Alumni Profile: Paul Bird

1 December 2010 By Leadership

Paul Bird
Paul Bird

Paul Bird (WCLP ’06) has twenty years experience in not-for-profit and business sectors. He has managed finance and operations for The Brotherhood of St Laurence, been CFO of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, CEO of Very Special Kids, headed up the Program Resourcing Team of World Vision, established an emergency program in post-war Bosnia and Croatia and re-built post-earthquake communities in the Philippines. He is now the State Director of Mission Australia and the subject of this month’s Alumni Profile.
What makes a good leader?

Someone who passionately believes in a compelling (and sometimes alternative) future, can paint a picture of it with charisma and inspiringly demonstrate the path.

Leadership is usually attributed to CEOs and people in government, can you tell us about an ‘every day’ leader whom you admire?

Everyone is a leader – whether it is a parent to their children, a manager to their staff or a volunteer footy coach.  The leader’s role-modelling of behaviour is critical in influencing others on the journey.

What do you like about your job?

I spent seven years working in Europe, Africa and Asia before returning to Australia fifteen years ago.  I was shocked when I came back to see the level of poverty and disadvantage.  Today, despite our economic growth and job creation, one in seven children live in poverty, youth unemployment exceeds fifty per cent in some areas, housing availability and affordability is worsening, we have rising family violence and breakdown, and inequality is increasing.  Meanwhile, the postcodes recording the highest levels of disadvantage have not changed in thirty years.  Mission Australia believes we should and can tackle these issues as a compassionate society in order to create a fairer Australia.

In response to these community needs, I have the privilege to work with a wonderful team to enable young people, children and their families to find pathways to a better life.  Mission Australia empowers over 40,000 Victorians each year to transform their lives.

I have a saying on my wall – “the truth has been replaced by silence and the silence is a lie”.  Mission Australia’s ability and obligation to be a voice for Victorians by influencing positive change in government policy and systems through research, evaluation and advocacy to create more equity and opportunity for Victorians in need is as important as our services.

What do you love?
Being part of a dynamic, inclusive and leading Victoria that enables and empowers people .

What attracted you to Leadership Victoria and what did you gain from your experience?

I wanted to meet and learn from participants and other leaders.  I am passionate about creating partnerships between business, government and community that can provide innovative and larger scale responses to poverty and disadvantage. I had the opportunity to develop two such partnerships with my group – StarKids with Rohan Garnett from Jet Star, and the award winning Youth Assist Program with Emmett Dunne from Victoria Police.

How has your leadership style evolved? What lessons have you learnt?

I’ve learnt that effective and sustainable change, whether in an organisation, community, government or person, takes time. I have one word pasted to the inside of my notebook – Patience!

How are the skills you developed through the program transferred to other areas of your life?

I often remember Ivan Deveson talking at our first retreat about the ‘stone in our shoe’  – what annoys us, makes us passionate and drives us to address.  I encourage others to think about what is their ‘stone in their shoe’, get passionate and take action.  Communities and not-for-profits desperately need the expertise, experience and resources we all can offer.

It’s often said that there is a ‘magic’ about LV programs, can you define that magic for us?

The magic for me is ‘self discovery’, when my fellow Alumni are able to tell me what they think of me – both positive and not so positive.

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