Bringing your true self to work
12 February 2019
Bringing your true self to work Sandra Argese

For decades employees have been forced to hide their sexuality to fit into a prejudicial corporate landscape, Michael Kirby AC CMG discussed his own experience and explains how the environment is changing.

Bringing your true self to work

by Sandra Argese 12 February 2019

Imagine how it would feel to walk into work every day and have to lie about who you really are, to be forced to masquerade as someone you are not, to have your sense of your individuality shattered and be forced to mask your sexuality to fit into a corporate landscape of homophobia and prejudice. 

This scenario has been common in workplaces around the world for decades.

Employees have pretended to be straight when gay, hidden their bisexuality or pretended they were not transgender in order to fit in.

This was something that Michael Kirby AC CMG had to deal with for a number of years, and he certainly isn’t the only one.

A former Justice of the High Court of Australia and Australia’s longest serving judge, Mr Kirby has served as a member of the World Health Organisation’s Global Commission on AIDS, as UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, and as High Commissioner for the Human Rights’ Judicial Reference Group and UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights.

Mr Kirby, champion and campaigner for human rights for decades, said that it was traditionally preferred for people to pretend they were heterosexual at work.

“The basic problem about gay people living in society has been that everyone accepts you as long you pretended you were straight,” he told Leader.

“I did that for years. I pretended at work that I was straight. That was what was expected of me. Everybody gossiped about me, and many people would have known about me, but they were very happy that I was pretending I was straight.

In the past, Mr Kirby said, employees did not feel it was wrong that homosexual individuals felt they had to masquerade as heterosexuals at work.

He said it was an expectation homosexuals were forced to oblige with and stemmed from their co-workers’ homophobic tendencies and discomfort.

“Unfortunately, this is a very irrational situation to adopt and it’s also bad for the mental health and physical health of gay people. They should not be subjected to it. Well, those days are over.”

Following the legalisation of same-sex marriage in December last year, as well as the landmark decision by the Northern Territory State Government to join other states and territories in legalising same-sex adoption in March, the recent 2018 Australian Workplace Equity Index (AWEI) Employee Survey found Australian workplaces were demanding, and subsequently enacting, change in the form of inclusive initiatives.

According to the findings, which surveyed over 23,000 employees from 89 organisations, 3709 respondents (16 per cent) identified as being LGBTI and 86 per cent of LGBTI employees who worked at places with active inclusion initiatives felt comfortable being open and honest about their sexuality.

Over 88 per cent of non-LGBTI respondents believed that LGBTI employees can comfortably be themselves at their workplace, compared to only 80 per cent of LGBTI respondents. However, LGBTI employees working at organisations that had active inclusion initiatives felt much more comfortable, with 86 per cent saying they were comfortable being themselves at work.

The survey also revealed that while 91 per cent of LGBTI respondents thought inclusion was necessary, only 73 per cent of non-LGBTI employees felt the same way, indicating there is still much to be done in supporting diversity at work.

Sixty-two per cent of LGBTI respondents said they felt being more open about their sexuality or gender identity at work had a positive impact on their productivity, a finding Mr Kirby said was accurate.

“An employer gets 100 per cent of the employee’s time and devotion to work [if they aren’t pretending], but if the employee has to pretend to be somebody else, they will not give 100 per cent,” Mr Kirby said.

“When people are comfortable, relaxed and open about their personalities and their lives, they fit in better, and that’s not only positive for them but also good for the organisation.”

The survey also asked LGBTI respondents what influenced them to be more open about their identities at work. The most commonly cited answer (70.8 per cent) was a desire to ‘be authentic’. Almost half (47.9 per cent) said they wanted to put less energy into censoring themselves while 44.8 per cent said they wanted to be a role model for others. Other reasons cited by respondents included a desire for greater freedom to talk about life, partners and the community (42.7 per cent).

Placing a spotlight on leadership, over 95 per cent of senior leaders were confident their managers would address bullying or harassment of LGBTI employees but only 83 per cent of LGBTI employees concurred, highlighting the divide between the perception of senior leadership and actual experience in the workplace.

Mr Kirby said those in leadership positions had a duty to discover what was beneficial for the corporation and should make it their responsibility to weave themes of acceptance into a company’s DNA.

This sentiment was echoed in the survey, with over 83 per cent of LGBTI respondents saying that they felt managers should be trained in inclusion.

Shareholders were served best, Mr Kirby said, when a company was able to achieve good profits and succeed in meeting corporate goals.

“That’s why this is becoming a major factor in good employee relations,” he said.

“You do find there’s less of this pretence than existed in the olden days. This is in part because of social networks and the fact that people are much more revealing of their lives nowadays.

“If you’re pretending to be something other than you are, that is simply catering for a prejudice.”


Sandra Argese is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Riding the Digital Wave
06 February 2019
Riding the Digital Wave Boyd Hauff

Professional Member Profile of Boyd Hauff, Digital Account Manager at Dapper Apps.

Riding the Digital Wave

by Boyd Hauff 06 February 2019

Dapper Apps Digital Account Manager Boyd Hauff’s assessment of the world of business today is frank.

“All companies are technology companies first, and whatever they are doing second,” he told Leader.

“You look at Spotify, it’s a technology company that happens to do music.

“Amazon is another good one – technology comes first, retail second.

“If you’re not a technology company now or you’re not considering it, you’re already behind.”

This view has undoubtedly driven Mr Hauff’s passion for his work in mobile app development.

A finalist in the Future Leader of the Year category at the Australian Marketing Institute’s 2017 Awards for Marketing Excellence, Mr Hauff said his role at Dapper Apps was somewhat unconventional when it came to the idea of leadership.

“I have to lead projects with zero authority,” he said. “I have no authority over the production team, I have no authority over management and I have no authority over the client.

“But I’m responsible for the success of the project.”

This being the case, Mr Hauff has made good use of some common wisdom in his role.

“I think one of the key things is leading by example is a no-brainer,” he said. “If I’m working with someone or I’m looking at an organisation, the words have to match the action and decision making.

“I try to take that on internally, but also when I’m working with other people, that’s the key thing.”

This philosophy is perhaps what drove Mr Hauff to take on a lead organising role in support of London-based product management company ProductTank.

The brand behind a network of product management meetups between industry professionals in more than 155 cities around the world, ProductTank has provided a rare opportunity in Perth, according to Mr Hauff.

“I went to their first or second event, one of the really early ones, and I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a space for product management, and there’s not really another space in Perth for that.”

Perth events to date have given product managers the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences around product design, development and management, business modelling, metrics and user experience.

“We’ve done a callout to attendees and asked what events they are looking for and what locations and times are better,” Mr Hauff said.

“We’re just going to continue hosting events, discuss different topics and grow it from there.”

Growth seems to be the key word when it comes to the technology space, both globally and locally, where Mr Hauff said businesses were realising the importance of adding a digital string to their bows.

Mobile apps seem to be at the forefront of this change, providing businesses with a useful and easily accessible means of delivering their services in the new age.

Mr Hauff said this was where his passion lay.

“One of the key things is problem solving and having something materialise,” he said. “In the wonderful world of app development, a business will come to you with a problem that can be solved through technology. Being able to solve that problem and see the solution through to fruition – resolving it on a commercial level – that’s satisfying.”

Looking to the future, Mr Hauff has started work on a project aimed at furthering skills in the wider industry.

“It’s an accelerator focused on hands-on skills for business students,” he said. “That means you are actually using the tools you use out in the industry; so that’s customer relationship management, email tools, content management, system tools – all those things that graduates are likely going to do.”


Boyd Hauff

Boyd Hauff is a Digital Account Manager at Dapper Apps and an AIM WA Professional Member.

Education, our most powerful weapon
09 January 2019
Education, our most powerful weapon Sandra Argese

The fact remains that leadership in universities is all about influence and setting direction, rather than power and authority.

Education, our most powerful weapon

by Sandra Argese 09 January 2019

“The great university should find its heroes in the present, its hope in the future; it should look ever forward; for it the past should be but a preparation for the greater days to be”.

Driven by a pursuit of knowledge, a hunger for education and a fascination with research, this was former Prime Minister John Curtin’s mantra, one which was adopted by the university which came to bear his name.

Established as the The Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT) in 1967, the university began with just over 2000 students on a burnt-out pine plantation site dotted with concrete buildings in suburban Perth.

Renamed Curtin University of Technology in 1987 and armed with its forward-looking philosophy, the institution has since grown from strength to strength.

Underpinned by an annual revenue base of approximately $1 billion, it hosts some 56,000 students worldwide.

With campuses in Perth, Kalgoorlie, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai and Mauritius, the institution is globally renowned for its standards in minerals and energy, defence, data analytics and emerging technologies, health sciences, astronomy, sustainable development and agriculture.

Fascinated by human behaviour, the thrill of research, the challenge of articulating and designing studies and the opportunity to teach, collaborate and grow, Curtin University of Technology Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry AO FAIM has forged a legacy of forward thinking since she took up her post in 2014.

Professor Terry is an alumna of the Australian National University, graduating with a PhD in psychology in 1989. She then joined the School of Psychology at The University of Queensland, first as postdoctoral research fellow in 1990 and then as a lecturer in 1991, eventually becoming Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor.

Previously chairing the Australian Council of Learned Academies and Australian Research Council College of Experts in the social, behavioural and economic sciences, Professor Terry also sits on the board of Universities Australia as Deputy Chair and on the boards of the Committee for Perth and Australia’s Academic and Research Network.

Add her stint as an immediate past president of the Academy of Social Science in Australia, and Professor Terry’s leadership capabilities seem self-evident.

Professor Terry said her take on leadership was all about relishing the opportunity to help create environments for students and staff to be successful.

“The fact remains that leadership in universities is all about influence and setting direction, rather than power and authority," she said. "You need to be able to communicate a clear vision, identify core priorities, assess and articulate progress and empower leaders at all levels to be accountable for delivering on strategy,” she said.

“It means reinforcing the fundamentals of our mission to educate, to research and to enrich the communities in which we are embedded. Strengthening our common purpose requires remaining true to our DNA.”

Upon her arrival at Curtin, Professor Terry's mission was clear – to build, nurture and establish a strong organisation and culture where themes of openness and transparency played key roles.

To turn this vision into reality, Professor Terry undertook an institution-wide culture survey. On the positive side, the survey indicated the staff were strongly committed to the university and its mission. They also identified strongly with its values, but there was a clear view that these were not always aligned with the lived experience of working at Curtin.

“It’s been about understanding that as an institution we won’t be successful unless we have an honest and robust conversation about our culture,” Professor Terry said.

“My view was Curtin needed to reclaim its soul, and to do that we needed to focus on strengthening our culture.

“It doesn’t matter how compelling and well thought through our strategic plans are, our key performance indicators and vision statements won’t be successful unless we get that underlying culture right.

“It’s about being consultative, it’s about using data and evidence to help drive ambition and develop a shared vision.

"We need to use the language of shared values and we need to, as leaders, be able to justify our decisions, plans and priorities in terms of these values. In our organisational culture, moral courage must be as strong a guiding principle as the other dimensions of courage that are so often highlighted – ambition, agility and determination.”

The proof has certainly been in the pudding. Over Professor Terry’s tenure as Vice Chancellor, Curtin has rapidly risen up international rankings. The university ranked in the 401-500 band in the 2017 Times Higher Education World University Ranking, moving up to the 351-400 band in 2018 and the 301 – 350 band for 2019. In the Times Higher Young University Rankings, it placed at number 68 in 2018, up from 84 in 2017 and 92 in 2016.

Professor Terry said digital disruption had infiltrated and changed the fabric of life and learning at Curtin.

Taking a proactive rather than defensive and reactive approach, the university has re-configured its teaching spaces and invested significant amounts of funding in its digital platforms.

“Being true to our DNA, we need to be aware of the present and tell the story of our future, identifying our gaps, setting targets and tracking performance,” she said.

Driving innovation forward in a rapidly changing educational sector, the Curtin University-led WA Data Science Innovation Hub was launched in September 2018 at its Perth and Bentley campuses.

Created to place Western Australia at the forefront of digital and internet technologies, the hub, supported by the State Government, sees start-ups and businesses collaborate with all four public universities to supplement the emerging start-up ecosystem of 8000 Western Australians who are already working in internet and digital technology companies.

When considering Curtin’s growth and innovations, it has obviously aligned itself with John Curtin’s original mantra – a passionate approach fastened to a culture of impacting tomorrow, today.

Believing complacency and focusing on past glories can pose threats to leaders looking to progress any organisation, Professor Terry said her approach was all about looking forward.

Recently extending her term as Vice Chancellor for a further five years, Professor Terry's influence has fed a culture of success at the university, which recently secured final approval for the establishment of the Curtin Medical School at Midland, expanded its Perth CBD presence and progressed with the Curtin Development, a concept designed to revolutionise the Bentley campus into a vibrant precinct and thriving innovation hub.

Education, Professor Terry said, was society’s “most powerful weapon” against the shackles of intergenerational disadvantage.

“You look around our cities, around our state, around our remote communities and you see evidence of intergeneration disadvantage. Education is the most powerful way to change that.”


Sandra Argese is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Netflix - Stuck in a catch 22?
09 January 2019
Netflix - Stuck in a catch 22? Chris Thurmott

Netflix - Stuck in a catch 22?

by Chris Thurmott 09 January 2019

Beginning life as a mailorder DVD rental and sale service at a time when bricks and mortar rental chains like Blockbuster were king, Netflix has never been shy when it comes to disrupting traditional business models, including its own.

Adding the online content streaming service its now known for to its arsenal in the mid 2000s, the company both accelerated and avoided the industry change which has since sunk so many of its old DVD rental competitors.

Its success online has led to it becoming a member of the FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) group of top-performing NASDAQ-listed tech businesses, with millions of subscribers around the world, the majority outside its home in the US.

More importantly, it has flown under the radar while others such as Facebook have been embroiled in data hacking scandals or other bad news stories, and has amassed a reputation for a solid, reliable service.

However, despite its perceived success, it is currently billions of dollars in debt and has no plans of reversing this any time soon.

In fact, Netflix owner Reed Hastings has said he wants to continue spending for the foreseeable future.

The mass expenditure and rising debt levels come off the back of Netflix’s decision to become a content producer in addition to its role as a distributor.

While the decision to produce original content has undoubtedly helped subscriber growth, it raises questions about just how long this business strategy is a viable option. Predictions on how much the company will have spent on new content in 2018 range from US$8 ($11.3) billion to US$13 ($18.36) billion.

According to The Economist, Netflix’s business strategy is viable if it is able to raise prices while continuing to add subscribers, but doing this will become increasingly difficult as competition builds and improves.

This situation will be further heightened for Netflix if one of its biggest rivals in Amazon Studios decides to drop the price of its television services. This is according to Anthony Stevens, Digital Asset Ventures Chief Executive and recognised thought leader in distributed ledger technology, start-ups and digital transformation.

“Amazon TV is just one of the many services it offers and, conceivably, it could effectively give that service away,” he said. "If it does that, what does that mean for Netflix?

“Then, with companies like Disney, which has just bought FOX, about to release its own platform and one of the big cable networks in HBO already having its own platform, competition is really heating up.

“Netflix broke down the door to content distribution and, as a result, finds itself at risk of losing its point of differentiation because the market is becoming increasingly flooded.

“The battle it now faces is whether content alone makes it profitable for any business to operate as a standalone proposition.”

It would appear then that Netflix is stuck in a catch 22. It needs to continue creating its own content, and to a level that will outweigh that supplied by its competitors, but to do so it needs to keep spending. 

Despite this, Mr Stevens said it was a business model other companies might look to replicate. 

“Netflix shifted its value chain from purely being a distributor that relied on others for content to creating its own titles and therefore vertically integrating its business model,” he said.

“There are many industries that are going to undergo a change in the way their value chain is constructed, and Netflix’s rise is one to look at.”

Mr Stevens said an element of Netflix’s success was its ability to provide a personalised approach for each of its users. This is done through a number of algorithms which analyse the viewing habits and data of users to provide content recommendations.

“The clever thing Netflix has done with this is it can start to introduce its own content through this method,” he said. “Once you start watching a serial you can only access through Netflix; it has created a sense of lock-in.”

This tactic may not be enough, however, as Mr Stevens said the big question for Netflix surrounded the extent to which its acquisition of data about its users had resulted in additional revenue streams.

“There is no doubt the Netflix management team and board are trying to work out what these may be and how they can extract as much value out of all the data they’re gaining as possible,” he said.

“That’s where the real challenge lies; but in the current environment where privacy and disclosure of consumer data is an extremely sensitive topic – and it’s likely this will be more and more regulated over time – finding these new revenue streams will be very difficult.”

Chris Thurmott

Chris Thurmott is a Senior Journalist for The West Australian and he writes for a variety of different publications including Leader and National Mining Chronicle.

The sleeping giant
19 December 2018
The sleeping giant Louise Allan

The core driver of Indigenous employment in Australia is the success of Indigenous business, which employs many times the number of Indigenous people than other businesses.

The sleeping giant

by Louise Allan 19 December 2018

A prosperous, well-functioning and culturally secure Indigenous community that actively contributes to the state and national economy – the tangible benefits of a thriving Indigenous business sector cannot be overestimated.

The core driver of Indigenous employment in Australia is the success of Indigenous business, which employs many times the number of Indigenous people than other businesses.

While it’s not always a level playing field for Australia’s first people, Aboriginal business in Western Australia has been bolstered by the implementation of a State Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) in July this year and the establishment of the Noongar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) a month later.

NCCI Chair Gordon Cole said the current status of Aboriginal employment and business ownership in WA was active and vibrant.

“Indigenous business is the ‘sleeping giant’ in Australia and should be viewed as a growth area of the economy,” he told Leader. “There are many indicators that point to a turning economy that will provide more jobs across many sectors.”

Indeed, 2016 Australian Census results confirmed a growing Indigenous business community within Australia and the rise in the number of Indigenous business owners, both male and female. 

According to the findings, just over six per cent of the Indigenous workforce nationally is comprised of business owners. While this is less than half the non-Indigenous proportion, the gap is narrowing.

The census identified almost 12,000 Indigenous business owners. Growing at an average rate of around 600 net new businesses every year, this surge in percentage terms (23 per cent) is four times the rate of non-Indigenous business growth between 2011-2016.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done; the challenge for the Indigenous community and wider Australia to create the business of tomorrow is to foster the conditions required for businesses to prosper.

The Federal Government’s IPP is one such lever that has been key in driving government spend with Indigenous businesses. Established in 2015 and with targets now set at three per cent for all government department contracts, spend has exploded from $6 million to over $1 billion in the third year the policy has been in place. In July 2018 the State Government commenced the implementation of a WA IPP, which has been welcomed by Aboriginal leaders and businesspeople in this state.

Mr Cole said government had started to understand the many facets of what was required to advance Indigenous businesses.

IPP opportunities

“The Federal IPP is a very successful policy that is providing enormous opportunities for Indigenous businesses, enabling further growth,” he said. “It’s a great start but more needs to be done in capacity building, making finance and capital raising easier for Indigenous business to grow and prosper.”

KPMG Arrilla Indigenous Services Director Glen Kelly said while there was a positive trend in Aboriginal business development and ownership in WA, there were relatively few Aboriginal businesses in WA compared to other locations such as New South Wales and South-East Queensland because the impact of the Federal IPP was less substantial in WA.

“Even so, there has been strong growth in Aboriginal business in regions such as the Pilbara due to the resources industry and native title agreements,” he said. “This has led to new outlooks on business development and has generated entrepreneurship in this, and other regions, of the state.”

Mr Kelly said the WA IPP would provide improved access to government procurement for Indigenous businesses and see further growth in the sector.

“We see this as is a very positive development which has been widely welcomed, and is one which is anticipated to see the development of Aboriginal business spread more evenly through the regions – and reduce reliance on the resources sector. 

“These interventions, which remove barriers of access to government clients, have generated enormous opportunity and have emphatically shown that, despite the raft of negative comments prior to their implementation, Aboriginal people are more than ready and able to engage in enterprise.

“Further action by government should address other barriers that are experienced by Aboriginal businesses in areas such as finance and to incentivise corporate Australia to more fully engage with Indigenous business.” 

Barriers to overcome 

Christine Ross, managing director of her own consultancy which specialises in Aboriginal employment programs, training, facilitation and mentoring programs, said one of the main barriers to Aboriginal people succeeding in business stemmed from a general lack of trust that an Aboriginal-owned business could successfully deliver a service on time and provide a good product. 

“We constantly have to prove ourselves twice as much as everyone else, particularly Aboriginal women,” she said.

“It’s understandable that companies wanting to employ us want runs on the board, but if you are just starting out you are looking for that opportunity to break into a particular market; it can be a catch-22 situation.” 

Mr Cole said if Indigenous culture was valued more there would be greater involvement of Indigenous people in the commercial economy where employment and business opportunities would have a lasting impact on closing the gap.

“We are always seen as recipients of the economy and never contributors to the economy; we need to turn this mindset around and demonstrate that Indigenous business is good business,” he said.

“Corporate Australia is slowly embracing Indigenous businesses and has various mechanisms to effectively engage with them. These include contracting opportunities through their respective supply chains, along with subcontracting and the development of strategies like Reconciliation Action Plans and Indigenous Engagement Plans.” 

Fourth industrial revolution 

According to a KPMG report titled Census Insight Series: Accelerating Indigenous Entrepreneurship, while the growth in Indigenous business is encouraging, it is also worrying because the types of businesses owned and operated by Indigenous people are largely ‘old economy’.

“They are manual labour businesses in an Australian economy that is being pushed and pulled into the fourth industrial revolution where business built on digital, robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning will be the winners,” the report said.

“The fourth industrial revolution could present great opportunity for the economic development of Indigenous Australia, which, on average, is much younger than non-Indigenous Australian; 60 per cent are under 35.

“Children, teenagers and young adults are ready to seize on new competencies that power the startup economy. They are also likely to be avid users of new digital services. With access to an internet connection and new technology, there is new potential for Indigenous Australians to access global audiences.”

The report went on to say that there was currently a push toward STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills and additional new economy skills like coding and entrepreneurial business fundamentals to be taught in schools and universities. If extra effort was made to bring Indigenous Australia into the frame, it would ultimately have an equalising effect on opportunity.

Achieving this requires providing young Indigenous Australians with equal access to tech education, training and learning opportunities. This may lead to completely unique Indigenous ventures, or simply a reasonable proportion of Indigenous entrepreneurs working at the cutting edge of new enterprise. 

Mr Kelly said there were many positive initiatives underway to engage Indigenous people in school and attain higher levels of school retention.

“Even so, the standards of education in the Indigenous community are not high, so much more work needs to be conducted,” he said.

“Within these programs, an emphasis needs to be increasingly placed on STEM subjects and technical skills, as these are the areas set to provide both employment and business opportunities for people in the future.”

Mr Cole agreed there were many initiatives endeavouring to tackle the area of education through schools, colleges, training institutions, vocational training, the job active network, apprenticeships and cadetships.

“Along with successful direct employment and training programs by corporate and government Australia, the community sector is also active in these areas,” he said. 

“If more parents valued education we would see more young people graduate and go on to important tertiary and vocational training that would lead to long-term career based employment.”

Leading the way 

Role models, be they parents, business people or community leaders, play an important role in giving people an idea of what’s possible, and sharing their experiences with others helps in overcoming barriers.

“We desperately need our people to be very successful as they are the tips of the spear leading the way for all our community who aspire to be successful in business,” Mr Cole.

Ms Ross agreed Aboriginal leaders and role models were incredibly important to supporting Aboriginal businesses. As an example, many of these people were business owners or they proactively supported family and friends by becoming ambassadors.

“A lot of our elite Aboriginal sports people have gone on to become successful business owners across a number of industries,” she said.

Ms Ross said her leadership style had been shaped by looking at, listening to and absorbing different people’s leadership styles.

“I have left good jobs due to bad managers; it’s not worth being in a workplace that is unsupportive and works on micromanaging,” she said.

“Having worked in Aboriginal employment for over 25 years I have extensive knowledge, skills and experience that I bring to any workplace that may have a proactive Aboriginal Employment Program. If a workplace does not value my cultural knowledge, then it is not valuing me as an employee and I am not likely to stay.” 

Ms Ross said a lot of leadership direction came from common sense and treating people fairly.

“As a leader I prefer to lead by example; I have always displayed a strong work ethic and professional integrity in all of my workplaces,” she said. “I very much value the contribution everyone I meet brings to any formal or informal gathering, not just a workplace.

“My leadership style is based on inclusivity and allowing others to reach their full potential. I am a strong believer in encouraging people to achieve their dreams and always ensure I give credit where credit is due in acknowledging their contributions.”

Louise Allan

Louise Allan is Editor and Manager at Seven West Creative and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Dare to dream
11 December 2018
Dare to dream Chris Thurmott

Former Disney Stalwart speaks about his Theory of Creativity, his toolkit to combat barriers to creativity and innovation.

Dare to dream

by Chris Thurmott 11 December 2018

"Massive companies, ones we’ve grown up with and always thought couldn’t possibly fold, will be out of business in the next 10 years.”

So predicts former Disney stalwart Duncan Wardle, who is on a mission to prevent this from happening to as many companies as possible. He does so by delivering workshops and speeches and offering consultancy work to brands and organisations looking to improve, innovate and not only survive the impending tidal wave of disruption, but thrive on it.

Mr Wardle said innovation had been a buzzword in business for many years and every CEO in the world wanted their company to be innovative, but many didn’t know how to do it.

“Nobody has made innovation tangible for them,” Mr Wardle said. “The consultants come in, run projects and deliver good recommendations with good return on investment, but they’re not teaching companies how to change culture so they can do it for themselves.”

This was one of the reasons Mr Wardle decided to leave Disney shortly after being awarded a bronze statue of Jiminy Cricket in recognition of his 30 years with the iconic company.

Mr Wardle spent his first 20 years at the studio working in public relations before rising to Vice-President of Innovation and Creativity.

“The chairman of Disney Parks turned to me 10 years ago and said ‘you’re the guy with all the big ideas, you’re going to be in charge of innovation and creativity’, to which my exact response was, ‘what is that and how do I find out?’ he said.

“He simply said, ‘I don’t know, go figure it out’.”

That was exactly what Mr Wardle did, starting by surveying 5000 people across the company and asking them what the biggest barriers to innovation and creativity were.

The responses revealed five major barriers:
  1.  A lack of time to be creative/innovative.
  2.  No common definition of innovation or creativity.
  3.  Ideas getting stuck, diluted or killed off as they moved through the organisation.
  4.  Consumer insight was being underused because most of the organisation had not met a consumer.
  5.  The company was a risk-averse organisation, more worried about quarterly results than the big picture.

Mr Wardle put together a toolkit to combat each of the barriers and this eventually became his Theory of Creativity, which is the basis of his current work.

“I’m a firm believer that everybody is creative. I don’t go for the ‘oh so-and-so isn’t creative’. It’s just that so many of us have been told so often that we are not and we end up believing it,” he said.

“It’s about giving people the toolkit to go out and be creative again, like we were when we were children.”

Since leaving Disney, Mr Wardle has racked up a healthy contingent of big name brands he has helped, including Coca-Cola, Ford and Forbes, but said offering his time for free had been the most rewarding.

He picks one or two not-for-profits to help each year.

“I was a kid in a candy store for 30 years – I worked for The Walt Disney Company in Hong Kong, Mumbai, London, Paris, Los Angeles, Florida and Shanghai – and now it’s just a chance to give a little bit back,” he said.

“I thoroughly enjoy these free events because that’s my ‘why’. That’s why I do what I do; I get amazing letters from people saying ‘you’ve changed my career’, ‘you’ve changed my outlook on life’, and that’s the reward.”

Lessons for the future

During his time with Disney Mr Wardle was responsible for a number of large projects and marketing initiatives. He was behind a team-up with NASA to send an action figure of Buzz Lightyear – the space ranger character from Disney’s Toy Story movies – into space to advertise the opening of the studio’s Toy Story Mania attraction. He was also the mastermind behind the installation of an Olympic-sized swimming pool at the Magic Kingdom Park for Michael Phelps to swim in.

Despite the impressive nature of these projects, Mr Wardle said his proudest moment working for Disney drew much less spectacle and limelight. 

“I helped to turn Disney’s very product-centric culture into a consumer-centric one,” he said.

This achievement was reflected in the company’s effort to entice more people to visit Disneyland Paris. Going in, Mr Wardle said the hypothesis was to spend tens of millions of dollars on new attractions to bring more people into the park. By the end of the project, Mr Wardle discovered something completely different.

“We found out parents do not wake up every morning worrying whether or not a Disney park is going to have a new attraction,” he said.

“What they wake up worrying about is how quickly their children are growing up and how they want to make special memories together before the children get too old.”

Mr Wardle came to this conclusion by visiting the homes of 26 consumers. By doing so they were able to delve deeper into the issues that were really affecting their consumers and use their intuition.

“Intuition is an incredibly powerful tool,” Mr Wardle said. “You have four billion neurons in your brain, but this is nowhere near as many as you have in your gut, which is why it’s called the second brain – it is a remarkably powerful tool.”

Intuition, Mr Wardle said, was one of four elements that would be the differentiator between humans and artificial intelligence (AI). The other three elements are imagination, creativity and curiosity. 

“We’re all born with those skillsets, and in the next decade they will become the most important ones because they’ll be the ones AI won’t be able to replicate,” he said.

“It’s about teaching people to think like children think. Children think expansively, they think ‘how might we’; adults think reductively, they think ‘how can we’. 

“Don’t be afraid to question things and definitely don’t be afraid to trust your gut.”

Theory of creativity

Mr Wardle’s Theory of Creativity is based around allowing people to incorporate innovation and creativity in their work life and enhance the impact they have.

“If you want to change a culture, you have to create tools that are easy and fun for people to use,” he said.

“People only use things if they’re easy and fun, otherwise they’ll go through the training to learn the tools and then they’ll completely ignore them."

As part of his Theory of Creativity, Mr Wardle encourages people to be child-like and playful in the workplace.

“I’m not advocating for people to be playful every minute of every day – you wouldn’t get anything done – but when you’re trying to have big ideas you do need to be playful,” he said.

“The moment you relax, the moment you’re playful, the door between your conscious and sub-conscious brain opens just enough so it allows you to make conscious decisions, but still have a big idea – that’s the importance of being playful.

“As a leader you need to be playful at the right time because that’s how you can help people get to their sub-conscious and have enormous ideas.”

Another aspect of being innovative and creative, according to Mr Wardle, is being given the time to think and allowing ideas to flourish. Google is a prime example of this.

“As a result they came up with Gmail, Google Goggles and Google Maps, all fairly successful products,” he said.

In addition to being given time to think, Mr Wardle said people needed to think differently. For most people, their own expertise and experience – or ‘river of thinking’ – was a big barrier to innovation.

“The more experience and expertise you get in whatever industry you work in, the more reasons you know why an idea won’t work,” he said.

“Instead of considering how something might work, we think it won’t work because of x, and that is very destructive for new ideas. 

“If you just stop for a moment and use a series of lateral thinking tools you can easily get out of your river of thinking.”

The key to these lateral thinking tools is being able to look at the same situation in a different light. There are a number of different tools that can be used to remove someone from their river of thinking, but some of the more interesting ones include the introduction of a naive expert, reframing the challenge and asking ‘what if?’. 

A naive expert is someone completely unrelated to your problem.

On one occasion, Mr Wardle asked a group of architects and a head chef from one of the Disneyland resorts to draw a house in seven seconds. All of the architects drew a square house with a triangle roof and windows with crosses through them. The head chef, on the other hand, drew dim sum architecture, which was made up of a bamboo steamer and pieces of dim sum as the different elements.

Mr Wardle said a naive expert allowed you to get away from your river of thinking because they asked the questions often thought too obvious to consider.

Re-framing the challenge is simply referring to a situation in a slightly different way and watching the effect it can have.

An example of this can be seen through Walt Disney’s decision to call employees cast members who wear costumes rather than uniforms and serve guests rather than customers.

“Simply by re-expressing a challenge, the level of care is instantly heightened; think about how you treat a customer compared with how you treat a guest at home,” Mr Wardle said.

Asking ‘what if?’ is simply about listing the rules of a challenge, picking one of them and asking ‘what if that didn’t exist, how would things be different?’

“It’s how Walt created Disneyland,” Mr Wardle said.

“He used to show his movies in a movie theatre, but he was fed up with how dark and dirty they were so he said ‘what if I could control the environment? What if I took the movies out of the theatre? Well it couldn’t be 2D, it would have to be 3D, and if they’re 3D I’d have to have people walk around and if I have people walking around, the different characters would each have to have their own land otherwise people wouldn’t be immersed in the story and then to house all of the different lands I’m going to need Disneyland.’

“‘What if’ is a super easy tool to use to get people out of their river of thinking.”

From humble beginnings 

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”.

Mr Wardle said this quote by Henry Ford was his favourite and was the driving force behind a number of career accomplishments from the time he began working at Disney.

His first interaction with the company was as a college student working in Florida for a year. Having had a small taste of life with Disney before returning to London, Mr Wardle was hooked and keen to return to the company in any way possible.

Whilst in the UK, however, Mr Wardle saw a career counsellor who in no uncertain terms told him to give up on his dream, as he would never work for Disney again.

“That was probably the kick I needed because I thought ‘I’m going to prove you wrong’,” Mr Wardle said.

“The Disney office in London in those days probably only had about 22 people, and I phoned the office every day for 27 days until they agreed to give me a chance.”

That chance was all he needed. He spent the first six months sorting papers, delivering folders, fetching coffees and, most importantly, observing.

In that time he quickly learned public relations was the ability to walk in with a big idea, sell it and get it to market, which was exactly what he did during his 20 years working in PR for Disney.

Mr Wardle said the ideas he enjoyed most were the audacious ones – the ones that made him sit up and think ‘wow, that would be incredible’.

“I love those projects where you’ve got a 50/50 chance of pulling it off,” he said.

“Those are the ones that keep you alive, because you don’t know if they will succeed. That’s innovation, because innovation is not knowing whether you can do it; otherwise it would be easy.

“For me if you believe you can do it, you can.”

Chris Thurmott

Chris Thurmott is a Senior Journalist for The West Australian and he writes for a variety of different publications including Leader and National Mining Chronicle.

Reshaping strategy in a volatile world
10 December 2018
Reshaping strategy in a volatile world Greta Andrews-Taylor

Too much Spock, not enough James T. Kirk – this was the primary concern of Professor Allan Trench FAIM when ruminating on the topic of strategic thinking during AIM WA’s recent sundowner titled ‘Strategy is Dead… Long Live Strategy”.

Reshaping strategy in a volatile world

by Greta Andrews-Taylor 10 December 2018
Too much Spock, not enough James T. Kirk – this was the primary concern of Professor Allan Trench FAIM when ruminating on the topic of strategic thinking during AIM WA’s recent sundowner titled ‘Strategy is Dead…Long Live Strategy”.

The UWA Business School MBA Director spoke at length during the two-hour event and drew on his extensive 30-year career in academia and industry – which includes authoring 10 books and 50 peer-reviewed articles – when addressing the current state and understanding of strategy in business. 

“Strategy in its classical form is dead; gone with the old days of large planning departments,” Professor Trench said. 
“We’re living in the VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous.

“Is strategy dead? The answer is no – it mutates every time and everywhere. There are forms of strategy that are alive and well, one of which we refer to as scenario planning.”

Professor Trench highlighted the importance of ‘strategy personas’ during his talk, and said it was important for people to “understand their own disposition to strategy” in order to successfully formulate one in the boardroom with other leadership personnel, who each possessed their own strategy persona.

Much like the headstrong Kirk and logical Spock on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, the key to unlocking an effective strategy is understanding one another and playing to the strong suit of each team member.

He likened this introspective approach to the Myers-Briggs framework, which allows users to complete a self-report questionnaire and determine a distinct personality type with its own characteristics and traits. 

“We did this with one of the companies I’m on the board of and we worked out why we couldn’t possibly do a strategy – everybody had totally different personas and were pulling in totally different directions,” Professor Trench said.

“It was no wonder we couldn’t agree with each other. The advantage of that simple questionnaire was it surfaced all the different personas in the boardroom.

“That led to a strategic conversation around how the company makes its decisions and where it’s trying to go.
“Once you’ve got to a truly strategic conversation, you’re in pretty good shape.”

A question of sport

The difference between economists and strategists, according to Professor Trench, was that the former likes league tables while the latter is more interested in a knockout cup-style competition.

“That’s when strategy can really come into play in terms of doing things differently instead of when things play out over a statistical period of time,” he said. 

He cited Russia’s recent FIFA World Cup victory over Spain as a good example of this ‘play your opponent’ strategic mindset; the dramatic round of 16 match saw Russia eliminate Spain after penalties, despite the latter being the far stronger side on paper. The home side simply hung back and conserved energy, counter-attacking from afar and waiting for Spain to tire as the game wore into extra time.

“It was a classic rope-a-dope strategy akin to George Foreman punching himself out to the point where Muhammad Ali comes back in and wins the game,” Professor Trench said. 

“Strategy is fashion, strategy is chess, strategy is jazz, strategy is pretty much everything. Everyone is a strategist. There’s no formal qualification to be a strategist.”

An enterprising spirit

Professor Trench argued applying logic was key to unlocking the fundamentals of strategy.   

“How would you put a giraffe in the refrigerator,” he asked. “Think like a five-year-old.

“Piece by piece. Get a bigger fridge. The top answer is always the most logical one – ‘open the fridge door and put the giraffe in’.” 

This kind of outside the box thinking can often yield the answer to formulating an effective strategy, according to Professor Trench. The rest will follow accordingly, from the deployment of tools to reading the contextual environment and the subject area. 

Returning to his Star Trek analogy, Professor Trench referenced the scene in 1982’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan where Captain Kirk is faced with the Kobayashi Maru, a training simulation designed to recreate a no-win scenario. 

Rather than accepting the binary lose/lose scenario, Kirk instead rewires the game, thinking outside the box and formulating a strategy that wins the day, outfoxing or outmanoeuvring the limitations of the test.

In an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous world, Professor Trench said this mindset of thinking on your feet and not getting bogged down in theory was integral. 

“Don’t read the literature,” he said. “Don’t bother about the tools. Just get out there and do the strategy.” 

During the sundowner, Professor Trench put forward four levels of strategic thinking, with each level signifying a different type of worker. 

  • Level one – Just do it 
    Logical thinking candidates.
  • Level two – Deployment of tools Tools and framework-based candidates.
  • Level three – Contextual thinking (and reading)
    Well-read candidates.
  • Level four – Research and theorisation
    Candidates who are writing the texts.
Greta Andrews-Taylor

Greta Andrews-Taylor is a Journalist at The West Australia and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

The gamified approach to culture and performance
06 December 2018
The gamified approach to culture and performance Penelope Thomas

Enhancing employee engagement and performance through gamification.

The gamified approach to culture and performance

by Penelope Thomas 06 December 2018

Getting the most from a business eventually boils down to getting the best from its greatest resource – people. 

Gamification has become a powerful tool for workplaces looking to motivate employees, and plays on the psychology that drives human engagement, using mechanics from games to encourage people to change behaviour in non-game environments. 

One of Australia’s leading experts in gamification is PentaQuest Co-founder and Lead Gamification Designer Kerstin Oberprieler, who works with companies to develop new and innovative gamification solutions. 

Gamification is a process that is inherently focused on the user and his or her ideal experience for engagement, performance and fun. Equally, it is about addressing the need of the business and working to achieve objectives.

“Employees today don’t just want a nine-to-five job to pay the bills,” Ms Oberprieler said.

“People want flexibility and a sense of meaning from their work; they expect their workplace to be modern and technologically enabled. A global workforce study showed less than one third of employees are meaningfully engaged with their work, which is a significant number.”

Ms Oberprieler consults with many leading Australian and international organisations to address cultural and performance challenges through designing a gamified approach that draws on psychology, behavioural economics, design thinking and complex systems.

“Gamification comes in many different shapes and sizes and can be applied to a huge variety of challenges, making it suitable for a range of organisations,” Ms Oberprieler said. 

“It is important to know gamification might not be the right solution for every problem or workplace.”

Get your head in the game

Gamification can be a powerful ally when implemented in the right way for the right people. If the system is implemented poorly, people will become disengaged and not want to play.

“Our solutions have included conceptual designs, analogue solutions, mobile applications and even fully integrated platforms. Essentially, it’s a more playful and human-centred approach to the workplace, rather than looking at people as numbers who just spit out profits,” Ms Oberprieler said.

“You might be surprised that even quite traditional and conservative companies are using gamification. We do a lot of work in Canberra with government agencies, which are usually thought to be reasonably conservative.”

Ms Oberprieler is currently working with the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science to develop a gamification platform that will provide daily, weekly and monthly activities for employees in a gamified format. The department opted for a professional-looking cloud-based platform, known as Rev. 

“Rev is a platform that builds high performing employees through gamified professional development activities,” she said.

“The browser-based application lets employees access and log professional development activities 
like completing learning and development courses and giving and receiving performance feedback.

“A proof of concept was piloted in late 2017, which was highly successful. We are now working with the department 
to implement Rev across the organisation.”

All work and no play

One of the common misconceptions associated with gamification stems from its name – people assume it must be game-like and is therefore inappropriate for the workplace. 

“Unfortunately, people think about playing Angry Birds at work or awkward team building activities, when really it is neither of those,” Ms Oberprieler said.

Another misconception associated with gamification is it equals competition, which is incorrect, according to Ms Oberprieler. 

“We work with organisations that want to create a positive team environment by building a culture of trust, collaboration and innovation,” she said. 

“We believe competition doesn’t lend itself well to building that environment.”

Gamification is an innovative and refined approach that helps companies address important areas of employee engagement.

“You are going to see gamification a lot more in the future,” Ms Oberprieler said. “It is already being used in products and companies, but people don’t realise it is gamification. 

“If organisations demonstrate top-down control or don’t adapt to a more flexible work environment, I think employees will continue to become disengaged. 

“Gamification is a positive approach helping workers engage by rewarding them for their work. 
It challenges people to make work environments more enjoyable by adding in a bit of celebration and appreciation when certain business goals are met.”

Penelope Thomas

Penelope Thomas is a Journalist at Seven West and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Taming the imposter within
20 November 2018
Taming the imposter within Jack McGinn

Feeling like an imposter? You're not alone.

Taming the imposter within

by Jack McGinn 20 November 2018
In a journal entry dated 1938, and later published for the world to see, novelist John Steinbeck made a stunning confession. 

“I’m not a writer,” the man who would go on to receive the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature penned. “I’ve been fooling myself and other people. I wish I were. This success will ruin me as sure as hell. It probably won’t last, and that will be alright. I’ll try to go on with work now.”

The work Steinbeck ‘went on with’ was the soon-to-be-published The Grapes of Wrath, the Pulitzer Prize winner regarded amongst the greatest novels of all time. A fair achievement for a non-writer – especially one who had already written Of Mice and Men and Tortilla Flat.  

Steinbeck’s is one of the more commonly-cited historical examples of imposter syndrome, a thought process introduced to the world of psychology by doctors Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, whereby successful people are plagued by the belief they are not as bright or as capable as everyone believes them to be. Those with imposter syndrome live in fear that they will one day be ‘found out’ for what they really are. 

It’s far from an isolated phenomenon – in modern times, famous faces such as three-time Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep, former World Health Organisation Director-General Margaret Chan, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Atlassian Founder Mike Cannon-Brookes have spoken publicly of their imposter feelings.

But the affliction goes further than those in the public eye, according to imposter syndrome expert and author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women Valerie Young. 

“The statistic you might have seen thrown around a lot is that 70 per cent of high achievers have these feelings at one time or another, which makes us the majority,” Dr Young told Leader. “It’s a very normal thing.”

Imposter syndrome’s potential to impact the workplace is significant, and Dr Young said the coping mechanisms people used had the potential to cost organisations and individuals plenty. 

These include flying under the radar, procrastination, self-sabotage and overworking – all of which succeed for the individual short term but prove costly long term. 

“They do the job, they manage anxiety and they help people avoid being found out, but it’s at a cost,” Dr Young said. 

“If you’ve got bright people who aren’t asking questions or offering ideas, or people are  sitting there not understanding but not willing to ask questions, then you’ve got a drain in your talent pool.”

Perhaps the surprising commonality of imposter syndrome is evidenced by the huge turnout at the third AIM WA Your Best Self Series lunch, where international speaker, peak performance consultant, coach and AIM WA Associate Fellow Shona Rowan AFAIM delivered an interactive and insightful presentation entitled People Pleasing, Perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome. 

Ms Rowan outlined the factors which might bring about imposter syndrome in an individual, and gave the audience practical strategies for overcoming or coping with imposter feelings.  

Having coached thousands of clients to boost their professional success over the past 15 years, Ms Rowan said things such as upbringing, education, organisational culture, socioeconomic status and unfamiliar work environments could all trigger imposter feelings and impact our self-confidence. 

Much of the fix, according to Ms Rowan, came down to identifying and then changing unhelpful thoughts or mindsets; dropping perfectionism, accepting complements, avoiding unfavourable comparisons with others, sharing doubts and accepting credit for your achievements. 

“Our thoughts impact our feelings, our behaviours and our results,” she said.

“We must ensure our mindset is helping us, not hindering us from achieving our goals.” 

What all people with impostor feelings share in common are unrealistic, unsustainable expectations of competence. Based on her research and experiences, Dr Young has identified five “competence types” into which those with imposter syndrome might fit.

Perfectionist: The perfectionist expects to achieve perfection with ease. 
“Managers need to value the fact this person puts a premium on their work, but help them find ways to let go of the idea they can do everything perfectly all the time,” Dr Young said. 

Expert: The expert is more concerned with the amount of knowledge they hold than the quality of their work. No amount of reading is ever enough. 

“The good news about the expert is they care deeply about knowledge and learning, which is why it bothers them so much if they don’t know how to do something,” Dr Young said. 

“Reinforce that but help them let go of the idea they can know everything – that’s the equivalent of trying to get to the end of the internet.”

Natural genius: The natural genius believes if they were really capable or competent, succeeding in a given task wouldn’t require effort or hard work. 

“We can appreciate their love of mastery but help them understand that some things are going to come harder to people than others,” Dr Young said. 

Soloist: The soloist believes achievements only count if achieved on their own and is unlikely to ask for help. 

“These people work really well independently, but sometimes you’re the last to know if there’s a problem because they spend all this time trying to figure it out themselves, rather than picking up the phone,” Dr Young said. 

Superman or superwoman: Rather than a single-minded focus on their career, this person measures competence based on also excelling as a parent, spouse or community volunteer.

“You have to help these people realise they’re not going to be able to perform up to par all the time in all their different roles,” Dr Young said.

Jack McGinn

Jack McGinn is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

A champion for change
05 November 2018
A champion for change Jack McGinn

Nastasha Stott Despoja's political career of over a decade has spawned important policy and progressive debate.

A champion for change

by Jack McGinn 05 November 2018
A fearless voice against the status quo through a career spanning politics, diplomacy and advocacy, Natasha Stott Despoja AM has been fighting since day dot.

Over more than two decades, Australian Parliament’s youngest female politician turned tireless gender equity campaigner has made a habit of challenging the system and delivering results. Appointed a Senator at 26 in 1995 then elected in 1996, Ms Stott Despoja’s political career of more than a decade spawned important policy and sparked progressive debate of huge significance. Leader of the Australian Democrats party in her early 30s, she was the Senator who introduced Australia’s first paid parental leave legislation to the Parliament in 2002 and the nation’s first same-sex marriage legislation alongside Senator Andrew Bartlett in 2005.

Work on technological issues such as genetic privacy, stem cell regulations and the space industry were also highlights – though maybe not as headline-grabbing. Having set such a trailblazing standard through her parliamentary career, it should come as no surprise that Ms Stott Despoja has continued to work tirelessly for theleaving the public glare of parliamentary service in 2008.

As Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls between 2013 and 2016, she visited more than 30 countries in the name of advancing gender equality and promoting women’s economic empowerment. Through this role she worked with partners in government, business and civil society to support the aspirations of women and girls around the world. Ms Stott Despoja is also a member of the World Bank Gender Advisory Council and currently sits on the UN High Level Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

“No one country has achieved gender equality,” she told Leader. “Despite enormous progress, the issues facing women and girls remain a great human rights challenge for our world.”

2013 was also the year Ms Stott Despoja took up her role as founding chair at Our Watch, the Australian not-for-profit which aims to drive change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children. The role is considered by Ms Stott Despoja as one of the greatest privileges of her life. The epidemic of gender-based violence – home and abroad – is an issue close to the heart.

“One of the most heinous manifestations of gender inequality is the scourge of violence against women and girls,” she said. “We know that globally, more than one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some way. “Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as the result of violence. “As the World Health Organisation has stated, it is an epidemic.

“Everywhere I have been, including in Australia, I have seen the effect of violence against women and children. I see the shame and the stigma. I see the injuries and after effects, both physical and emotional.”

The statistics on domestic violence in Australia make for chilling reading and highlight the significance of the issues organisations such as Our Watch are tackling. A research project conducted in 2015 by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety based on ABS figures estimated one in three women in Australia had experienced physical violence since the age of 15.

The 2017 National Homicide Monitoring Program report by the Australian Institute of Criminology found on average, one woman was murdered a week in Australia over a two-year period from 2012 to 2014. Meanwhile, the strength in uptake of paid domestic violence leave by WA public servants following the State Government’s introduction of the scheme in August last year caught policymakers off-guard, and vindicated the need for such support in the workplace.

There are countless more anecdotal and statistical examples to draw on, but each point to a need for change and the importance of empowerment. Ms Stott Despoja said tackling genderbased violence was a challenge which required cultural and policy change, with Then Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja AM and Advisor Felicity Volk at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta in 2014. Image: Joshua Estey/Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Our Watch’s work centred on primary prevention.

“The research is clear – in order to address the violence, we need to tackle the attitudes and behaviour that give rise to violence in the first place,” Ms Stott Despoja said. “The good news is that violence is not inevitable, it is preventable."


The cultural impact of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements hit globally in 2017, empowering many victims of sexual assault and violence to speak up and let their experiences be known. By sparking a conversation and helping people be heard, Ms Stott Despoja said there was promise in people finding their voice, but it was important such movements encouraged further action across the board.

“While these movements highlight the magnitude of the issue, they have also left many asking ‘what’s next?’,” she said. “With greater public awareness and a groundswell of support to amplify the voices of women, we must use this global momentum to change lives for the better and disrupt the gender disparities that are tightly woven into our culture and value systems.” Ms Stott Despoja said Our Watch’s work showed a desire from the everyday Australian to do more. “Our research shows a majority of Australians want to be better ‘bystanders’,” she said.

“They want the tools and knowledge in order to intervene safely in situations where people are at risk, or where they see examples of inappropriate behaviour. “Businesses can assist through workplace giving, or by simply being alert to the experiences their employees may be going through.”

The former Australian Democrats leader said she would speak on the importance of empowerment when addressing the upcoming AIM WA Leadership Summit in October. “I am passionate about people feeling empowered,” she said. The research is clear - to address violence, we need to tackle the attitudes that give rise to violence.

“To me, empowerment is firstly to give someone the tools and information they need to form views on how to improve the world. It’s then to listen closely to what that person has to say. My message is that your community needs you to be engaged in leadership and decision-making. I encourage you to seize every opportunity to seek information, to speak up and to be a leader – you have the power to change."

“Real and lasting improvements to our world, including creating greater opportunities for women and girls here and around the globe, require us all to be leaders – within our families, with our friends, in workplaces and in our communities.”


The youngest woman to enter Australian Federal Parliament – a record which still stands – at a time when the Parliament comprised just 14 per cent women, Ms Stott Despoja believes her gender and relative youth challenged the political system and brought about lasting change. But the environment wasn’t always as inclusive as the public who voted her into power.

“I look back and can’t believe that, at my first business lunch, I was asked if I went into politics to meet a husband,” she said. “Sometimes the sexist commentary was debilitating, but I am proud of the way I handled it and how my entry into Parliament hopefully created change and paved the way for many women of all ages and backgrounds to follow.

“I am proud to be the youngest woman to ever enter the Federal Parliament because I believe ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ – the idea of challenging the stereotypes around what constitutes a politician was important.”

At 32 per cent, women are still underrepresented in Australia’s Parliament in 2018, but things have come a long way since the mid-1990s.

“At the time I was subject to ridiculous and sometimes amusing stereotypes by the media and other politicians,” Ms Stott Despoja said. “However, the public was ready for change – they wanted fresh faces and to see our diversity and difference reflected and represented in our decision-making institutions.”
Jack McGinn

Jack McGinn is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Celebrate arrivals and departures
23 October 2018
Celebrate arrivals and departures Dr Shaun Ridley FAIM

An excerpt from "One Small Step... for Leaders" by Dr Shaun Ridley FAIM

Celebrate arrivals and departures

by Dr Shaun Ridley FAIM 23 October 2018
Strange things happen in organisations in response to new staff joining and existing staff leaving. We are usually delighted to have a brand new face on the team, but when they join, we rush them through an induction and set them to work. We are usually disappointed when someone we value resigns but when they leave we have a party – or at least a morning tea to say goodbye. Why don’t we celebrate both arrivals and departures?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to join an organisation where at 10.30am on the first morning all the staff gather for morning tea to celebrate our arrival? A genuine, warm welcome would help reinforce our decision to take the job and would ensure everyone knew who we were, so they could acknowledge us when we pass in the hallway rather than have them stare blankly for the first month wondering about the new person.

Similarly, we should celebrate it when someone resigns. If they are going on to something that is bigger and better than we can provide, why would we begrudge them the opportunity to advance their career? Let’s see part of our role as good corporate citizens to develop people of substance and character that can go on to make a terrific contribution elsewhere. We can celebrate their departure as a success story that we have prepared this person for that success.

If they are leaving because of a level of dissatisfaction with the organisation, then we gain nothing from being vengeful and not wishing them well for the future. They will at least leave with one positive thing to say about the organisation. Their departure also allows some opportunity to address the issues that led to the resignation, in the hope of heading off the need for others to resign.
A genuine, warm welcome would help reinforce our decision to take the job and ensure everyone knew who we were.
Celebrations such as these can sometimes appear extravagant in both time and catering. Yet the long-term positive benefits from both the arriving and departing staff are significant, plus the goodwill from all other staff in attendance far exceeds any costs. So much so that you may like to consider other excuses to celebrate staff. Excuses like the winning of a big contract or completion of a successful project are easy to spot. Others are less obvious such as a reduction in the outstanding debt levels by the accounts staff, or the achievement of a large number of hours without any computing downtime. Both these examples enable you to celebrate the work of those in the back office as well as those in customer facing roles.

Arrange a first day morning tea to welcome the next staff member that joins your team. Introduce them to the group, sharing a little of their background. Depending on the number of people in your team, you could ask them to do a quick introduction as well.

At the next farewell speech, make a point of not only thanking the person for their contribution to your organisation, but wish them well for the future. Offer to provide support to them in the future to help them be successful in their new role.
Shaun Ridley

Dr Shaun Ridley is Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Learning and Development) at the Australian Institute of Management in WA. His extensive experience in leadership, strategy and learning and development has been gained through his work with hundreds of organisations, across all sectors both domestically and internationally.

Snakes and (corporate) ladders