Five key lessons
For anyone that knows me, it’s not surprising at all that I chose to channel my skills and energy into facilitation, coaching and mentoring.
I’ve always helped people. Like most teenage girls, I had a preoccupation with boys and pop songs. But for me this was coupled with volunteering – such as in the school canteen and working on the school council and newspaper
Thirty years later, I’m still passionate about group and individual empowerment, good decision-making and connecting talk to action.
Aware of the importance of continued learning as skills, desires and positions grow and change over the years, my top five key life lessons have guided and kept me focussed over the course of my career. Let me share them with you.
How I got here...
Finding and aligning values
My sisters and I grew up an environment that encouraged us to consider the world around us, not just within our own family, school and social groups.
My early ambition to become a teacher was replaced by the idea of being a lawyer. After high school I started a Bachelor of Laws degree at Monash University and got involved in clubs, societies, the student newspaper and every other possible thing imaginable.
After a busy seven years completing a law degree and other volunteer university responsibilities, I was officially admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
I worked as a lawyer for a couple of years before deciding that law didn’t allow me to work as proactively on empowerment as I wanted to.
So, I joined the union movement.
Working with good people
I began my 15-year union movement career as a training liaison officer then an industrial officer where I learnt about unions and industrial relations.
I found that working in the union movement was different to practising law. It was all about working collectively and not individually. It was proactive. It was about building the skills and confidence of our workplace leaders.
After a couple of years, in my mid-20s, I decided it was time to travel. A year later, I was preparing to return home.
The Australian Services Union (ASU) asked me to do a three-month fill-in role. I did the interview from Turkey. I faxed through a hand-written application. I thought I’d only be there for three months and pay off my holiday debt. I left the ASU 12 years later. My final role was Assistant Secretary, which is like being the deputy CEO.
My time with the ASU was all about working with good people – my fellow ASU co-workers and the union members.
As a union organiser, your role is to identify good workplace leaders – to tap them on the shoulder, train, mentor and support them in their role. I delivered a lot of training. I also did train-the-trainer while I was at the ASU.
What I’ve aimed to do all my life is empower people.
Being open to opportunities
These days, 15 years is a long time to work in any field. I began to notice interesting work underway in other sectors and organisations that I felt were also aligned to my values.
It was time to stretch myself, to learn. It was around the time of An Inconvenient Truth and I wanted to make a contribution in the sustainability space. I applied for a role at Sustainability Victoria, but didn’t get it, which, in the end, was a blessing. It wasn’t the right role for me.
Then I was told that they had something else in mind for me. So I had a cuppa with the Deputy CEO and was offered a facilitator role. It was perfect for me. Working across the organisation on challenging projects. It was great. I worked for Sustainability Victoria for three years and learned an enormous amount and met a fabulous group of colleagues in both the organisation and the sector.
When looking for opportunities, it’s important to have an idea of the direction you want to go in, not necessarily the actual destination.
While with Sustainability Victoria, I undertook the Leadership Victoria’s Williamson Community Leadership Program in 2010.It was yet another turning point in my career.
What I got out of it were connections. A great course that fostered great connections. And it was one of the Leadership Victoria course alumni who told me about my next role, the Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project CEO role.
It was a challenging and rewarding role working with a small team and limited resources to assist asylum seekers living in the community and in abject poverty.
After 18 months we merged with another organisation because we desperately needed to build capacity at the back-end. I was the CEO of the smaller agency. The CEO of the larger agency stayed on to manage the merged organisation.
I learnt an enormous amount.
It was crazy busy with daily crises – no matter how busy and urgent things are, I would always keep some time for the proactive or you’ll just spin your wheels forever.
I initially searched for another leadership role while at the same time offering facilitation, coaching and mentorship services on a freelance basis. My network of connections provided a consistent flow of work.
A few months on I decided to focus on my own practice as I was having a ball. By the end of 2013, I started building.
If you’d asked me during those years if I’d go off and start my own practice, I would’ve said ‘no’, that I like to be part of a team and an organisation. At the moment I’m enjoying the diversity of my work. And I get to do things like Take on Board: KickStarter, Take on Board: Accelerator and work with some of this country’s greatest women and organisations.
And I’m still doing different things…
I like to be busy and try new things. Over the years I’ve completed:
I’m a member of:
I’m currently a member of The Royal Women’s Hospital and Accident Compensation Conciliation Service boards, as well a member of Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s General Assembly. I am a former member of The Centre for Sustainability Leadership, YWCA Housing and YWCA Victoria boards.
Outside of work I’m a keen bushwalker – although I don’t get to hike as regularly as I’d like. I’ve hiked Kokoda, Macchu Piccu, Mount Kinabalu, the Overland and has completed Oxfam Trailwalker. I have even competed at a national level in modern jive.
Over the years I’ve volunteered for everything – from Oxfam Trailwalker, to Moreland Theatre Company’s front-of-house, to the RRR Radiothon, to Bicycle Victoria’s Around the Bay.
My role as an independent facilitator coach and mentor is giving me the greatest opportunity to do one of the things I love most – to meet new people and learn new things.
I’ve delivered board evaluations, engagement strategies, developed complex programs and workshops and conducted training in business planning, governance, risk management, occupational health and safety, communication skills, negotiation skills and membership engagement.
It’s fun and challenging – no two days are the same.
I didn’t have this path in mind when I was at school, or practicing law, or at the ASU, but looking back, it does feel like a natural progression.