Changemakers - Dan Romanis
25 January 2013 at 1:33 pm
Dan Romanis is the chief executive officer of Marriott Support Services. This week we profile Dan in Changemakers – a weekly column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.
Marriott Support Services is a Melbourne-based organisation which provides assistance to adults with an intellectual disability. For forty years, Marriott Support Services has been committed to helping these people through services specifically addressing their needs.
What are you currently working on in your organisation?
I’m actively implementing our business strategies to take the organisation forward after a period of consolidation and re-structuring.
Across our four business streams Marriott Support Services provides day services, runs a modern packaging & third party logistics factory warehouse, delivers land care management including commercial landscaping & grounds maintenance and assists people with a disability to prepare for, find and maintain employment.
The renewed emphasis within the National Disability Insurance Scheme of an individualised person centred approach to employment, training and support heralds a new era in the disability sector and it’s one which we welcome.
What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?
While my career has been one of working in this sector for almost 40 years, I suppose my initial taste was almost by accident in that I spent 1972 and 1973, immediately after completing my degree, working as a volunteer teacher in a rural school in Malaysia. That gave me a taste of the sector and since then I have enjoyed a variety of career development and leadership opportunities, initially in the public service and more recently within the health and community sector, almost 20 years of which has involved working for non-profit charities.
It’s a sector which draws on a strong values base and which holds a fascinating interplay between policy and operations – all of which I have found to be tremendously challenging and rewarding.
How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?
For just over 40 years. I spent 1972 and 1973, immediately after completing my degree, working as a volunteer teacher in a rural school Malaysia. That really broadened my horizons and gave me exposure to different cultures and values. Nineteen years in the state public service here in Victoria laid incredibly important foundations for the non-profit world which is where I’ve worked ever since.
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
While I count my work as a volunteer teacher in Malaysia and my years in the state public service as working in the Not for Profit sector, my role as CEO with Royal District Nursing Service in Melbourne from 1994 to 2011 was my first job in what many regard as the “true” nfp sector. It was a role which presented many challenges and exciting opportunities and one in which I could regularly re-invent myself.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
Marriott Support Services is an outstanding provider of programs, employment and services for adults with intellectual disabilities which actively promotes the need to balance caring with a business based approach. We have a very strong community and volunteer base which is a major strength.
I really like the underlying organisational approach which places particular emphasis on the organisation’s underlying philosophies of “support not help” and “compassion not sympathy”. The National Disability Insurance Scheme’s person centred approach aligns so strongly with the Marriott approach of working with individuals to meet their needs, goals and aspirations.
Another real highlight of working here is the people I work with. We employ about 200 people of whom over half are supported employees. They are truly wonderful people, talented in so many and different ways. I feel this is an organisation in which I can contribute and at the same time learn – it’s really enjoyable.
What are you reading/ watching/ listening to at the moment?
Having hated English Literature at school – (I think it was Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which was responsible!) – I now I thoroughly enjoy reading a diverse range of books and materials, both fiction and non-fiction.
I recently read Say You're Sorry by Michael Robotham, probably one of the most gripping pieces of fiction I’ve read in many years.
I’m currently immersed in Tibet Tibet by Patrick French and earlier this year loved reading Albert Facey’s A Fortunate Life. One of my children has given me Bryce Courtenay’s latest and final novel, Jack of Diamonds, for Christmas so I have that to look forward to in the year ahead.
My love of Australia (I’ve lived here for just over 40 years) and particularly my love of rural Victoria and the outback are reflected on our bookshelves at home, with books such as From Strength to Strength by Sara Henderson and books on the Victorian High Country including The History of Wonnangatta Station by Wallace Mortimer
Never say never – because what lies ahead may change any pre-conceived ideas or thinking.