When I was initially approached about the role of General Manager, I was genuinely excited. To serve this community was the fulfilment of a life's dream and I was doing the best work I have ever done.
I had observed the impact of the floods and the declining finances of Lismore council. Reforming government entities is something with which I have a lifetime of experience. As a female leader in a man's world I had the chance to finish my career with a council that was predominantly female and it was like a dream come true. It led me to take the step to create the inaugural IWD awards that recognised amazing women in this community.
The team at Lismore City Council was quite remarkable. The faith and trust they put in me from day one was immense. Commencing with an approach of enquiry, openness and complete transparency, I restructured the leadership environment so individuals could take greater responsibility over their careers.
When serious financial problems began surfacing and the deficit was discovered, we faced the real and present danger of going into administration and the councillors demonstrated great courage in going forward. They agreed to undertake a due diligence. This drew a line in the sand and formally documented the deficit. Management created a five-year transformation roadmap that was endorsed by councillors.
Governance around risk management was also addressed. Our workplace safety statistics went from 208 lost time injury days the year before I arrived down to 48 days this year and our Insurance premium dropping from $1.2m a year to $800,000 last FY.
I am proud of the fiscal improvements and the focus on Economic Development that have been implemented on my watch. The outcomes are evident to the whole community. This amazing team turned an $8.6m deficit around to a $600,000 deficit in under two years. We released the Economic Development Strategy and rather than leaving it on the shelf, we commenced actioning it by securing a boutique brewery and a flying school to Lismore. I also led the establishment of a Regional Deals working group lobbying all levels of Government for several hundred million dollars' worth of investment in the region.
All of this was done while navigating all the unexpected challenges of drought, bushfires, flood, the waste facility fire and COVID 19 and, not to forget, the concerted campaign of misinformation and hate speech that continued online against me.
The team went from seeing State and Federal Governments as a place for handouts to partners and investors in our future. This resulted in grant income more than tripling. One of the teams in the organisation took a very bold approach to obtaining grant funding.
I worked with Councillor Moorhoouse, Peter Andrews AOM and Tarwyn Park Training, as well as Dr Ken Henry around making Lismore a test city for flood solutions. I am sad that I will not be there to be part of the announcements, or govern the delivery of the projects that are soon to be announced.
History will record the turnaround of Lismore City Council and the people of Lismore will be grateful for the boldness of these teams.
I want to say to them all, thankyou from deep within my heart. I am involved in so many things in the community and will continue to do whatever I can to be of service.