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Changemaker  |  Social Affairs

Start as You Mean to Carry On

13 March 2017 at 8:00 am
Wendy Williams
Sally Moyle is the chief executive of CARE Australia, an international humanitarian organisation which fights global poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls. She is this week’s Changemaker.

Wendy Williams | 13 March 2017 at 8:00 am


Start as You Mean to Carry On
13 March 2017 at 8:00 am

Sally Moyle is the chief executive of CARE Australia, an international humanitarian organisation which fights global poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls. She is this week’s Changemaker.

CARE Australia is a non-religious and non-political charity, working with communities to provide emergency relief and address the underlying causes of poverty.

It is predicated on a belief that supporting women and girls is one of the most effective ways to create sustainable outcomes in poor communities.

According to Moyle she has been in this space since she was a “five-year-old women’s libber”.

Over the course of a career spanning more than two decades, she has held senior executive roles in the Australian government, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Office for Women, and working on Indigenous affairs and disability care in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

She was formerly the principal gender specialist and assistant secretary at DFAT.

She also previously spent many years addressing gender issues at the Australian Human Rights Commission.

In October last year she made the switch from government to the not-for-profit sector, replacing Dr Julia Newton-Howes as the chief executive of CARE Australia.

Speaking at the time, CARE Australia chair Colin Galbraith said: “We are fortunate to have been able to attract someone of Sally’s stature and standing in the area of international development. Sally truly understands what it takes to alleviate poverty and promote positive and sustainable change in communities in need.”

He descried Moyle as “one of Australia’s leading thinkers and influencers in international development policy and practice”.

In this week’s Changemaker Moyle talks about playing a long game, the challenge of being the breadwinner for an organisation and the importance of living the social justice you are trying to achieve.

Sally MoyleWhat attracted you to move from government into the not-for-profit sector?

I’d always been, I guess, following a course through government, and that was always about social justice and gender equality and I knew that that would take me to the non-government sector at some stage. And it just was the right time and the right place and the right job. So I’ve been very lucky.

In terms of timing, 2016 signalled a disruption to politics on a global scale and we saw the fear of “the other” became a mainstay, while at the same time the world is facing a huge humanitarian crisis. What does this mean when it comes to international development?

There is no doubt about it, it is an uncertain time. And leaving government at this stage for me I think was a statement that I’ve got confidence in the future of development. It has to be part of a civilised world’s engagement with the world, and I’m hoping that this will be one of those ups and downs of history, but the trajectory of the world is to be generous and global and recognise that we all have to pull our weight.

So I’m recognising that it is a really uncertain time but I feel confident and I want to play my part in making sure that the world does take that more optimistic and positive route. And I can do that best in the non-government sector actually.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your role as chief executive of CARE Australia?

Well, clearly I’ve got a lot to learn. So, I’m comfortable with the business of development and I’m comfortable with management but the particular arrangements in CARE, in particular with its international confederation is a real, you know, learning for me. So I do have a lot of learning.

And then raising money is hard. In being a CEO in a non-government organisation you know I’m responsible for breadwinning for the whole organisation, and that’s hard, it is. Particularly in these challenging times.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Oh the fabulous team and the great work. So I have just such a fabulous gang of people and they are all highly committed to the work that we do, they really are and the work is super. I mean I come from a long background on working on gender equality and I expected to find that there would be some tightening and some strengthening to do in the space but I have to say I have been super impressed with the way CARE really does have gender equality in its heart and in its DNA. People care about it, people talk about, people do it. And that means doing it both in their own personal lives ad also in their work of course.

What are the biggest challenges facing gender equality at the moment?

There is significant backlash. I have been in this space for all of my life really and professionally for 25 years and I see this as a period of significant backlash, then there is a strengthening and growing backlash in positions of power and that’s a real challenge.

But the way I’d talk about it to younger people in particular is to say when you’re facing this level of backlash it means you are making progress, so we’ve got to redouble our efforts and really keep our eye on the ball and make it happen, because now is the moment. When you are facing your most backlash now is the moment to press forward because you are making progress.

But there are real challenges. Women in leadership, around the world still we haven’t reached 30 per cent of women in national parliaments, around the world one in three women faces violence by an intimate partner, by somebody who is meant to love her, and you know women still do most of the unpaid work, and that means that by the time they are old they are often living in poverty, because they’ve done everything that they’ve been told under the requirements of being a woman and then when they’re old, they suffer for it. It is not fair and it is one of the worst breaches of human rights, the way if women follow the rules they’re likely to end up poor.

What are CARE Australia’s current priorities?

Our current priorities are to engage effectively with a range of institutional donors like DFAT and other organisations like UN agencies, and be seen as a really effective and efficient partner, somebody that can understand the results that we are seeking and deliver those results and report on them effectively and simply, that’s what I want us to be. I want us to appeal to individual donors in Australia, both by making the case for aid in general, it’s about who we are, it’s about Australians being a generous people and also trying to appeal to donors to give specifically to CARE because, as I say, we’ve communicated effectively that gender equality is what’s going to make the difference between development and poverty.

Is Australia still a generous nation or is the fear of the other blocking that at the moment?

Australia is I think a generous nation but it’s natural that when people feel under pressure they kind of focus inwards, there’s no doubt that that’s the case. And I think sometimes it’s easy to forget who we are in that sense, when people are telling us to be fearful, when people are telling us the world’s a scary place. That’s what naturally people do, is turn inwards, and so our challenge is to say, you know Australia’s never been more wealthy, Australia’s never been in a better position globally, we’ve got powerful friends on every side and we can do this, we are a generous and fair nation and we can do this together. So don’t be frightened, look out and engage.

Through your work what is your ultimate goal?

To advance social justice. I’ve been coming at this problem, human problem, for all of my life and trying to attack it in different directions. I do think that approaching it through a gender equality lens is the most powerful because we know that if you want to achieve gender equality it is not just a matter of barging our way into the top table as white women, it is about making sure that everybody’s got a space at the table. So I think gender equality properly achieved, actually is the best way of delivering a better world for all of us.

How do you stay motivated?

Playing a long game. You can’t fall in a heap over every small setback, you’ve got to see a long game and I see the progress we’ve made since I was a little kid. Since I was a five-year-old woman’s libber. I can see the progress we’ve made since then. So I stay motivated by recognising how important it is and playing a long game.

How do you find time for yourself?

You just have to. Actually I really do believe in a work and family balance because if leaders are seen to be working all the hours that god gives, if we never have a proper balance, then young women, in particular, will look up at me and go: “I don’t want to be that, I don’t want to sacrifice everything for that.” And so I think it is incumbent on us as leaders to set an example and work reasonable hours. I work good hours, but they’re not killing hours and I think that’s important. And I’m trying to pass that on to people in CARE that you can be a leader without having to sacrifice everything else in your life.

What makes a good leader?

I think when you’ve got a trusting relationship with your team you can get to a stage where the hierarchy kind of dissolves and you’re a team and my role in the team is to make the decisions but we all have a say and we all have an equal strength of perspective.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am a reading a book called The Bookseller of Kabul, it’s a kind of story based on the real life of a family in Kabul through the Taliban and then the post-Taliban period, it is very interesting. It is by Asne Seierstad.

Do you have a favourite saying?

Yes I do, it is: “The means create the ends.” So you’ve got to start as you mean to carry on, if you want to achieve social justice you can’t get there by crawling over everybody else’s back, you’ve got to do it in partnership and live the social justice that you are trying to achieve. So it is about the means create the ends.

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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