Barrack Obama. Al Gore. Fiona Wood (Australian plastic surgeon who invented spray on skin). And Nicole Kidman. These are the four people YMCA Victoria CEO (Acting) Carolyn Morris would invite to dinner.
“Obama is one of the most amazing politicians ever alive, Al has brought light to the unsaid truths about the environment. Fiona, I want to know what inspired her to do that research. And Nicole, well, a bit of gossip would be fun,” Carolyn said laughing.
Carolyn is quickly becoming known as an ambitious YMCA leader with a strong strategic vision and an uncanny talent of rattling off statistics mid conversation.
She started working at the YMCA in 2018 as the Chief Operating Officer and in the last few months has stepped into the Acting CEO role during a period of rapid change for the organisation and movement.
Her portfolio includes leading the performance turnaround from a potential loss back into profitability (especially in Recreation) and overseeing three new early learning centres and redevelopment of the Phillip Island Camp (totaling more than $14 million).
Ask Carolyn what she wants for the Y and she will give you a long list, all with clear measures and outcomes, for example:
“We want the Y to be sustainable. The goal leaders want to put to the board is that 5% of our revenue is to be used as profit for purpose and that number to be growing by 10% every year from our core sectors.”
“We also currently have three youth spaces. We want to put a youth space in every town which has a youth unemployment rate of over 20%.”
“And we want 60% of our transactions in recreation to be digital so we have more time to spend with our customers.”
Carolyn has a savvy business mind, coming from a strong commercial background with 15 years leading corporate organisations across childcare, aged care and retail banking with multi-billion dollar turnovers as well as being a Chief Financial Officer for five years in the US and Australia.
But in her heart is a strong passion for social issues, having grown up in an aged care home from 11 to 21 years old has led her to dedicate her time to the not-for-profit sector. Currently she is a volunteer director for Family Planning Victoria, mentors young people through RMIT social ventures and previously was a treasurer and board member for Fitted for Work.
“Being a volunteer at Fitted for Work and growing up in an aged care home opened my eyes to the issues of social isolation and lack of confidence that people face. It showed me that the life I have had is really quite blessed,” she said.
Carolyn speaks passionately about being a former treasurer for Fitted for Work, a not-for-profit for long-term unemployed women that provides support through practice interviews as well as outfits for interviews.
“Many of these women had been trying and looking for a job, but they didn’t have any outfit to wear for a job, or the confidence. For many women it is the first time someone had treated them nicely.”
Carolyn is proud that within 6 months, 75% of the women who went through Fitted for Work had found and kept a job, which is helping take children out of poverty.
With this experience, Carolyn believes the YMCA can play more of a role to help youth and assist in difficult transitional periods, like from primary to secondary school or high school to university, or school to work or into leadership roles. These transitional changes can be tough and can negatively affect a young person’s wellbeing or mental health.
Through working for the Y she wants to give back and make life better for young people, especially as she has two young daughters Veronica and Rosemarie, “I want to know that their future is really bright.”
When Carolyn is not busy working or volunteering, or being a mum or wife, she’ll read a book – usually one of her daughter’s (although currently it’s business literature or board papers) do yoga at Ashburton Leisure Centre, or go sailing (she loves racing and recently went on the weekend).
And what advice would Carolyn give young people just starting out?
Ask for help and make goals.
“The worst thing people can do is say no. But most people enjoy being asked for help. If you ask five people for help, its likely four people will say yes,” she said
Carolyn also recommends making goals.
“Set goals, make sure those goals cover all aspects of your life. That might be your mental and physical wellbeing, your financial wellbeing, your work, or social or community side of things and what you want to achieve and do a 10 year, 5 year, 1 year goal.
“You’ll be amazed with what you achieve if you do that.”
Photo caption (L-R) - Carolyn Morris, CEO (Acting) Y Victoria; Alexandra Ash, General Manager of Kingswim; Hannah MacDougall, Paralympian at the YMCA Victoria International Women’s Day Event.