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CEO Achieves Executive of the Year Title

28 November 2016 at 11:28 am
Wendy Williams
“Believe in yourself” is the advice from the CEO of a disability service provider who has been named the 2016 Not for Profit Executive of the Year for helping the organisation get ready for the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Wendy Williams | 28 November 2016 at 11:28 am


CEO Achieves Executive of the Year Title
28 November 2016 at 11:28 am

“Believe in yourself” is the advice from the CEO of a disability service provider who has been named the 2016 Not for Profit Executive of the Year for helping the organisation get ready for the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Achieve Australia CEO Anne Bryce, who has spent nearly 30 years working within the disability, human services and health sectors, received the accolade at a gala ceremony in Sydney on Thursday as part The CEO Magazine’s 2016 Executive of the Year Awards.

Bryce, who also recently won the 2016 Telstra New South Wales For Purpose And Social Enterprise Award, told Pro Bono Australia News the recognition was inspirational.

“It is just wonderful to be recognised for some fantastic work that I’ve been fortunate enough to lead with our organisation,” Bryce said.

“It’s really inspiration to be recognised amongst both your own sector, because there has been such lovely recognition, coming on the back of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards in New South Wales as well as the recognition from Sydney University, and now to get this from CEO Magazine, it is really lovely to have a sort of rounded response or reaction to the work we have done.”

The awards recognised the achievements of exceptional individuals for their professional contribution over the past year across 24 categories.

Stephen Cornelissen, group CEO of not-for-profit organisation Mercy Health was awarded the title of CEO of the Year.

Other winners included:

  • Managing Director of the Year: Nathan Cheong, managing director, BioCeuticals
  • Chairperson of the Year: Tina West, chairperson, Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council
  • CFO of the Year: Michael Harvey, COO and CFO, Australian Radio Network
  • CIO of the Year: William Confalonieri, chief digital officer and CIO and vice president, Deakin University
  • Health and Pharmaceutical Executive of the Year: Stephen Cornelissen, CEO, Mercy Health.

Anne BryceBryce was recognised for her efforts in meeting the challenges of the NDIS rollout “head on”.

In a bid to prepare for the NDIS, Achieve Australia restructured their management, developed a new strategic plan and reinvigorated the workplace culture.

Bryce, who took the role of CEO in 2003 before leading the organisation through significant growth and a merger with The Crowle Foundation in 2009, said the organisation had done a lot to prepare for the NDIS.

“We’d always been behind the whole NDIS in terms of a better way for people with disability and their family… to get funding,” she said.

“I’ve been in the lounge rooms of the mums and dads who’ve shared the stories of their family journey and shared the tears and have been emotionally affected myself by how hard it has been, so we’ve always been behind the campaign from the word go, but we’ve also been quietly just beavering away at our own set of circumstances.

“We were in a situation, we had been leading devolution work for 30 years but our last piece of devolution over the last bit of time following the merger meant that we took really the assets of the organisation and the balance sheet and we challenged ourselves at both a governance and operational level to dare to be different, dare to take some risks and be more agile in our approach.

“That meant that we took a balance sheet of $10 million and turned that into a $40 million outcome after six years of really sheer hard work, but you quadruple your balance sheet, improve your cash flow it means that as you’re going into a very disruptive market that you’ve got working capital and you can have a way of thinking about your organisation differently.

“One of the things was that we consciously made a decision to move away from a welfare mentality and we actively had that conversation both at a board and operational level that we wanted to be the masters of our own destiny, and not to be beholden to a sort of cap in hand approach to government.

“So it was a real fit for us and we started that journey some years ago and then we proactively over the last couple of years invested into new roles, new ways, new thinking, new training and reaching out into the broader community into corporate to have more of a business relationship, learn from for-profits and think about things differently.”

Bryce said the secret to success was being clear in your vision.

“I do think if you can be clear in your vision and your purpose and maintaining that goal in the face of all sorts of adversity, and we’ve faced a lot of adversity in changing the company, a lot of stakeholders who feared the change internally, externally, families of people with disability who didn’t necessarily see how we were going to arrive at their vision, and you’ve got to have a belief in that,” she said.

“And if you can get the support of your board to make the necessary changes, and certainly the board has backed me all the way with the changes that we made, we made some pretty bold decisions and so it was both the decision making, but also at a personal level you have to have your own sense of self, your own purpose in life, resilience.

“You need to be really clear about why you are doing what you are doing, be very honest in that and very transparent and have the courage to back your convictions and get on with it and there were times when you know we didn’t have the resources, that’s why I say it was sheer hard work, there was years and years, and if you can see what we’ve just done in the last couple of weeks, so not only are we strong financially and we can reorganise ourselves despite significant disruption with the current administrative issues with the NDIS rollout, and we are experiencing significant disruptions… but we’re strong and we’ll be ok and we’ll work through that and we’re very proactive.

“If you have that belief and you know you’re going to impact people’s lives, you get on with it.”

Bryce said the organisation was excited about the NDIS and wants to see it work.

“People will be able to choose their services and they will purchase services from the general marketplace and people are still yet to be able to exercise that choice and control and I can’t wait to see how that plays out for people with disability and their families,” she said.

“We’re hopeful, we just want it to deliver on its promise and we don’t fear what that means in terms of if people go ‘you know what we don’t want your services’, that’s ok, because people can go out and test that and what we believe is that if we keep providing quality services then people will come back or chose us because they know they are going to get a consistent quality service from us, so we’re very excited about it.”

Bryce said the organisation had recently taken a suite of 15 apartments, the first of their kind in Sydney and New South Wales, built in medium to high density, and salt and peppered throughout three towers.

“No developers in Sydney have developed anything like this before,” she said.

“They have been built at the highest level of access, we’ve just had the families and people with disabilities on the site visiting their apartments… and they’ve been crying because they’re so happy and they’ve been so emotionally moved by the outcome that their family members are going to be living in these new beautiful socially inclusive apartments, it’s fantastic to watch, just wonderful.”

Bryce said the thing that “keeps her going” is knowing that she is making a difference in the lives of people with a disability.

“That’s not something that I take lightly,” she said.

“I come to work each day and people tell me about the stories about somebody moving out of a large residential, living in a community home, having a more intimate individualised support arrangement, how we can intervene in a way that we can enhance their everyday… and the gorgeous things, the piece that is the takeaway is that people, everybody, with a disability can learn.

“The strongest form of learning is modelling and I watch people who may not have done things for 20, 30, 40 years… and suddenly within hours or days of moving out of these large congregate facilities and move into these more intimate home settings and suddenly people start doing things they haven’t done for decades, but somewhere in their memory they remember.

“We had a man move out a few years ago and the staff told me, and I cried because they were crying, he went to the staff member and asked for a drink with what communication he had, the staff member took him to the fridge, poured him a glass of orange juice and he watched the man watch all this happen and he goes to the staff member half an hour later and he indicates he wants another drink and the staff member says to him you can go to the fridge and pour the drink yourself and he did.

“And what is powerful about that is that he couldn’t do that where he had been living only days earlier and nor would the staff have thought to do that because he didn’t have access to the fridge because it was in a central kitchen and in a home and I go to myself, can you imagine not being able to pour yourself a drink when you want it.

“When the staff talk to me and tell me their stories I get really emotional and they get really emotional because we change lives in ordinary ways that are profound and we know that they’re going to have lasting consequences.”

Bryce said her advice to other not-for-profit CEOs was just to believe.

“Believe in yourself, you do need to dig deep, build up a network around yourself both externally and internally and be prepared to reach out and ask for help when you know you need help.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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