Scholar Profile - Natalie Burgess PDF Print E-mail
Natalie Burgess


Team Leader at Therapy Focus

Awarded a BankWest Foundation / WACOSS scholarship for the Community Sector Management Course, 2014

What sort of work does your organisation do?

Therapy Focus is a leading therapy service provider, offering comprehensive therapy services for children and adults with disabilities. Based in Perth, Western Australia, Therapy Focus offers physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, social work, and psychology. Therapists work collaboratively with the people on goals that are important to them, in relevant settings such as schools, homes, places of employment, sporting clubs, and the community. By promoting choice, participation, inclusion and independence, Therapy Focus supports thousands of people to achieve their goals, and live the lives they want to lead.

Describe a typical day's work.

With a background in Physiotherapy, I enjoy my team leader role as it involves both clinical and management work. I work closely with another team leader to support a team of 17 therapists and clinical support staff. Based in the biggest Education Support School in WA, our team provides services to clients between 0-20 years, many of whom are living in an NDIS trial site. Among other things, my role involves clinical supervision and training of staff, direct line management, service development and continuous improvement projects, networking with stakeholders, as well as managing my own clinical caseload. The result is that every day is different!

What are some of the key learnings from the Community Sector Management Course?

So many things! On reflection, I have learnt that trusting relationships are essential and can take time, everyone has different styles and that is good, the more I can listen and understand others the more I can help, and planning and organised systems are absolutely key to effective leadership.

The course has helped me to further develop my skills in many areas, but some of the highlights for me have been in the areas of operational planning, building team effectiveness, and project management. As it is a very applied course, I have enjoyed putting the theory into practice.

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

The benefits of participating in a 12 month diploma of management course have been significant, especially as there have been 2 other team leaders from Therapy Focus also completing the course at the same time. We have each completed a year long project, each which has added to the organisation in a different way. My project has explored how Therapy Focus can prepare to expand our geographic footprint to provide quality therapy services to people in rural and remote Australia.

On a personal level, I am now more conscious of my leadership and communication style, and I have developed a deeper understanding of my team members and their particular dynamics. I feel more confident to lead and support them to become an even higher achieving team. The wider impact of this has been improved team dynamics, and improved quality of therapy services being delivered to clients. On an organisational level I am able to think more strategically about the broader context of the organisation and disability sector. These skills have enabled me to contribute more effectively in steering the organisation to continue growing and improving.

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

With a passion for working with children, I spent my early career in the paediatric hospital setting, which was a great introduction to physiotherapy. When I moved to the UK in 2006 I landed an NHS position in the community where I realised that working in the disability sector, particularly in special education schools, was where I wanted to be. Moving back to Perth in 2010, the primary model of funding for the disability sector was to contract NFP organisations to provide the necessary services. A little bit of research confirmed that Therapy Focus was leading the way in quality service provision, and I have never looked back. I am proud to be part of an organisation that has great culture, that is growing faster than ever, and where I have felt well supported to develop my skills and career.

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

Sustainability – economic, social and environmental – is the key word here. It is all irrelevant unless we can ensure our long term sustainability. Recognising that organisational sustainability requires hard work from all three of these angles will enable the NFP sector to stay viable and relevant in such a fast changing world.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

I enjoy putting my sewing skills to use by making outrageous fancy dress costumes – the bigger and brighter the better!

Click here to read about other ASF scholars.

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

"On an organisational level I am able to think more strategically about the broader context of the organisation and disability sector. These skills have enabled me to contribute more effectively in steering the organisation to continue growing and improving."


Natalie has worked in the not-for-profit sector for the past nine years, most recently as a Team Leader and Senior Physiotherapist at Therapy Focus in WA. She is passionate about working in the disability sector and has witnessed significant growth and development at Therapy Focus during her time there.

In 2014, ASF awarded Natalie a scholarship to attend the WACOSS' Community Sector Management Course, supported by the Bankwest Foundation, WACOSS and ASF.


Annual revenue / size:

Large - $5m - $25m pa

Segment of NFP sector:


Operating in: