How did you get involved with the YMCA in Australia?
This is a long story, I’ve done the full suite. I’ve been a program participant (in Bendigo growing up) – school holiday program, indoor soccer, and then youth parliament. I was a volunteer leader, I worked for the Vic Council, then I worked for Bob Romanes in National office in the 1990s. Fast forward, I went on to the YMCA Victoria Board in 2010, and then the National board more recently. So I’ve been a program participant, I’ve been a volunteer leader, an employee and I’ve been an association and national Director.
For people that are volunteers, I think it provides a good perspective. You don’t have to chose between having an interesting career and being at the Y – you can have an interesting career at the Y, or you can have an interesting career outside the Y and still contribute to the movement.
Some career highlights
My career has been a rich tapestry by anyone’s standards, and has included working in different sectors; different places; in very interesting roles. By my early 40s I had worked in Copenhagen, Canberra and Melbourne in public, private, non-profit sectors, academia, in operating and consulting roles. I think the things I’ve reflected on that are highlights are operating in circumstances of complexity while being able to have a significant impact on people’s lives.
As Chief Executive of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority we had responsibility for the rebuild of 30 plus communities after the Black Saturday bushfires. As Chief of staff to the Federal Minister of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, we implemented new policy frameworks in Industrial Relations, Education, Early Childhood (Following the collapse of ABC Learning) and Higher Education.
As Chief of staff to the PM, we did a lot of social reforms, commenced the Institutional Abuse Royal Commission and we recast our engagement with key international partners, improving our engagement with Asia. In these large reforms you just play a small part, but you’re in a room that’s making history.
What has influenced you most in your life?
Growing up in regional Victoria and being part of a strong community that had a clear sense of being part of something, I had the foundation for my values– opportunity, fairness, community and respect. With that comes the important role, positive role that Government and civil society plays in securing a society that reflects those values.
There’s a great quote that Robert Kennedy described fifty years ago - it’s fighting “the poverty of satisfaction – the need for purpose and dignity”. As a collective we have a role in securing such a society.
What inspires you the most?
Firstly, people who stare down adversity, difficulty, bullies and despots, and secondly, people who live their values and have a go.
“How” can an organisation be the best it can be?
Being clear in its purpose and having a collective commitment to it.
What are your thoughts on effective leadership?
Accountability and transparency in what you do; having a continual conversation with those who make up your organisation; and never being above feedback or rolling up your sleeves.
What are your thoughts around organisational change?
Frankly, I’d rather be doing work that relates directly to the organisation’s purpose. But as a leader you have an obligation to your shareholders, to your taxpayers, and to your members to retain and improve the value and capacity of the organisation. It’s neglect if you let it diminish.
What are your thoughts around collaboration?
Through my many professional roles, I have always been a big fan of ad-hoc teams that come together for a narrow project based purpose and clear outcome. BAU structures and processes typically aren’t able to tackle big problems and pull off unique projects. I do like the agile project methodology/ approach of developing a minimal viable product quickly, and being prepared to fail just as quickly.
What keeps you going at the Y?
I think it’s the ambition for young people and that strong connection to community. It’s the purpose and the glue.