16th Reintegration Puzzle Conference

Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre
1-3 March 2023

Changing Seasons,
Changing Lives

Complexities Require Collaboration: Accordwest’s Approach

Since its establishment as a social housing provider in 1983, Accordwest has quickly understood the complexities involved in providing community supports. Recognising that people leaving incarceration make up a large cohort of the homeless population, Accordwest commenced its Reintegration services in 2006.

Over recent years, and with the ever-tightening funding available to community service providers, Accordwest has established significant collaborations with local community resources to best support people leaving incarceration. Through these collaborations, we have seen the substantial overlap in need for the prison population and services including reintegration support, housing support, financial assistance, supports to reconnect and re-engage family relationships, and mental health and disability supports.

This presentation will look at the power of genuine collaboration between local service providers and stakeholders, particularly when accounting for the complexities of the prisoner cohort.


Merinda Robertson
Release Support Manager
, Accordwest

“I believe in a better world that will be shaped and built by dreamers. I’m not someone who is scared of change.”

In a world where extending an olive branch to those caught up in the prison system sits uncomfortably in the minds of many, it takes an amazing optimist like Merinda to remind us all that behind the poor choices is a human being. That what someone is showing you is not the whole person. That your actions are what you do, not who you are. And that a person can be viewed as bad and good – and it’s possible to hold both positions at the same time. As Manager of Reintegration and Rehabilitation Services in the South West, Merinda guides a team of support workers and case workers to make sure those who have experienced incarceration are guided respectfully along their journey into the community, whatever that looks like for them. Merinda is first to admit it’s an extremely tough job at the best of times. Yet it’s possible to see past the negatives when you allow yourself to believe in a better world. From an early age growing up in the Netherlands, Merinda was encouraged by her family to involve herself in deep conversations, to listen to other people’s views and absorb them into her own. These lessons guide her professionally today, where she encourages her team to withhold judgement and adopt ‘multi-perspective thinking’ to extract the positive, wherever it may hide. Challenge the behaviour, believe in the person.

In Accordwest, Merinda has found an organisation full of amazing, forward-thinking, passionate, problem-solving go-getters that feed her belief in the power of people. She embraces diversity, viewing it as a way of expanding the mindset for personal and professional growth. There is a contagious energy in exchanging ideas and welcoming a challenge that you see and feel in the positive and collaborative atmosphere her team creates for one another every day. Merinda goes to great lengths to make sure each individual feels respected, valued and supported professionally to reach their true potential. She understands that when you enjoy what you do, you feel comfortable coming together as a team and working through any points of disagreement. In Merinda’s world, barriers are a part of the journey, not a distraction. A world where you feel inspired to accept flaws and celebrate strengths. A world we should all aspire to live in.

Simone Atkins
Executive Manager, Programs
, Accordwest

“To hear those stories when something has been achieved together as a group, it’s a real adrenaline rush. It makes me feel really proud to be a part of something bigger than me or Accordwest as a whole.”

Through our journey in life, we all leave behind footprints – some deeper than others. As Executive Manager of Programs, Simone treads an inspiring, life-changing path that lifts the ability of the teams she supports to help people in the community live a life they truly want. Her story is one of passion meets high performance. With an unconventional background in quality management and human resources, Simone brings a unique perspective that values collaboration, creativity and flexibility over rigid service delivery. A natural problem solver who hunts out efficiencies, Simone is constantly finding unique ways to improve systems and processes. Just when you think you have her pinned down, she’ll surprise you. For Simone, better outcomes aren’t achieved alone, but as a collective. Her can-do attitude is contagious, inspiring leftfield thinking as she grants her teams the freedom to imagine alternative ways to deliver better solutions.

At the heart of it all, Simone knows this is about one thing – people. Their stories matter. As a people person, making a positive real-world impact stokes Simone’s fire. You’ll find her fingerprints not just in the communities she lives in, but in the positive culture instilled within the walls at work that fosters peer empowerment, professional development, confidence, and communication, so that all the individual elements work as one. Most people see a single case worker for every individual. Simone sees the enormous, passionate team rallying behind them to connect them to life-changing services. It’s not about being the solution, rather wanting to share the journey and lifting each other. It’s bigger than her, bigger than Accordwest – a humbling realisation that keeps Simone grounded and inspired, day in, day out