I come from Uruguay.  I was born in ‘68’ and migrated to Australia 1976.  It was during the early 70s, around 1973 – 1976, there was quite a lot of political unrest in Uruguay.  I had a neighbor that disappeared.  Disappearances were common then, and people were captured, tortured, and killed.  My neighbor had a little baby, and our communities were quite tight knit.  

I had an Auntie who had to go into exile, and they had to leave the country very quickly after being captured.  I didn't know this as a child, I just knew that she had disappeared into a different country and had to leave her baby behind.  I also had a cousin who was jailed…  So, we migrated to Australia with that history.  

I was only eight at the time, so it left a very strong imprint.  At 16, I met some friends who were a part of a Socialist movement for South America, and I joined.  I was really going to try to change the world in my own way.  I always had an interest in helping and making a difference.  

I’ve always had a very strong social justice perspective and have always seen when injustices were being done.  I didn’t believe in a world of injustice and I wanted to make a difference.

Initially I didn’t know how I was going to do that.  When I was in year 10 I did a school placement.  The teacher gave me a young boy and a young girl to work with to help with their reading.  This one little boy intrigued me because he couldn't pronounce certain words.  I spent about two or three hours with him reading.  I taught him how to pronounce words like school and just little things like that, and I realised what a huge impact I could have on this little boy in such a short period of time.  

It made me wonder why he had a problem in the first place.  I discovered that his mother was deaf.  The little boy had learned how to talk with her accent.  This made me really frustrated; that the system was so broken that it hadn’t picked up on this.  That the only reason this boy struggled was because his mother was deaf, and that with some extra assistance he could actually do all of these things fine. 

This sort of lead me on a path.  I felt that on a personal level I could make a difference and knowing that on a social level, I wanted to make a difference.  

I thought it was going to be speech pathology, but I missed out by one mark.  In those days if you didn't get the one mark, you didn't get in.  I was quite artistic at the time, so I studied Diversional Therapy and started working with people with disabilities, and I loved it.  

I was working with community integration programs and challenging parents to think differently about their children's capacities.  I was involved with volunteering programs, helping to get kids out into sports and mainstream activities.  

Again, it was that whole thing about how a little idea, a little seed, could make a big difference.   

This got me really interested in social policy.  The opportunity came up to work as a community development worker in council and I saw the potential for bigger impact at a local level.  I was working with the disability discrimination act, around access policy for North Sydney council.  I really started looking at how I could have bigger impact.  So, from there I went to State Government, and then into higher positions where I felt that I could make a change.  

That is what I love about my work, that I can influence policy.  That as an organization we can influence policy and direction, and that we can have a broader social impact. 

One of my passions is, how we address the issue of respectful relationships in community.  How do we address some of the issues around domestic and family violence or violence against women?  How do we address values that people hold within community?  How do we address the value of children in these relationships and so forth?  I always want to be careful that you just don't get ambitious for the sake of ambition, but that you have a drive behind what you do and why you do it.  It is very easy to become complacent.
We have lots of demand from clients coming through the door.  Everything we are considering is around how we get the best outcomes for them.  I love to hear when staff are thinking outside the square about how they can meet the client’s needs.

When complaints come through the door, it’s a matter of looking at it systematically and asking, is this just one person?  Or is this something we are doing across the organization?

I think it’s important to listen to what people are saying in society and the social issues that people are interested in.  Using various sources to get that information.  I'm not the only person who resources interrelate; we have whole teams that do marketing, research, or innovation and operations etc. 

Our whole workforce are also human beings who have the same trials and tribulations as everyone else.  

I've gone through a separation myself during Covid-19, which was challenging. I’ve sold a house and bought a house.  I have also gone from a full nest to an empty nest - It’s been tough.  You can’t rely on the people that you would ordinarily rely on, in fact, some of my closest friends are the furthest away.  

But it’s also been fun.  I have enjoyed other aspects.   I used to get up at 5:30am and get home at 7 - 7.30pm every night.  I don't do that anymore.  I can get up at 7am, exercise, have a nice breakfast (not on my lap while I’m driving to work), walk the dogs, spend some time with my partner and still be at work by 9.  It’s a great balance!  I’ve even been able to take up further study.  

We are no longer constrained by geography, so we can use our resources and skills more effectively.  

I can be sitting in my car waiting for my child to finish soccer training and be doing an online course on how to improve the relationship with my husband, or how to improve the relationship with my teenager - how to have that tricky conversation with my teenager about something that might be worrying me.  

Really dissolving the barriers - I think that it is limitless now in terms of what we can do, and I am really excited about that.