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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1853


Mr NIKOLIC (Bass) (10:48): I rise to acknowledge the wonderful contribution that Colleen McGann has made to my home state of Tasmania, particularly northern Tasmania. Colleen is one of Tasmania's leading businesswomen and this month marks her retirement from Tasmanian business life. She will retire as managing director of one of Australia's leading health funds, St.LukesHealth, an organisation that she joined as a junior clerk in 1962. St.LukesHealth is a non-profit organisation that has been providing private health insurance to Australians since 1952. Colleen has therefore been a part of St Luke's for 51 years, all but 10 years of the company's existence, which, when you think about it, is a rare deed indeed in an age where many people think about their lives in terms of many different employers and many different careers. I know my children certainly do.

From humble beginnings as a junior clerk, Colleen worked hard and demonstrated what would become a lifelong commitment to learning and continuous improvement. She enrolled in TAFE to study accountancy and business administration at night, while remaining fully employed. Through sheer persistence and hard work she rose through the St.LukesHealth organisational structure to become a section supervisor, then head supervisor, then general manager 33 years after she joined the company. Colleen was appointed managing director of St.LukesHealth in 2000. Colleen has spent over 12 years as managing director, advocating for private health in the community and health policy more generally. Her business skills and professionalism have been further recognised through appointment to a number of national committees. During her career, Colleen has been a shatterer of glass ceilings with monotonous regularity. At a time when men dominated business life, Colleen excelled through professionalism, persistence, and sheer hard work.

There is an old adage, Deputy Speaker, that if you want something done, give the job to a busy person. Colleen personifies that, regularly accepting additional community responsibilities throughout her career. I am not sure where she found the time but she joined the Launceston Rotary Club in 1995, providing wonderful service to Rotary over the last 18 years, including time as president of that Rotary club and as a Rotary district director. In the service club community of Northern Tasmania, Colleen is widely respected as someone who has exhibited a wonderful generosity of spirit and has supported so many worthy causes in our community. During her tenure, St.LukesHealth has grown its membership base to become one of the largest providers of private health insurance in Tasmania—a tribute to Colleen's leadership and skills. In 2002, Colleen was a richly-deserved winner of the Telstra Business Woman of the Year Award. In 2003, she was the first woman elected as vice-president of the Australian Health Insurance Association, the first woman in that role since the association was formed in 1971. She is also chairman of a number of national committees on behalf of the industry, and in those roles has contributed to many changes to health legislation.

I have discussed Colleen's business achievements and her role in organisations like Rotary. But let me dwell briefly on her leadership philosophy and her engagement with her staff over the last 50 years. We often talk about leadership in our community in a variety of ways but, fundamentally, it is an influence relationship between a leader and followers. There are many ways to achieve that influence. Often we portray those ways as either transactional approaches—where you do something because you are being paid for it, or because someone is the boss and has positional authority, or you can rely on personal power approaches—through example, and sheer hard work. Real leaders, in my view, rely on their personal power and their individualised consideration of those that they work with, and Colleen is in that group. She is a transformational leader who has made a major difference in the lives of so many of her staff. She has been incredibly supportive—I have seen it firsthand—when they are ill or when some other disaster strikes. She is a wonderful employer in that way. In that sense, St.LukesHealth has been to Colleen not only her family and her business but also something she has invested her heart and soul in over the past 50 years.

I thank Colleen McGann for a lifetime of dedicated service to the needs of others. I know many people around the country will join me in wishing Colleen well as she now devotes her considerable talents and energies to serving our community in other ways.