Gabrielle Trenbath had not considered a career in governance until two years ago, when she was applying for a LeadAbility course with Leadership Western Australia. Trenbath was encouraged to also apply for a position on the board of Avivo, a state-based organisation which provides disability, mental health and aged care services in WA.
Finding she enjoyed it, she applied for a directorship position with Physical Disability Australia, and was successful. Recently, she has been appointed to the board of the Disability Services Commission.
“I am really excited about that. In this uncertain political environment, it is a good opportunity to engage with some of the positive changes going forward in the sector, to provide greater impact for people with disabilities.”
As a woman with cerebral palsy, Trenbath’s desire to improve services for people with disabilities was her motivation for apply for the AICD NFP Scholarship.
She says, “My appointment to these boards has raised some interesting questions for me in regards to being disabled in Australian society. I have had many opportunities, so I would like to give back to the community.
“Since I am at the beginning of my board career, participating in the Company Directors Course will give me the tools to improve my contribution to these boards. By completing the course, I hope to develop the skills necessary to be included for my abilities rather just solely on the basis of my lived experience as a disabled woman.”
Trenbath believes the representation of people with disabilities on boards is an essential part of good and effective governance within the NFP sector, and an important component of a board’s capability to successfully overcome difficult challenges. She pinpoints the National Disability Insurance Scheme as a particular area of uncertainty for organisations like Avivo. Due to drawn-out discussions between state and federal governments, it remains unclear how the scheme will operate in WA. Ensuring high quality services within the funding framework offered by government is also a concern, she says, and one which Trenbath believes it is vital to approach with their clients in mind.
“There is a saying – ‘nothing about us without us’ – which highlights why all organisations should be more diverse in their governance and in all parts of their operation. People with disabilities provide unique value to the governance of any organisation.
“I am interested in how the NFP sector can work with governments and private enterprises to develop collective solutions to society’s most complex problems. Minority groups often try to solve their own problems, but in reality their problems are everyone’s responsibility.”
In her current full-time position as an assistant in nursing, Trenbath cares for individual patients with mental illnesses. However, she looks forward to moving into roles where she can use her understanding to benefit society as a whole.
“The most rewarding aspects of my career so far have been in assisting with breaking down barriers between communities, individuals and interest groups, in the interests of addressing these larger challenges. I look forward to combining my governance training with my Graduate Certificate in Social Impact at the University of WA to build the capacity of people with disabilities, to boost their contribution and their profile in the community.”
The AICD offers a range of NFP and disability scholarships to both members and non-members around Australia. These scholarships give directors and executives the opportunity to develop their skills and capabilities to become tomorrow's boardroom leaders.