Skip to content
News update

International Governance Leadership Conference 2023 day two: Key takeaways and tips from our experts

Day two Conference speakers

It was a big second day at Governance Institute of Australia’s International Governance Leadership Conference 2023.

In this news wrap, we highlight all the key takeaways, expert tips, and lightbulb moments. And in case you missed it, the highlights from day one can be found here.

Jump to session:

International keynote: Managing risk in hazardous environments

It is unlikely there’s a more hazardous and complex work environment than outer space.

But it was all in a day’s work for retired US Navy, former astronaut and Commander of space missions, Captain Jim Wetherbee.

The author of a book titled Controlling Risk in a Dangerous World kicked off with the first session on day two of the conference by unpacking his learnings along the way in his keynote speech.

The room fell into silence as Captain Wetherbee explained how leaders inspire others by demanding operational excellence from themselves first and foremost, before inspiring others.

With six space missions under his belt, he admitted that he always knew he was doing the best job in the world and worked hard throughout his career to think through the best way to approach leadership when working in hazardous environments.

‘The principles of operating excellence is to maintain situational awareness and to decide what principles work for your organisation. Searching for vulnerabilities and anticipating situational change is crucial,’ he said.

He went through a range of real-world scenarios and how to apply the best mental approach to each one to be successful. Captain Wetherbee also spoke about the concept of accountability, and the importance of identifying a problem and figuring out a solution collectively.

‘The job of the leader is not to do all the work. My role was to help them be successful so the workers can so the work,’ he said.

Fireside chat: Global polycrisis — what it means for us

Polar shifts in multiple global crises, interrelated consequences for policy makers, businesses and societies are big issues for leaders, who still need to look at the longer term.

It’s a topic that was explored in a fireside chat as organisations face polar shifts in regional and international power equations and global alliances, which has massive implications for the region.

The line-up included Siddharta Medappa, chief underwriting and reinsurance officer, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance, Peter Tesch, Former Ambassador to Germany and the Russian Federation and Maria MacNamara, Director of Corporate Affairs and Innovation Strategy, Kyndryl and Chair, AUKUS Information Sharing Committee.

Exercises need to be run in your organisation every six months, because the muscle memory is lost otherwise, MacNamara says.

Medappa told the room that in the past, cyber risk, people risks, regulatory and technology risks are common concerns, but can generally be managed through controls and actions.

More recently, cyber risk has come to the forefront, while climate change has been a significant concern in the last four to five years.

Some of the more historic risks, such as cost of living, trade war and inflationary risks have returned and today make up part of the risk profile facing organisations.

And the pandemic has changed working environments, with the stigma around working from home removed in corporate environments. ‘Boards are much more aware of risk, and managing resilience across the board,’ Medappa says.

The Voice

The Voice referendum is on the horizon, and attendees had the opportunity to understand what the referendum is all about and why it matters for Indigenous Australians.

Sean Gordon, member, Referendum Working Group, Chairman of Uphold and Recognise and Damian Freeman, Principal Policy Advisor, PM Glynn Institute and Founder, Uphold and Recognise.

Freeman explained that the Voice has been developed by people who are concerned that we need to find a way of balancing the Constitution with the needs of Indigenous Australians by creating an obligation of the Parliament to hear the voices of the Indigenous people before exercising its democratic power.

Gordon also spoke about the referendum and what it will mean, explaining that it will recognise Indigenous people’s rightful place in the constitution to ensure that these people aren’t forgotten about in 230 years so they are spoken to about laws, practices and processes that impact Indigenous Australians.

Gordon, who has been consulting to the Commonwealth Bank for a decade, revealed that he’s not a supporter of the annual Close the Gap report because it doesn’t address Indigenous disparity.

At one stage, he broke down on stage, reflecting on his journey and work over the last decade to see non-Aboriginal people stand up. ‘I do this because I believe it will change the future for our kids and give them a better opportunity to move forward.’

This session was met with a range of thought-provoking questions on what is an important consideration for organisations working to be a better corporate citizen.

Concurrent 2: Enhancing strategies for data and privacy

Next, delegates were able to attend one of two concurrent sessions on offer.

One session explored what is top of mind for company secretaries, sponsored by Computershare, while the other session explored how to enhance strategies for data and privacy, sponsored by Holding Redlich.

We popped in to hear a bit about what how to grapple with data and privacy concerns.

Chair Lyn Nicholson, General Counsel, Holding Redlich highlighted the fact that data protection and ethics is a crucial consideration for organisations.

She led a healthy discussion with Mark Sayer, Managing Director of Algebra Security and Dr Sharif Abuadbba, team leader of Distributed Systems Security for CSIRO Data61.

The trio spoke broadly about proposed changes to data and privacy regulations, AI and the hidden risks for privacy and how organisations should update their strategies for protection, transparency and control of personal information.

Sayer shared his experiences on the frontline of helping companies overcome data security and data breaches. Criminals are mostly targeting unstructured data, which is Word documents, PowerPoint files, spreadsheets.

‘This means that criminals can follow the same techniques to find that data in every organisation that target,’ Sayer says.

‘Don’t keep data on hand you don’t need and accept that it will take time to remediate years of accumulated data in an organisation.’

‘There are business benefits to doing this well than waiting for the legislation and then trying to catch up then,’ Sayer says.

Dr Abuadbba also spoke to the attendees about the importance of implementing AI disaster drills every six months in the event that something goes wrong.

Stewardship of social ecosystems

After lunch, the conference dived into the bold topic of how to tackle the stewardship of social ecosystems.

We heard from Melissa Collins, General Manager of Wayside Chapel, which provides support for people experiencing homelessness and social isolation in Sydney. Collins outlined some of the key issues she faces, highlighting the purposeful life that people could have if they had a roof over their heads firstly.

She was joined on the stage by Simon Doble, the CEO of SolarBuddy, which is an impact organisation that tackles energy poverty around the world.

Doble says he struggles with the lack of sharing of innovation among charities in Australia. He spoke about a lot of good will on Boards in Australia, but that he does get frustrated by a lack of action at times.

Not-for-profits should collaborate more to increase their collective impact by exploring opportunities to come together in a more sophisticated way for fundraising efforts and actively seeking out partnerships with others.

Sports culture — how we play in Australia

The Matildas are top of mind among Australians right now, but sports culture is huge for all. Sports governance, however, has been an ongoing challenge as peak bodies struggle to find their governance core.

This session reflected on some of the deeply entrenched governance issues from the culture of sport to the march of executives and the shortcomings in administrative structures and the ethical fault lines.

Session Chair Leon Cox, who is the General Manager of Membership and Engagement of Governance Institute of Australia, explained that sport is at the heart of our culture of Australians.

‘There are elements around executive turnover and a lot of movement happening that come bring with it some challenges. There are also elements around the corporatisation of sport, which will have an impact on public spirit and how we support and embrace sport,’ Cox says.

Professional Footballers Australia Co-chief Executive Officer Beau Busch was joined on the stage by former Australian cricketer Jodie Purves who is now National Integrity and Complaints Manager, Diving Australia Limited. Diane Smith-Gander, chair of ZipCo also joined the session virtually.

‘Sport is built on trust, athletes need to trust governing bodies, and watchers and fans want to trust that governing bodies are doing the right thing by the players,’ Busch says.

In the past, there have been efforts toward gender equality models to make sure both sexes are paid equally, but the Matildas has fast-forwarded those efforts and changed the playing field moving forward, Busch said.

‘There has been a significant amount of work around pay equality, but we still have a long way to go.’

Smith-Gander added: ‘Governance really needs to step up and really start to understand how much the community expectations are changing. Integrity is really important across the sporting landscape.’

The governance issues facing a range of sports were discussed, and Purves spoke about the cost of hosting big events in light of Victoria’s Commonwealth Games’ cancellation and how these issues need to be managed carefully.

‘Governance and risk managers need to start with the end in mind. You can’t wait until you’ve got a potential sponsor on the table and then go through the risk analysis process. You need to do your risk analysis away from the spotlight so you’ve already got an opinion on any issues that may arise, and make sure you that you include the athletes in these conversations,’ Smith-Gander adds.

Purves said, ‘Athletes are more educated about governance issues and boards need to be better at including them in those conversation and the inclusion of everyone who plays sport is crucial.’

Governance at the speed of innovation

From the printing press to the moon landing, humankind moved comparatively slowly over the past 600 years when it comes to innovation.

But in the 21st century, the accelerating growth of technology is now at break-neck speed.

Chaired by Megan Motto, CEO of the Governance Institute of Australia, the session heard from Kristofer Rogers, award-winning business leader and social entrepreneur.

He spoke about the accelerated speed of innovation and the move away from industrial revolution toward a social evolution, which impacts the way that we go about our business.

Rogers, who is the managing director of strategic advisory and investment firm, The Eden Consultancy, highlighted the fact that technology is an enabler to better and further what you already do, whatever that might be.

‘Tech is a conduit towards what you’re trying to achieve. Every organisation should really see themselves as a tech company, regardless of what they sell, because we are all users of technology every day.’

The gig economy and the push into freelancing is crucial because people want flexibility, freedom of choice and evolve toward work-life balance. This means how we approach things like governance and risk needs to evolve as well.

Rogers said that thinking about the future when the change is happening so rapidly is no mean feat. ‘There’s so much that technology has done, we should have an imbalance sway towards technology and the good that it has done for all organisations.

He also cautioned attendees on the governance of technology infrastructure that powers everything like the meta universe, pointing out that tech hasn’t been defined in terms of the real estate it consumes. ‘Rethinking and reskilling our workforce needs to be reimagined.’

Thanks to our speakers and delegates for making this conference the best and biggest since Covid, and we look forward to keeping these important conversations in future events and thought leadership projects.

Sports governance and culture under the microscope on Day 2 of international conference

Next article