Bendigo’s long-serving community welfare advocate David Pugh has announced he will be leaving his position as chief executive officer at St Luke’s to take the reins at Anglicare in the Northern Territory.
Mr Pugh resigned yesterday and will leave Bendigo for Darwin in May.
Mr Pugh has worked at St Luke’s for more than 23 years and has headed the organisation since 2006.
In this time he has overseen the co-ordination of 60 different programs and ushered in multi-million dollar projects like the recently opened Youth Central.
“It’s just an incredible place to work for,” Mr Pugh said to the Bendigo Advertiser last night.
“It has a really strong sense of purpose and values. It’s a special place, so it’s going to be a wrench to leave.”
Mr Pugh said he would miss the St Luke’s team but already had plans to bring some of them along for the ride.
“I’ll be trying to poach a few people from Bendigo. There’s so much talent in Bendigo and I want to tap into that,” he said.
“But there is a lot of talent in Aboriginal communities and I want to tap into that as well.”
Mr Pugh worked in the Northern Territory in the 1980s and said he had been considering moving back for the past year.
“It’s a great opportunity to apply what I have learnt in Bendigo and see if I can help make a difference for the people in the Northern Territory who I have a real sense of concern for.
The job, overseeing about 300 staff in a rapidly expanding organisation, will have it’s fair share of challenges.
“The challenges include huge geographical distances, providing services across a large cultural divide, helping Aboriginal people to take more control in the organisation and problems of staff turnover.
“But the most fundamental challenge is closing the gap for Aboriginal people and that’s always been a goal of mine.
“Everyone knows the stats: high rates of child abuse, crime, incarceration, infant mortality. The challenge is to try and make a difference.”
The news of Mr Pugh’s resignation has come as a shock to many Bendigo residents, including Bendigo MP Steve Gibbons.
“I am actually gobsmacked he is moving,” Mr Gibbons said last night.
“I have worked with David for a long time and he has been a superb advocate for welfare services in Bendigo and he will be sadly missed.
“I have no doubt St Luke’s good work will continue, but his replacement will have big shoes to fill.”
Mr Pugh said he was sad to leave Bendigo too.
“There is a fantastic network in Bendigo, a real sense this community is committed to children and young people, that we can tackle problems together,” he said.