Board Level
Board Level
26 Oct 2020
10 - Professor Megan Davis on standing up and speaking out
32 mins

This episode, Catherine interviews Professor Megan Davis. She is the winner of the AFR Women of Influence Award; she is the UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous and a Professor of Law, UNSW Law. The UN Human Rights Council to UNEMRIP elected her in 2017. She shares her experience and thoughts on being an Aboriginal woman in the UN, the Australian Rugby League, ATSIC, and the Uluru Statement from the Heart. She emphasises the importance of standing up and unapologetically speaking out to get the job done. 

Valuable Discussion Points 

[10:59] What are Megan’s thoughts on having more Aboriginal women in boards? 

Megan strongly encourages boards to think carefully about who they're talking to and who they're reaching out to when looking for new board appointees, to ensure a diverse range of talent around the table. She believes boards that put in the ground work to determine the purpose of the board, and appoint people based on the skills they could bring to those conversations will benefit the most. Those that don’t face the risk of missing out on huge amounts of talent and knowledge in the community. 

[12:56] What are her experiences at the ARL Commission? 

Megan has a passion for rugby league so being invited to be part of the top governing body in the country was a huge privilege and honour for her because she was able to contribute towards shaping the future of the game and all the many people that follow it. She strongly believes having a passion for the work you’re doing on a board is important because it requires a huge amount of time, effort and dedication. 

[19:05] What Megan thinks about the Black Lives Matter impact in Australia? 

Some of the matters that have arisen throughout the Black Lives Matter movement certainly resonate with the indigenous community. Black Lives Matter is something that traverses many topics from reparation, police brutality and the incarceration rate and Megan believes a systematic way to approach Black Lives Matters is for corporations to endorse Uluru. As an Australian Law reform proposal, it sets out structural ways to address these issues which can only be done through the Constitution.  

[22:47] With her key role with the Uluru Statement of the Heart and all other work she has done, how does she deal and cope with media attention? 

Whilst Megan acknowledges that media attention can be exhausting and can make other things complicated, it is important to maintain a media presence in order for this reform to happen. Fortunately for Megan, in terms of her work on the Australian Rugby League Commission, the support for Uluru came from our indigenous voices so the commission built into its system the voice of the NRL which represents all Aboriginal stakeholders. She did not have to be an activist in the boardroom; the NRL had already endorsed Uluru.  

[24:36] What success and progress does Megan believe will be tangible in the next few years? 

Megan believes success would come through a referendum sometime in the next term of government and if not, then a commitment to one in the following term. Once both sides of politics are talking in a positive way about it then it's just a matter of timing. She also believes having Aboriginal people on boards does make a huge difference to decision making and the way critical thinking is applied to particular decisions.  

[28:05] What's the one thing Megan wishes she’d known before she started out on a board and forum career?

Megan wishes she had not apologised so much which she does by virtue of habit, however she thinks It's really important to trust your own instincts and to back yourself. As women we can often be criticised as too confident if we self promote, however that can get in the way of good business so it’s extremely important we train ourselves out of that.  

  

Key Learnings  

  • Business and corporations around the country have endorsed and supported the Uluru Statement and that shows a real shift in Australian culture.  
  • When considering a new board member, it is really important for boards to contemplate the work that needs to be done, who can do it and who can bring value and skills to the table, not just pick an Aboriginal person in the boardroom.  
  • While the Black Lives Matter is a complicated thing, the issues resonate with the indigenous community. BLM traverses many topics and a systematic way to approach BLM is for corporations to endorse Uluru.  

Quotable Quotes  

“I think it's really easy for businesses to kind of stop with the usual suspects names or their mates or people who look the part but aren't necessarily going to bring what you need to the table… depth of knowledge and confidence to talk up and confidence to move outside of your own particular sphere of knowledge or influence, which is what makes a great board.” – Megan Davis 

“I'm not someone who's coming to an area and doesn't have a command of the game.” – Megan Davis 

“Boards do have a role to play, particularly in the way in which the organisation and other stakeholders deal with indigenous matters.” – Megan Davis 

“The issue is how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are to deal with these matters in a structural way that's changed and that can only be done through the Constitution, anything else is kind of very piecemeal and ad hoc.” – Megan Davis 

 

Important Resources and Links  

If you would like to gain knowledge in governance, and develop as a director in your industry or field, visit https://aicd.companydirectors.com.au/

If you would like to learn more about how CommBank is ensuring women are advancing their growth in business, visit https://www.commbank.com.au/women-in-focus.html

Host of the Board Level podcast, Catherine Fox is one of Australia’s leading commentators on women and the workforce. If you’re interested in learning more about Catherine and the issues she’s currently discussing, visit https://www.abc.net.au/news/catherine-fox/5244818

If you’re interested in viewing her professional portfolios and achievements, visit her profile: 

https://research.unsw.edu.au/people/professor-megan-jane-davis 

The Board Level podcast is produced by Nicole Hatherly, recorded at RadioHub Studios with post production by Cooper Silk and Iain Wilson

 

Disclaimer: Guests featured in the podcast are speaking from their personal experiences only. As this advice has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on the advice, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances.

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