Scholar Profile - Susan Male Print
Susan Male


Director (Deputy Chairman) at Rocky Bay Inc

Awarded a BankWest Foundation / Governance Institute scholarship for a Certificate in Governance and Risk Management, October 2014

What sort of work does your organisation do?

Rocky Bay is a leading provider of disability services, offering choice and independence to thousands of people of all ages living with disability in Western Australia. The organisation was established in 1938 and is a one stop shop for those living with intellectual or physical disability in WA. Service offered include: advocacy; accommodation at home and in the community; training and employment; leisure and independence; technology and equipment; and therapy services.

Describe a typical day's work.

I juggle a number of balls on most days. I enjoy trying to balance a mix of consulting/project work, Boards/other NFP meetings, with herding my three children and exercising (mostly running/netball/pilates).

I love the energy of engaged meetings where we take considered risks and make decisions to achieve our mission. It is particularly exciting now when there is so much happening in the disability sector with the NDIS. I am drawn to organisations and industries where there is a genuine appetite and/or requirement for change. My radar is always up for potentially useful information. So outside of actual meetings I am absorbing information through conversations, media and direct research.

What were some of the key learnings from the Certificate in Governance and Risk Management program?

A stand-out for me is how to engage others in the traditionally 'dry' area of risk. I come more from a strategy and marketing background and had always regarded risk as a necessary evil. A key learning was advancing and reframing risk to being more about 'performance than conformance' - with clear linkage to the achievement of strategy. Linkage between sub-committees was also highlighted.

I particularly enjoyed the pragmatic lessons of the lecturers who were all practitioners. The frameworks and concepts were immediately applicable with the proviso that:

  1. 'one size does not fit all'
  2. 'bells and whistles' are not  required
  3. risk management is an evolving journey and 
  4. it must be incorporated into the culture to be truly engaged.

We had a lot of conversation/problem-solving relating to participants and lecturers real examples making the course relevant and enjoyable.

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

As the chair of a newly formed risk committee I began applying my learnings immediately. Significant progress has been made in a short time with risk reviews and risk reporting to the Board well advanced. The clarity the course provided probably saved time (and frustration!) for management working with the Board Risk subcommittee.

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

My first NFP directorship came about as I was suggested by a director from the ASX company I was an executive in. I had already completed the AICD and relevant industry experience earlier in my career probably helped.

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

Education opportunities  - There are many 'evangelists' in the NFP sector who are wonderfully passionate and engaged though are not necessarily adequately skilled/experienced in managing and leading a sustainable business. Governance and strategy are often particular areas of need at Board, upper and middle management.

Certainty in funding - to ensure the required confidence for medium - longer term planning and capital investment.

Diversified funding - perhaps related to more corporate/community partnerships. This would promote the bilateral exchange of skills/resources/expertise and reduce impact of sovereign risk.

Measurement - of value added by NFP - towards achievement of their mission. Ensuring organisations understand and focus on what has been achieved and how, from one year to the next, rather than focusing on 'why' we are working.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

I use running marathons as an excuse to travel. My last one was in New York. Any excuse for a trip!

Click here to read about other ASF scholars.

"The clarity the course provided probably saved time (and frustration!) for management working with the Board Risk subcommittee."


Susan initially worked as an Occupational Therapist in Australia and the US but for the last 15 years she has operated as an executive and consultant primarily in service based organisations. She is currently the Deputy Chair at Rocky Bay Inc, having just left the Child Australia board after 8 years.

Late 2014, ASF awarded Susan a scholarship to attend Governance Institute’s Certificate in Governance and Risk Management.


Annual revenue / size:

Extra Large - more than $25m pa

Segment of NFP sector:


Operating in: