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Kait
Community Manager
Community Manager

Pledge 1%'s #WomenWhoLead series celebrates female leaders who are paving the way for the next generation. While our featured leaders come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, they are united in their efforts to promote equality for all women in the workplace. We’ve asked them to share a bit about their journey to success, as well as lessons they’ve learned along the way. 

 

 

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Elaine Abery

Director, Unravelling Red Tape

Newcastle, NSW, Australia

 

What is your current role? Briefly describe in 1-2 sentences

 

I deal with complex government requirements on behalf of small and medium sized organizations allowing them to focus on what they do best. I stand with them to develop position statements and advocate for them, their professions, and industries to access high quality government decisions.

 

What’s the best part of your job? What do you enjoy the most?

 

The first meeting with most of my clients usually lasts for a long time and they are often very distressed – sometimes in tears. A few months later, our conversations are much quicker – they say they are confident with me by their side and sleep soundly knowing I am doing my best for them and their situations.

 

We’ve all faced personal and professional challenges these past two years - what motivates you to keep going?

 

From a personal perspective, I am known for being an eternal optimist, but in the middle of last year I hit an emotional and physical roadblock – it was like I was operating by habit and laughing less (strange for me). Then, I discovered ocean swimming in the middle of winter. If you look at pictures of ocean swimmers when they come out of the ocean, they are often glowing, especially in winter. And just like that, the invigorating glow of ocean swimming brought back my joy.

 

From a professional perspective, my clients relied on me to help them navigate complex, constantly changing government decisions around COVID. Sometimes, we think government is an all-knowing entity, but it makes mistakes. For example, many small businesses were excluded from accessing government COVID assistance in Australia due to a turnover test. After discussions with the NSW government, they created a micro-business grant for small businesses struggling due to covid. Just thinking how much this assistance was needed motivates me to keep going.

 

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

 

When I was fifteen, I was being taken around Frankfurt-am-Main by a childhood friend of my grandmother. She said “everything is not black and white Elaine. There are so many colours of life in between.” Those words continue to open my perspective on life, events and people.

 

What does generosity mean to you?

 

When I was living in Malawi, working with orphaned and other vulnerable children, I would often go for long walks. People would call out “Muzungu,” (white person) and invite me into their homes. I would squat on the ground with men, women and children who gave me half their meal and insisted, with a broad smile, that I start eating before they did. I felt guilty taking half their food for that day or week. Many times, I tried to give them their food back, but this was met with confusion. True generosity is giving what you cannot afford.

 

How do you feel businesses can play a larger role in solving today’s biggest challenges? Do you have any specific stories or examples from your work or colleagues you can share?

 

This is the reason I left behind my safe salary and set up my business. I love empowering people to change the law – to make it more equitable to help people do good stuff for society. Sometimes, government decisions just don’t make sense, or make the world a better place.

 

I have a particular passion for advocating for front line health workers, especially given their contribution during the challenging COVID years. One particular example is a highly specialised medical profession approached me after they received a large salary cut in the Federal Budget. This occurred due to some issues in the consultation process. I worked with them to have the Budget decision turned around and ensure they were treated equitably, in line with similar medical professions.

 

If you could describe yourself in one word what would that be and why?

 

LOL. I have an infectious laugh. My friends joke they never need my address when I move – they just follow the laughter.

 

If you could pick a song to guide you through 2022, which song would it be?

 

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”

 

What are you looking forward to this year? Are there any goals (personal or professional), activities, or experiences you are excited about?

 

I want to do all the ocean swims in and around Newcastle and take the time to go places regularly and get back into rock climbing.

 

From a business perspective, as a woman I have struggled to own my successes. I am working with my business coach to stop feeling like I need to apologise for being great at what I do and charging to do something that adds value to so many associations, charities and businesses.