Volunteering Australia CEO Reveals ‘Passion’ for New Job
5 September 2013 at 10:14 am
Newly appointed Volunteering Australia CEO Brett Williamson says his passion for volunteering led him to postpone his retirement to take up the controversial role.
Speaking to Pro Bono Australia at the National Conference on Volunteering in Adelaide, the former CEO of Surf Life Saving Australia said the cause was close to his heart and that he was prepared to make the hard calls to protect its best interests.
“I’m very excited about helping volunteers get the recognition and resources they deserve,” Williamson said.
“I left Surf Life Saving Australia, planned on having a bit of a retirement, then this came to my attention. I thought, wow, that’s something I’d really enjoy, having my background.”
Williamson has been working in the Surf Lifesaving space for the past 29 years, but said it had not been difficult to focus on a new venture.
“It hasn’t been hard at all. I feel passion for it – volunteerism is part of the DNA of Australia. Surf Life Saving Australia is one organisation that has grown through volunteerism.
Williamson said he could put his existing knowledge to good use in his new role.
“I’m a person who needs to wake up in the morning knowing I’m working for a great cause,” he said.
The appointment of a new CEO has been much anticipated. Volunteering Australia closed the doors of its Melbourne headquarters at the end of June 2012 as part of a major restructuring by its board and the re-establishment of its operations in Canberra with a new and smaller team.
Brett Williamson’s departure from Surf Life Saving Australia in June this year was preceded by the resignation of several board members, attracting national press attention.
The circumstances of his departure had not been a factor in his new role, he said.
“I haven’t had anybody being critical. To me that’s all water under a bridge,” Williamson said.
“A couple of people didn’t like the direction Surf Life Saving Australia was taking, and if they felt better taking it out on me, then that’s fine.
“The organisation is in a good place. Memberships have grown, services have grown. I felt it was the right time to resign.
“My previous role gave me great experience and knowledge about surf life saving as an emergency service but also experience working with volunteers and the Not for Profit sector.
“The response has been very welcoming. It’s a bit of a learning curve, about where the organisation has been in terms of the relocation and revisiting of strategic and business plans.
“Obviously from an organisational point of view Volunteering Australia is smaller, but that doesn’t mean the goals and ambitions are any less significant to both the organisation and to wider society in economic and social terms.
“It’s become very obvious that the state-based chairpersons and CEO network are very collaborative.
“I think it’s about a collegiate approach, with key stakeholders, to develop state bodies.
“One of the lessons from Surf Life Saving Australia is that as a state peak or national peak body your prominent role is to play an enabling role for the frontline, whether for states or volunteers themselves – enabling them to have fun and enjoy volunteer work, whether on the beach or behind the scenes, and whether that means providing resources or providing a voice, or sharing best practice.
“You have to cut the bureaucracy and let people have fun.
“I’d like to think my style … I listen, and hopefully get people to facilitate effective, valid decisions, based on information.It’s not just about doing things right, but also doing the right things.
“I haven’t got my feet under the desk yet and I will confirm with the board absolute priorities for the organisation going forward.”
Williamson said attending the conference had proven a good precursor to taking up his new role.
“Everyone’s got a smile on their face and a bounce in their feet. It’s great to be around so many vibrant people passionate about volunteering.”
“There have been some old familiar faces and lots of new people,” he said.
Williamson also had a message for his new community.
“I’d like the volunteering community and volunteers to truly understand the value that they contribute to our way of life and the welfare and wellbeing of communities,” he said.
“Hopefully they’ll understand and appreciate that they’ve got a champion of the cause. It’s a real honour and a privilege to be a CEO of this organisation.”
Williamson commences his post following the conference, which is hosted by Volunteering Australia and concludes on Friday. He was formally introduced as the new CEO at the welcome reception last night.