As we say farewell to our outgoing Chief Executive Officer (CEO), we want to say thank-you to Dr Clare Allen. She’s leaving us to take up a new appointment in South Australia after six-and-a-half-years with us.
She departs VisAbility soon after the organisation has secured the HESTA Award for Outstanding Organisation and an Australian Institute of Management Award WA for leadership values. How does she feel after she hands over the helm to someone new?
“If I had my time again at VisAbility, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I came into this organisation at the perfect time. We were a quiet achiever, but we needed a brand and identity.”
Leaving VisAbility in a ‘good place’
Dr Allen took the helm of the organisation at a time of transition. The dramatic shift in funding would have major implications.
“We were moving away from block-funding to fee-for-service. With these big changes looming, I knew that it needed to undergo transformation,” Dr Allen explains.
“Yes it has been tough, but we’re not the only organisation to face challenges. We’re having to adapt to a different model,” she acknowledges.
“Some clients who have used our support services for a long time, have believed what they were receiving was free. That’s a misconception.”
The way we are transforming means we need to have greater commercial acumen. We need to seek out more philanthropic support and get greater community involvement.Dr Clare Allen
Dr Allen’s passion and drive for the clients has always been at the heart of everything she does. As CEO she has implemented a new strategic direction for the organisation and management structure. Staff and client satisfaction ratings are now more than 90%.
“We want to serve our clients the best way we can. What makes VisAbility different from other not-for-profits is that we always listen to those we serve. You can see that with our feedback which is fantastic.”
Dr Allen says those who are vision impaired, will see their lives transformed with the introduction of new technology.
“This depth of technology is just amazing. This will open up new possibilities, removing barriers and will encourage more work opportunities. It will bring about greater inclusiveness.
Debra Barnes, Deputy CEO will become our acting CEO. Debra has more than 25 years’ management and leadership experience. She has worked alongside Dr Clare Allen and has helped to make VisAbility the award-winning disability service provider it is today.
“I would like to personally, and on behalf of the Board and staff, express my sincere thanks to Clare for all she has achieved during her time at VisAbility. I am extremely excited about the future of VisAbility. Our challenge remains navigating through a fast-paced, changing sector where we need to continually find new ways of reinventing ourselves, building on the great foundation we have, learning and striving for excellence in all we do.”
“I never cease to be inspired by the amazing stories of courage and tenacity of the individuals we serve. It is a privilege to be a leading an organisation where its people are so professional, knowledgeable and skilled. Most importantly they are empathetic in making a difference to the lives of people with disability,” adds Debra Barnes, Acting CEO.
Dr Allen leaves us to take up a new post as the CEO with Minda. The not-for-profit is the largest disability provider in Adelaide. With more than thirty years’ experience, she believes the time is right to start a new chapter. While she is sad to be going, she acknowledges the ‘incredible’ time she has had here.
I’ve taken away more than I have given, because I have been inspired during my time at VisAbility. I have met amazing people – couples who are blind, raising a family and working. I am glad I’ve been able to contribute to its long term stability and I’m leaving it in a good position.Dr Clare Allen