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EVOLVING CHAIR: Growing With Experience

26 May 2015 at 11:00 am
Lina Caneva
Complex health and social issues require complex solutions - solutions that organisations will struggle to implement going it alone, says Not for Profit sector veteran Leonie Young in this month’s Evolving Chair.

Lina Caneva | 26 May 2015 at 11:00 am


EVOLVING CHAIR: Growing With Experience
26 May 2015 at 11:00 am

Complex health and social issues require complex solutions – solutions that organisations will struggle to implement going it alone, says Not for Profit sector veteran Leonie Young in this month’s Evolving Chair.

Young was the CEO and Board Director of beyondblue between 2003 and 2010 and is now the Chair of Grow, a community-based organisation that helps Australians recover from mental illness through a program of mutual support and personal development.

    She took on the role of Chair in February this year after joining the organisation’s board in late 2014. She continue to sit on other boards, including those of the Australian Gynaecological Cancer Foundation and the National Parent & Infant Research Institute.

Young’s national leadership career in the public and Not for Profit sectors in Australia has spanned over 30 years, including implementing and leading Australia-wide health, mental health and primary care reform strategies as a CEO, Board Director, NGO leader, State Manager and public sector executive.

What is your organisation and what is the board structure?

My organisation is Grow; I joined the Board in November 2014 and accepted the role of Board Chair in February 2015.   I think Grow is an amazing organisation, one of Australia’s enduring mental health Not for Profits, established in 1957. It has a proven program for mental wellbeing, is a national and international NFP agency.  Grow is a mental health leader in Australia in mutual help and peer support, with most of the program delivered by volunteers, people with the lived experience of mental illness.  

The company is led by a CEO, Clare Guilfoyle, and governed by a Board of directors, with limited liability and registered with ASIC.  I accepted the Chair role from Barry Peach, a long standing and considerate Chair whose personal support and commitment to Grow and its values has assisted Grow’s social and corporate development.

Grow aims to provide hope and recovery to people who strive to achieve and maintain good mental health; and to develop and influence the role of peer support as a method to achieve good mental health through the continued development of the Grow program, and through research and partnership with other like minded services.

What attracts you to a Not for Profit or for-profit board?

After more than 30 years in the public and community health sectors as a successful CEO with beyondblue, State Manager and national mental health leader and program director, I’m proud and pleased to share my skills and expertise with Not for Profit boards as a director, and with Grow as Chair.  In my experience, a well-functioning Board, together with a skilled CEO, shared goals, good practices, talented people, and thousands of indefatigable volunteers, supported by the community, will aid and strengthen the organisation and the communities it supports.  

What are the key sector issues that are being discussed at board level?

There are three key sector issues being discussed at Board level:  

  • Recommendations to the Federal Government by Australia’s Mental Health Commission Review of Australia’s overburdened mental health services and the much anticipated but nil response to date;

  • The challenges of addressing ongoing stigma of mental illness which often prevents people from seeking help, and raising awareness of available Grow and other mental health services; and,

  • Preparing for the opportunities and challenges to the differing National Disability Implementation Scheme (NDIS) models across states and territories.

Does your board believe collaboration between organisations within your area is important?

Collaboration has proven essential and is well regarded by the Grow Board, managers and Grow community. Why?  Because no one service can address the complex needs of people with multiple health and mental health issues and together, we can achieve more; people often join Grow with complex health and mental health issues seeking access to housing, employment, family support, transport, disability, health and other supports – hence Grow works in close collaboration with many community and social support services – and we assist and complement multiple services.

Do you have any advice around governance?  

Board agreement to focus on corporate and board governance as ongoing agenda items and regularly reviewing progress, helps to build Board knowledge and understanding of the business – and improve the Board’s performance.   

Do you have any advice around the Board’s relationship with the Chief Executive Officer?

[It is] essential for good outcomes, for the Board and Chair to fully support the CEO, to build good relations, and for all to share organisational goals and business understanding in order to address the challenges of the organisation.

What is a current priority for the Board?  

Running a successful Odd Socks Day Campaign on the 2 October 2015 which focuses on reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Odd Socks Day is an annual, national event where we invite everyone to join us in wearing odd socks to highlight the prevalence and impact of mental illness which can affect anyone of us.  We invite the public to have a conversation about their experiences of mental illness with family, friends and work colleagues, post a photo and testimonial on what Odd Sock Day and stigma means to the wearer on Grow’s website or Facebook page, and make a contribution to our fundraising goal.  All money raised goes back into the campaign to further increase awareness and further develop stigma busting projects.  

As with all of the Board and the Grow community, I’ll be inviting my Linkedin colleagues, friends and family to join me in wearing odd socks on October 2nd.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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