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Working Towards a Goal


17 November 2014 at 11:16 am
Xavier Smerdon
As the CEO of Ostara Australia, one of Australia’s largest disability employment services, Tom Baxter was drawn to the Not for Profit sector to fill a gap in his professional life. Baxter is this week’s Changemaker.

Xavier Smerdon | 17 November 2014 at 11:16 am


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Working Towards a Goal
17 November 2014 at 11:16 am

As the CEO of Ostara Australia, one of Australia’s largest disability employment services, Tom Baxter was drawn to the Not for Profit sector to fill a gap in his professional life. Baxter is this week’s Changemaker.

Baxter moved to Ostara Australia from Scope Business Enterprises, where he was General Manager. There he oversaw the transformation of Scope’s commercial enterprises, including Australian Disability Enterprises, Disability Employment Service and new Social Enterprises.  

Ostara Australia placed 2,000 job seekers with mental illnesses in work last year and works with over 500 employers from across Australia.

Baxter’s career has included senior executive across banking and payment services and health insurance sectors. He was the CEO of two major bank payments and processing “shared services” joint ventures, Cardlink/BPAY and Vipro.

What are you currently working on in your organisation?

Transforming Lives! We help people disadvantaged through health, disability, age or cultural background into sustainable employment.

Ostara is actually Australia’s largest disability employment service for people with mental health problems. Finding and maintaining employment is incredibly important for overcoming mental illness – it really can help people to transform their lives.

We are always looking at how we can improve employment results for people experiencing mental illness, which has led to our recent partnerships with MIND Australia and the Mental Illness Fellowship of Queensland.

What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?

The opportunity to balance my long commercial career with a strong social mission focus. For some years I have felt that there was a real “gap” in my professional life. I have been very

How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?

For 4 years, from September 2010.

What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?

General Manager at Scope Business Enterprises at Scope (VIC) Ltd.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

Building strong teams to deliver great employment outcomes for people experiencing mental illness.

What has been the most challenging part of your work?

Developing a strong leadership culture across the business, which is spread from Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands to Metro Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, to Mandurah in WA.

And how do you overcome that?

By travelling a lot, staying close to the leaders in our team, and introducing a leadership development program across the organisation. The program has been really well received by our leadership team – unfortunately leadership development is an area that is too often overlooked in Not for Profit organisations.          

What do you like best about working in your current organisation?

Ostara Australia achieves amazing results by supporting clients to find real jobs. But the results don’t just relate to the individual who has gained employment. It can also have a transformative effect on their new employer and workplace. It’s rewarding to be able to help break down the myths, stereotypes and stigma that so often accompany mental illness. The reality is that one in five Australians experience some form of mental illness every year: We need to challenge the often held assumption that if you have a mental health problem you will not be able to stay in a job.

Where do you feel your passion for good came from?

Both my parents have had a significant impact on the lives of people they have worked with, as a teacher and as a preacher.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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