A simple favour leads to a lifelong contribution

Alastair McDonald is a life member and patron of OC Connections (OCC). Every year he makes a generous donation to OCC in the form of a bursary to support the training of senior management.  

Alastair has been involved with OC Connections since the 1970s when he was doing a Master of Business Administration at The University of Melbourne. The Head of the Business School at the time was a man called John King who had a child that attended The Mentally Retarded Welfare Association (as it was formerly known) and was also the chair of the board.

In 1976 John asked Alastair to assist him and the board to work on a plan to expand the Oakleigh Centre from a family-run self-help group to an organisation with a robust business plan and a drive towards taking advantage of government funding.

Alastair recalls that at the time there weren’t many opportunities for children with disabilities after they finished school, so their focus was to develop programs for young people.

Programs evolved into what is now known as the OC Connections’ Day Support program, with Community Hubs throughout South East Melbourne and attended regularly by more than 150 adults with intellectual disability. Other programs initiated were a community housing program, recreation and sporting activities and a high demand hostel facility.

He also saw the establishment of Oakleigh Centre Industries, which evolved into what is now known as OC Connections Enterprises, a multi-purpose facility in Oakleigh South that provides commercial services to over 50 businesses across Australia, with over 115 staff creating over 118,000 hours of meaningful employment for people with a disability.   

Alastair’s long involvement with OCC includes his time as chair of the board between 1990 and 1993 and then again from 2005 to 2010.

Alastair said a highlight of his involvement with OCC was “being part of an evolving organisation and see it develop and grow as the needs of people with disability changed.” He said he didn’t have lots of experience with the disability sector, but he knew how to organise things and plan for the future.

Even though he retired from his OCC commitments 10 years ago, Alastair is still passionate about his involvement with the organisation. He supports OCC by way of an annual donation as a bursary, to ensure that senior staff receive regular professional training. 

“I’ve always been passionate about ensuring that the organisation provide senior staff with training in management skills in important areas such as strategy, policy and risk management.

I saw training as an important need as the organisation developed. The challenge was to ensure that OC Connections was well managed and an important aspect of that was to put in place appropriate training programs for managers.”

In 2021/22, the bursary will go towards audit and mental health first aid training for managers. Support such as Alastair’s is an important component to the development of OC Connections.

As a not-for-profit organisation, we rely on the goodwill of supporters like Alastair to assist us in training our staff, providing supports for participants not funded by NDIS, and undertaking projects such as our Community Living homes.

If you would like to make a contribution to OC Connections, you can do so on our website here.

Thank you, Alastair, for your continued support and contribution.