Managing our diversity

In his Presidential address at the Institute of Municipal Management - NSW Division's Annual Conference, Robert Ball, said that most Australian managers are not managing diversity well. With the Conference theme, 'Spirit for the Future - Managing Diversity', he said that it is vital leaders incorporate the viewpoints of all stakeholders.

"As an example, our cultural diversity can be used to enhance our economic position, particularly with South East Asia," Robert Ball said. "It is crucial leaders take the time to realise the many gains that are there from our diversity."

Keynote speaker Justice Marcus Einfeld, Chief Justice of the Federal Court, said that as Local Government is closest to the people it is most acutely aware of the needs of the community. Pointing to the fact that we are now only a few months short of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlawing discrimination, he said that the question must be asked, to what extent are Councils working to further human rights?

"With aborigines living in conditions worse than third world countries and 100,000 of our children walking the streets selling themselves for drugs, how far have we come?" he asked. In the area of equal pay for equal work, he said that men are still dominating middle and senior positions.

"Local Government has tremendous scope for greater involvement of women, but less than 25% of employees in New South Wales Local Government are women," he said. "When will 52% be women or, for that matter, 100% as men have enjoyed for so long!" He said that in Australia not everyone gets a fair go, too many Australians are still racist.

"Australia is a nation for all, unless you are an immigrant or indigenous Australian," Justice Einfeld said. "Australia is free and democratic but there is no room for complacency. Governments must lead rather than govern on the basis of opinion polls and other short term views.

"Diversity in culture takes nothing away but adds to what we share. "Freedom, justice and equality, these standards must be passed on to our children. In our generation, there is no excuse for inhumanity. We must keep struggling for a more humane world order."

During the Conference, Judy Lynne, Managing Director of Balloons Aloft spoke of how she overcame many hurdles in establishing Australia's first hot air balloon company. She said the key is not turning away from obstacles but to face them and work to solve them.

"No is not an option," she said. "Listen to new ideas and find a path to succeed. There are no limits. We are all in a position to make things happen, to make people achieve and open their horizons. Use that power wisely. It is not what you know but what you do with what you know that counts."