out to me.

AMD really go the extra mile for their clients. They have communication and relationship skills that enable them to speak with any level of our organisation – from myself and the Board, to our finance and corporate staff. People can get a little nervous when it comes to finance but AMD really try to break information down so it’s easy to understand.

Above all, AMD has shown tremendous respect for the cultural elements that are so important to SWAMS as an indigenous organisation. It’s appreciated by everyone in the community. We feel very privileged and honoured to have our relationship with AMD.”
Lesley Nelson, CEO – SWAMS

AMD really goes the extra mile for their clients

SWAMS is one of 145 community controlled organisations across Australia. It’s an organisation that is currently in a growth and development stage, with Lesley admitting they have some strong ideas about the strategic direction they are heading.

“We recently celebrated our 20th anniversary, which gave us an opportunity to reflect, acknowledge and celebrate everything we have achieved in that time, and also the people who have helped us in that journey,” Lesley says.

“However, during that time, SWAMS has never had a place to call home. We’ve been fortunate enough to lease some great spaces, but now it’s clear for us to really become an authority for Aboriginal health we need to purchase our own property.

“A place that we’re calling a one-stop hub – a space where the Noongar people and community can call home, where we can showcase the incredible work we’re doing in the community for our people, and what we can do for the wider region.”

As a non-for-profit, SWAMS relies on public and private funding. This can come from all levels of Government (local, state and federal) as well as corporate relationships. It’s no secret that the non-for-profit sector is a competitive market where relationships and compliance play pivotal roles in securing the future of an organisation.

Lesley admits this is where AMD’s services have been crucial to the continued success of SWAMS.

“AMD have been of great benefit to our operations, particularly with regards to corporate advisory services, audit services and general financial advice,” Lesley says.

“As a non-for-profit and Aboriginal organisation, we needed to embark on relationships where we could build strong, robust relationships that could add and exchange value both ways.

“Compliance is obviously an integral component of what we do as a non-for-profit to minimise any risk. Funding, particularly the model that SWAMS operates in where it’s multi-levelled, it’s very complex to understand. Therefore having someone like AMD who understands the process and ensures everything is in working order is a huge benefit.

“But ensuring we also had the skills that were required within our corporate service and finance practices also helps to demonstrate our professionalism. We looked to AMD to help take us on that journey.

“We have a respectful and trusting relationship with the team, and they’ve helped us remain sustainable and ensure we have the necessary tools to maintain daily operations. We’re very grateful for the relationship we have with AMD.”

AMD has assisted SWAMS with audit services and general business advice over the years, building a strong rapport with Lesley and her team in the process.