Words: SWL Member, Rochelle Collis, Photos: SWL Pro Bono Photographer Robin Walton
Mercer generously hosted the members and guests of Society of Women Leaders for a boardroom series lunch on the 14 June 2019. The 35 ladies arrived at Mercer and enjoyed the expansive view from the Barangaroo boardroom. This was the SWL Sydney chapter’s first boardroom lunch for 2019 and it was set in an exquisite location.
SWL Chair, Anita Pahor flew to Sydney to lead the conversation. She welcomed the SWL members and their guests to the lunch and explained SWL’s collective giving model and the incredible impact we achieve by standing together to help. She eloquently reminded us of the power of unity in addressing humanitarian issues. Anita thanked Mercer for their generosity in hosting the lunch and covering all expenses.
Our host for the lunch was Michelle Mott, Chief Risk & Compliance Officer for Mercer in the Pacific Market. She is a recognised industry leader with extensive governance, risk and compliance experience, and a specialist in regulatory reform. Michelle explained Mercer’s charitable interests and activities which align with the SWL’s ethos, as they support local and national issues, focusing on education, healthcare and community.
Michelle Mott was first introduced to SWL at an event by Member Alex Coward. SWL appealed to her immediately and she started thinking about how she can bring SWL and Mercer together. Today’s boardroom lunch represents her desire to support and align with SWL.
We gave a warm welcome to our guest speaker Kerry McGrath Director of Community Programs from the Australian Red Cross. Kerry’s portfolio includes an area of work called Justice Reinvestment and she explained that while crime rates are decreasing, prison populations are growing. Justice reinvestment is a new approach in tackling the causes of crime and provides a viable option as our prison expansion costs become unsustainable. It directs money to community-based initiatives that aim to address the underlying causes of crime, aiming to reduce crime and save money.
Kerry introduced her colleague Debra Moyle a social worker from South Australia who is working within the Port Adelaide community to identify high risk youths and prevent them from ending up in prison. Debra explained that indigenous youths are the fastest growing prison demographic. She also explained the many issues which indigenous communities face and how those impact on young people. Many lack awareness of support programs which they have an opportunity to utilise. Some upsetting statistics were shared, including the fact that some children miss an average of 40 days of school per year before they get to grade three. In many cases, youth offenders don’t have a proper ID and are only given their mug shot on a prison discharge form as they leave prison.
Debra spoke at length about how she involves the community and gets their input into how best to support indigenous youths. It’s a partnership and combined approach and at its heart it acknowledges that the community members are the best to determine what their community needs but to develop appropriate plans, the community elders and leaders need access to data about their community. This community-led work is just one of the areas that SWL pooled funds are supporting and having a real impact.
We finished this beautiful lunch with a greater understanding and appreciation for the issues, work and needs of Justice Reinvestment.
We thank Kerry and Deb for their commitment to making Australia a better and fairer place. We also thank Michelle and her team at Mercer for partnering with the Society of Women Leaders to grow philanthropy in our nation.