- Tell us about yourself -- what's your professional background?
I’ve had a broad background over the last few decades – for the last four years I have been in the ACT Legislative Assembly, as Attorney-General and Minister for several other portfolios. My role involved key reforms around child sexual abuse, elder abuse and gambling harm – all from a human rights perspective.
Prior to that, I led work with community services and social justice work at UnitingCare Kippax (Canberra) and Uniting. (I am a minister in the Uniting Church in Australia.) I have focused on addressing disadvantage, social exclusion and poverty. I led the ACT Targeted Assistance Strategy, Anti-Poverty Week, and Community Inclusion Board among other bodies.
Prior to that, I was a lawyer in a commercial law firm in Sydney, working in litigation and intellectual property work.
2. What attracted you to the role? What wouldn’t?
I have worked face to face with people whose lives have been impacted by gambling harm. I am committed to helping our society be the strongest and the healthiest it can be, and I have a deep understanding of the ways that reform can occur in and beyond government. The Alliance has done an amazing job over the past six years and has an enormous opportunity in the coming years to grow this influence. I was involved in gambling reform in my advocacy role, and had responsibility for it as a Minister of Government.
This role allows me to bring all of that together with a great team of people.
3. What do you see as your top priorities in your first six months with the Alliance?
The first is to meet people – the staff, the supporters, the advocates, and to listen to them. Leadership is always best placed when it listens – to the words, to the experiences, to the passion.
I want to be meeting (or re-introducing myself to) people who are shaping decisions in different jurisdictions – and seeing how we can assist decisions being made to foster a strong community without the impact of gambling harm.
And I want to work with the Board of the Alliance on all of the key organisational matters – a strong and secure financial base, a clear direction and priorities and support for the staff.
4. How do you see the voices of lived experience fitting in with the Alliance's work?
I’ve learnt very clearly that lived experience is one of the most important elements of good evidence-based decisions. Voices of lived experience ground decision-makers and people who form policy. The voices break through stereotypes and glib responses. They add an additional dimension of truth and power. We have seen that with survivors of child abuse. We have seen that with those who have experienced elder abuse. The Alliance is probably uniquely placed to bring these voices together with deep, solid research and systems-thinking values-based advocacy for gambling reform.
5. What role can the Alliance's supporters play in furthering gambling reform?
I am looking at speaking with our supporters to see how the role can grow. Each of us has our sphere of influence and we can impact there with the way that we speak, think and act. We can volunteer support. We can build times of collective impact.
And of course, for the Alliance to continue and grow its influence, our supporters can provide the solid, secure financial basis that we rely on.
6. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The knowledge that the world is not yet where it can be – the arc of history bends towards justice, but sometimes we need to bend it a bit more steeply.
And the smell of good coffee.
7. Who inspires you?
I look for inspiration in everyday moments, in everyday encounters. People who demonstrate resilience when logic says they shouldn’t.
I find regular inspiration in my family – my wife and adult children.
And for someone who combines grace, wisdom, determination and justice-strength, I look to Desmond Tutu – time and time again.
8. How do you relax away from work?
I love to cook – especially if I can play around with the recipes of that other Gordon Ramsay.
I am a musician and love either playing the piano, or listening to (being surrounded by) music.
I like to garden – especially planting or harvesting. Sometimes the bit in the middle is less relaxing.
And to switch off altogether, when my feet touch the sand on the beach on a sunny day...
9. What's a quirky fact about yourself that not many people know?
As a minister of a local congregation, I spent the first half of a Christmas Day service being treated for smoke inhalation after trying to fight a fire in the church building on Christmas Eve.
And while I understand that there are other sporting games that are played in parts of Australia, my passion is for the ACT Brumbies (that’s a Rugby Union team, by the way).
10. Where is the first place you would love to travel when international borders open?
My family have a plan to visit Scotland for a significant birthday in a few years time and to head to the historic home of the Ramsay Clan. I’m hoping that things will be okay to do the trip and to don the Ramsay tartan.