Here, she talks about her experiences as CEO and the work she is doing at the Shire of Carnarvon.
I migrated to Australia from India in the mid-70s with my parents and love the way this country welcomed us and provided me with opportunities I would barely have dreamt of in India. My local government career started at the Town of Bassendean as a Library
Clerk. It was here that I met three very strong dynamic female managers who inspired me to further my studies and follow my career aspirations. I joined the executive of the City of Greater Geraldton in 2008 with the support of Tony Brun the former
CEO at the City and after seven rewarding years, I left to join the Shire of Dowerin as their CEO.
I had never set out specifically to be a CEO; I have always focussed on the goal in front of me at the time. I was encouraged to apply for CEO roles by my colleagues at the City of Greater Geraldton and was attracted by new challenges and an opportunity
to expand my professional and personal horizons. Once I was in the role however, I was humbled and excited by the privilege of leading an organisation and to use my leadership style to shape the way we worked as a team and with our community. My focus,
and therefore my achievements in my executive career has been to foster and nurture positive relationships between the organisation and the community. I have been privileged to work with outstanding leaders using deliberative democracy for working
collaboratively with the community such as Prof Janette Hartz-Karp. This experience has informed my leadership style and I feel that style has stood me in great stead working with the communities in Geraldton, Dowerin and the Cocos Keeling Islands.
I am proud to say that this work has always improved trust and collaboration between the local governments I served and their communities; I sincerely hope to be able to foster that here in Carnarvon.
I have a five-year contract with the Shire of Carnarvon, and I hope in that time, I can help this amazing community realise some of its enormous potential and bring investors and residents to Carnarvon. I also would like to ensure Carnarvon is recognised
for its role as a strategic regional centre and that the State Government supports that community aspiration by placing departmental heads in this centre for the Gascoyne. Looking internally, I have identified some very strong and capable women
at the Shire of Carnarvon whom I would like to mentor and support to reach their career goals.
There has been a significant shift in local government in recent years and it seems that contemporary Councils when recruiting their CEOs are now valuing a range of leadership styles and skills to suit their specific needs. That was not always the case.
While I don’t want to generalise, in my earlier experiences in local government it was clear that women were less likely to be considered for CEO roles. CEOs seemed to be selected from the engineering, accounting and planning areas — which
were dominated by men and the community and social sciences, usually led by women, were less valued. I would also say that, quite apart from a gender-based view, a directive leadership style was more valued than a collaborative and inclusive style
— a style that is more commonly associated as being feminine. But I really think that is changing and inclusive and collaborative leadership is now more valued in senior roles.
Supporting each other, recognising and valuing the diversity of skills women can bring to the role and most importantly, encouraging women to believe in themselves. And I think much of this is already happening.
The opportunities in Carnarvon are outstanding. The landscape and climate are stunning, the economic potential is diverse and exciting, including horticulture and agriculture, tourism, fishing, mining and emerging technology such as green hydrogen. We
need to celebrate and promote these opportunities to encourage investors to start their businesses here and to encourage people to choose this great community for the beautiful lifestyle it offers. Like many local governments, particularly in regional
WA, there are challenges in matching our revenue with the services our community want and deserve. We have a massive road network that requires attention while also providing services and facilities that enhance amenity and liveability. We need to
develop strategies to increase revenue, without putting too much pressure on our ratepayers, to bridge this gap.
There are so many projects and initiatives that the Shire is working on. As mentioned above we are working on having Carnarvon positioned, recognised and resourced as the regional centre for the Gascoyne, with commensurate services and facilities. We
will need to work closely with the State Government to realise that ambition and look forward to seeing that come to fruition. We are delighted with the growth in tourism with many thousands of visitors enjoying the warm climate, gorgeous setting
and abundance in fresh produce. A great escape from the winter chills. We are working on making sure our visitors get a fabulous experience while they are here, such as new facilities at the spectacular Blowholes and Aquarium swimming spot.
I had a mini-break on this Sunday just gone — I took the whole day off (well most of the day) and went to a lovely swimming/snorkelling spot in the Shire and enjoyed a winter day, Carnarvon-style, snorkelling, swimming and sunshine. Life doesn’t
get much better!
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