Talking courage with a CEO and Community Member

(minute read.)

Heidi_160906Heidi Tucker is Chief Executive Officer of Anchor Inc and Community Member of the Victorian Adult Parole Board.  With over 35 years’ experience in the human services field, Heidi has managed services that support the most vulnerable people in our community – most often people with disability, and children and young people in state care.

She has enjoyed a lifetime of learning, working in a range of settings in several states of Australia and in New Zealand.  One of her greatest joys is to have someone working with her, learning from her, and then going forward to another setting and working in a way that is empowering and does not always “fit in” with the system!

How would you describe workplace courage?

To me, workplace courage is the opportunity for a CEO to set down a culture where people can have their own opinions and respect others in all that they do.  A great organisation is one where we can celebrate difference as it brings ideas, opinions and opportunity we might not ordinarily have access to.  People with courage in the workplace allow others to shine, and they celebrate the wins for the whole organisation as though they were their own.

In our world we hear stories everyday of people doing unspeakable things to each other; we need the courage not to judge others but to be humane to all people.

Please describe 1 or 2 examples of times in which you have been courageous.  What did you do?  Who/what enabled you to be courageous?  What was the outcome?  

I believe my most courageous moments have been to question and oppose the “system”.  My motto has always been: “well why can’t they?”  I was awarded the Red Cross Young Person of the Year for work I did in supporting people with severe disability and violent behaviour to access and move about the community.  People who were violent and had intellectual disability were kept locked up in institutions up until the 1980s.  In the programme I established for several young men, not only did they come out of locked wards, they also went into the community – the beach, the park and the shops!  Yes it was a risk but it was worth it!  This programme continued on for many years.

The system of Child Protection unfortunately does not deal well with men.  They are often seen as dangerous and with lots of issues that are unsafe for children.  I remember one case where a young father had been barred from seeing his infant child because he shouted and was threatening to female staff.  I fought hard for that guy to have an opportunity to spend time with his child.  I was lucky as I had someone different in my employ – a hefty older bloke who also did some security work on the side – who I asked to supervise the contact between father and child.  I heard lots of squeals and laughter coming from the room; I tapped on the door to find two big guys on the floor rolling around with the delighted toddler – what a precious moment!

I have been lucky in my career to find people, supervisors and colleagues who appreciate my passion and commitment to the rights of others who find themselves in our gigantic and often unwelcoming welfare systems, through no fault of their own.

From your point of view, to what extent are Australia’s leaders leading with courage?

I believe that leadership as I experienced it in the beginning of my career has been stifled by “the system” and economic reality.  I find many of my peers now lacking courage because we are tightly managed in a fiscal system that is very unforgiving.  The reality is leaders are not always found in senior executive positions; people who can “work the system” are.

Leadership is not about always being right or meeting the requirements of the “system,” instead leadership is about making mistakes and having the courage to “get back on the bike” and try again!!

I do feel like leadership in Australia is defined through the media and most often politicians and people making a lot of money are classified as the leaders we should aspire to – we need to do better!!!


Heidi’s energy for justice and fairness is evident in every conversation and also in her actions. She brings vitality and drive to the workplace and is committed to ensure that every Australian is given a “fair go.”

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Heidi also brings her courage to her fitness regime, completing a 10-kilometre ocean swim earlier this year in Cottesloe in “shark-infested waters” (there was a 4-metre white pointer that did nudge a kayak; up to 100 swimmers had to be pulled from the water).

Heidi would be delighted to start a conversation with you and can be contacted at:  heidi.tucker@anchor.org.au

@CourageChick

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