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What the Minister did next

Candy Broad, a former state government Minister, talks about the shift from politics to governance roles. By Meredith Carter

Preparation, preparation and more preparation

Preparation, preparation and more careful preparation - in conversation with The Women's Table it was clear that these bywords underscore how Candy Broad got to where she is today following a long political career including a swag of Ministerial roles in the previous Victorian Labor Government.

Working back from the several Board Directorships she has under her belt today, Candy took the Women's Table back to where it all began. Brought up on a sheep station in Western Australia, Candy joked that having seen the occasional sheep killed she knew she could manage her most recent Board role as the Chair of PRIMESAFE - the food safety regulator which also has responsibilities for animal welfare. More seriously in addition to her experience as a Minister working with many different types of regulators, this was an organisation the state government felt needed some cultural change, including involving more women in its governance. And promoting both women and cultural change are things with which Candy has more than a little experience. She began her University days as a commerce student in WA with little enthusiasm for student politics. However, especially after moving to Victoria, decided that to pursue her interest in the translation of policy into action, it was necessary to become active in student, party, and ultimately parliamentary politics.

Formal credentials are important

Interestingly after thirty years in senior political roles and in government at the state level Candy felt she had few formal credentials to back her interest in a transition to board governance. As a result, in the final stage of her political career she took steps to rectify this. She also undertook the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) governance course and strongly recommends that women considering board careers think about doing this as valuable preparation.

Candy also thought through the areas to which she had a long term commitment and began to volunteer with organisations whose values matched hers and where she felt confident there wouldn't be a conflict with her roles as an MP.

A history of activism in relevant areas

A founding member of Emily's List, the organisation that supports Labor women standing for public office, Candy played an instrumental role as an MP in the decriminalisation of abortion as well as playing a key role as a Minister in the Bracks government fostering an integrated approach across government and agencies including the police force, to addressing and understanding family violence as a crime. Wanting to continue her activism in these areas made becoming involved in Women's Health Victoria (WHV) - a statewide health promotion organisation - an obvious choice. On the Board of this organisation she is involved in promoting the need for the current state government to introduce a sexual and reproductive health strategy and further advance the reproductive rights of Victorian women.

Don't be shy about your interest

Candy doesn't recommend being shy about your interest in being on a Board. While she didn't formally engage the services of a recruiter to help with her search, making use of her networks to tap their expertise over coffee or lunch as well as attending some AICD presentations by recruiters for would-be board members. However having identified the organisations she was interested in Candy also let those organisations know how she felt she could contribute. This meant when a vacancy on the Board of WHV came up she was approached and duly elected.

Candy also had strong rural links having been a country MP in the later part of her career in government, ultimately moving full time to Daylesford. She had long been involved in activism and advocacy for renewable energy and decided to approach the Hepburn Wind Co-op, Australia's first community-owned wind farm at Leonards Hill. The amount of energy generated by its two huge wind turbines would support both Hepburn Shire and Daylesford. The Co-op had only ever had one woman involved in its governance and had none at the time Candy expressed interest in its board while she was still an MP. With a lot of encouragement there is now a lot better balance of women and men.

Creating a better world

Equal pay and the adequacy of retirement incomes for women led step by step to an interest in the governance of industry superannuation funds. The philosophy of the virtuous circle created by retirement savings invested in long-term infrastructure to support a more equal society was also attractive. So she talked with the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) and found that more formal governance qualifications were required to participate in this highly regulated arena. So this time Candy did the AIST Trustee Director course. Armed with this additional certification she approached people she knew working in or involved in the governance of industry funds to express her interest and was then invited to apply for an independent Director's role on First Super. She warns that before you can actually be appointed to a super fund you need to be prepared for a lot of investigation of not only your own finances but those of the people closest to you.

Finding the right balance

Now with a strategic mix of paid and unpaid roles and in her second term as a Director on at least some of these organisations Candy feels confident in her ability to make a real contribution through her board roles. This meant she was well placed when asked to take on a role as Chair of 'safe steps' a new state-wide organisation established in the wake of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. It's role is to organise first response accommodation and other support for women and their children escaping violence.

Candy is now in the happy position of saying no to offers to participate in further Boards, seeking to retain some balance in her life between board roles and other interests such as her extended family, mostly still in Western Australia, and travel. Again with planning and preparation she says it's all do-able and it's clear that Candy's contribution to the life and well being of the community is certainly not over. We look forward to seeing it continue to unfold into the future.

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