Speech delivered by Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott to the City of Melbourne Women in Business Luncheon on 28 October 2011
When people ask me which of my professional roles I’ve enjoyed most, I always say the best job I’ve ever had (until now of course) was heading up the Department of Housing here in Victoria.
It was an opportunity to work with a group of people who were passionate about changing the housing estates in Fitzroy and Collingwood and across Victoria – to give tenants a say in how those estates were run and to make sure these weren’t going to be places of last resort for disadvantaged people.
I was greatly influenced in that role by what Margaret Thatcher had achieved in transforming housing estates in the UK. So, in thinking about the theme of the lunch today – women of influence – Mrs Thatcher is one of three women I wanted to acknowledge as having had a big impact on my life.
I recognise Mrs Thatcher is a controversial choice but it’s her role in public housing that influenced me.
The second woman I found myself thinking about is the Queen Mother. And the third was my grandmother, a devoted Scottish woman, who really disliked both Mrs Thatcher and the Queen Mother …
The thread between the three women and why they inspire me has to do with the strength and consistency of their values. That is, the authenticity of their very different styles of leadership and very different contributions to society.