Scholar Profile - Asha Bhat PDF Print E-mail
Asha Bhat


CEO at Southern Aboriginal Corporation

Awarded a Bankwest Foundation / AICD scholarship for 'The Role of the Board' e-Learning Short Course, 2015

What sort of work does your organisation do?

The Southern Aboriginal Corporation (SAC) is a major Aboriginal service provider, providing services and programs in areas such as structured training and employment, health, family violence prevention and housing, to Aboriginal people in Albany and throughout the South West region of Western Australia. The Corporation has a substantial asset base comprised of approximately 75 housing units, two super-2,000 hectare farms and other building assets.

Working closely with a wide range of stakeholders including community organisations, Local, State & Federal Government Departments, service providers and employers SAC has established a range of programs in response to community needs.

Describe a typical day's work.

As a CEO, I am responsible for:

  • Managing all the Corporation’s operations. This involves overseeing the effective delivery of all grant funded programs and services, taking responsibility for ensuring all externally provided services are of high quality and meet the needs of the Corporation and the community.
  • Overseeing the management all other human resource requirements for the Corporation including management of staff performance and payroll authorisation.
  • Developing essential policies and procedures for the organisation to be approved by the Directors and then ensuring their daily implementation.
  • Working with the Administrative staff, the Finance staff and Auditor to ensure transparency of activity and appropriate use of funds, whilst ensuing adequate financial reporting is maintained.
  • Ensuring accurate, useable, and timely financial reports are provided to the Directors enabling them to perform their legal and fiduciary duties.
  • Strategically managing all SAC staff, contractors, and consultants on a daily basis to achieve the best possible outcomes for the corporation.
  • Strategically developing and managing the delivery of staff training and development.

What are some of the key learnings from the e-Learning Short Course?

The course has both increased and reinforced my understanding about the roles and responsibilities of the Board. Tricker’s framework (a governance model taught in the course) provided me with an insight into the internal and external roles board members play towards effective and efficient compliance and performance responsibilities. I have learnt how crucial it is to understand the relationship between the board, management and CEO for the success of the organisation. Strong organisational culture stands out as one of the components that is important to sustaining performance, and competitive advantage, and integral to an organisation’s sustainability and resilience. Developing such a culture is the collaborative responsibility of both the CEO and Board.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

The knowledge that I gained from this e-learning short course will assist me in more effective procedural sharing and guidance of the Board of Directors. The short e-learning course enabled me to work at my own pace and it is helpful to be able to review the important topics again to gain a better understanding. I have downloaded a few resources which I’ll be able to introduce in a board induction package. The course has provided me with more knowledge about clear separation of roles between the board and management and as a CEO, how I can play a key role to improve the board’s performance and effectiveness.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

I started my career as a teacher in India. After migrating to Australia, I worked as an accountant. There is a great deal of demand for accountants in not-for-profit sector. It’s the responsibility of accountants to keep the organisation in check. While there are some exceptions, most not-for-profit organisations do not have the resources to achieve their goals. A lack of resources like capital and staff requires everyone to ‘pitch in’ and take responsibility for a greater range of tasks. In addition to long hours, I find that my responsibilities include more than just one function. For example, my primary function as a CEO is to provide leadership to the Organisation but I also manage and oversee the functions of Finance and Business. While working for a not-for-profit, I have the opportunity to work with the most amazing people. I am very passionate about my job and I spend a lot of time at work. If you align your occupation with something you are passionate about, your performance will probably be better than if you were to work in a corporation without passion. I had to move to Albany WA in 2008 because of my family commitments. I had a few job offers as soon as I came to Albany but I opted to work for Southern Aboriginal Corporation (SAC) - a not-for-profit organisation with a mission benefiting the "greater good" of the Noongar community.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

In NFP Sector, we can no longer depend on guaranteed ongoing funding. Staff recruitment and staff retention are the challenges that we are facing due to funding uncertainty. A good leader can successfully steer the organisation with committed and well-trained staff and solid support from the Board. To be sustainable the Board and Management have to be flexible, receptive to change and look for new income streams. Setting a proper tone at the top, open and transparent communications, building partnerships with like minded agencies, aligning each activity to the mission and objectives of the organisation, community engagement and satisfaction will take NFP sector to the next level.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

I am a quiet achiever and have the ability to analyse my strengths and weaknesses. I am constantly working on improving my abilities and have a tremendous memory which I use it for good purposes. I take responsibility for my work and don’t hesitate to say “NO” when I do not know something and also have the insight and ability to find the right people or processes/information to help me develop as a CEO. I am tenacious, a good communicator and believe in treating people fairly in (and outside) the workplace.

Click here to read about other ASF scholars.

Click here to find out more about the Bankwest Foundation Community Leader Scholarship Program.

"The course has both increased and reinforced my understanding about the roles and responsibilities of the Board. I have learnt how crucial it is to understand the relationship between the board, management and CEO for the success of the organisation."


Asha has postgraduate degrees in Business and Mathematics, and has worked across all levels of the the Southern Aboriginal Corporation (SAC) over the past six years, from grassroots through to senior management. She currently holds the CEO position and finance management, asset management, risk management, and leadership skills on a daily basis. Asha is also a board member for two not-for-profit organisations.

In 2015, ASF awarded Asha a scholarship to attend 'The Role of the Board', one of the AICD's e-Learning Short Courses, supported by the Bankwest Foundation, the AICD and ASF. She has also been a recipient of Kaplan Business School’s MBA Scholarship.


Annual revenue / size:

Medium - $250,000 - $5m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

Culture & Recreation, Education & Research, Health, Social Services, Employment & Housing

Operating in: