From Legal Advisor to NCOSS CEO
21 July 2014 at 10:38 am
Formerly a government legal advisor, now recently appointed CEO of the Council of Social Service of NSW, Tracy Howe, has also come into her new job armed with many years of experience in domestic violence services. Howe is this week’s Changemaker.
Prior to starting at NCOSS, Howe held the position of CEO at Domestic Violence NSW – the peak body representing specialist domestic violence services across NSW.
“Domestic and Family Violence remains at epidemic levels in Australia and in the role [as CEO at Domestic Violence NSW] I worked with some amazing women and organisations to demand governments take meaningful action to deal with this issue head on,” Howe says.
Howe has a legal background and has worked as a legal advisor with government. Her first job in the Not for Profit sector was managing the Wimlah Specialist Domestic Violence Service and Refuge in Katoomba, NSW.
She currently sits on the NSW Government's Domestic and Family Violence Council and the Premier's Council on Homelessness and she is the NSW non-government representative on National Plan Implementation Panel for the Australian Government's National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022.
Howe is also a representative on WESNET, co-convenor of NSW Women's Alliance and part of the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance’s Advisory Group.
What are you currently working on in your organisation?
I’ve joined the Council of Social Service NSW at a really exciting time. I’m busy getting up to speed on the range of policy areas NCOSS works on and looking to build on the great work it does in our community.
We also have an election on the horizon in NSW. We’re currently finalising our consultations with the community sector on the policy platform which will form the basis of our advocacy work in the lead up to Election Day – so watch this space.
How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?
I have worked in the sector, mainly in the area of Domestic and Family Violence, since 2008. Before that I was working as legal advisor with government.
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
My first role was managing the Wimlah Specialist Domestic Violence Service and Refuge in Katoomba where I took on a variety of programs that provide support to women and children who have experienced domestic violence.
I then took up the position of CEO at Domestic Violence NSW, formerly the NSW women’s refuge movement. Domestic and Family Violence remains at epidemic levels in Australia and in the role I worked with some amazing women and organisations to demand Governments take meaningful action to deal with this issue head on.
What has been the most challenging part of your work?
Staying abreast of a constantly shifting policy and political landscape. There’s never a dull moment in the community sector!
Luckily I work with talented staff and a fantastic, collaborative sector – together we work to make sure issues of inequality and disadvantage do not fall off the agenda.
In terms of your work sitting on a Not for Profit board, what would you say is the key to an effective NFP board?
An effective NFP board understands the difference between governance matters and operational matters.
When Boards remain focused on good governance of an organisation rather than getting bogged down in operational matters they provide the necessary leadership to allow those working in the organisation to achieve great outcomes.
I consider my greatest achievement to be …
Presenting a workshop at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
The first time I went to CSW it was the most exciting thing I have ever been a part of. Being with women from across the globe, working together to promote our rights, allowed me to learn so much that I could take back to inform my work in Australia.
To then be invited back to run a workshop and contribute to the work to come out of CSW that year was a real honour.
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
I’ve been a regular watcher of Insiders, Q and A and Housewives of New York for a while now.
I love the Twitter community that’s formed around Insiders and Q and A. They’re great forums to discuss many of the issues our communities are grappling with at the moment.
Although I’ve never met many of the people I chat with I feel like we’ve become friends or at least partners in crime!
Housewives of New York is my guilty pleasure!
What (or who) inspires you?
People who remember the most important thing you can do when working in the community sector is to remain focused on outcomes for the people you serve.
During my time at Domestic Violence NSW, Maha Abdo OAM was a perfect example this.
She was fantastic to work with and an inspiration. Maha does excellent work in the community as the head of the United Muslim Women Association. She’s calm, she’s insightful and she makes great things happen in often difficult circumstances.