Natasha Rees

Natasha works for the Australian Government as an Executive in the South Australian Office of the Community Grants Hub. She has experience in both federal and state government administration, spearheading public policy reforms in disability, ageing, carers, housing and employment to improve the lives of vulnerable Australians. An expert in organisational cultural change management and government funding, one of her key strengths is her collaborative approach to stakeholder engagement to achieve joined-up outcomes for local communities.  As a Fellow of the Governance Institute of Australia, she has applied her skills at board level in the Aboriginal community, housing and sporting sectors.

What boards and committees do you currently sit on?

At the beginning of 2020 I was appointed to a 3 year term as a Non-Executive Director with Access 2 Place Ltd, a not-for-profit community housing organisation and a leading provider of specialist disability housing in South Australia. I am also in the final stages of due diligence for a second board, but haven’t yet been appointed.

When and why did you decide to pursue boards?

I decided over a year ago to actively pursue a board career after enjoying a 6 week secondment to an Aboriginal owned company in Sydney. I realised during that secondment how much experience and knowledge I had that not-for-profit organisations desperately needed and there was much I could offer. I had previously served on management committees of local sporting clubs and I was looking for how I could build on that experience.

What challenges and hurdles have you had to overcome in pursuing board roles and/or serving on boards? 

My biggest challenge was my own self-confidence. I discovered that marketing yourself for a board career was just that - marketing and selling - something which does not come naturally to me. It was a journey of self discovery to understand what skill set boards wanted.  I had always thought that boards were only for practicing lawyers and accountants, or retired CEOs, and didn’t realise that some boards are also seeking people with a knowledge of how government works and how to successfully apply for government funding.  I realised that was my niche and to market that skill set to boards.  

Have you had mentors and/or sponsors and have they helped you? if so, how?

Not really, I have had coffee with some colleagues who are on boards to let them know of my interest in board positions, but mostly my success has been due to my own hard work applying for advertised board positions.

How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?

I have found Women on Boards events and resources critical to my success, in particular how to write a Board CV. Wendy Teasdale-Smith, the South Australia WOB representative, has been wonderful in helping me realise what I could offer to a board, and attending WOB events has been a great opportunity to network and practice my board “elevator pitch”.

Any tips for women starting out their journey to the boardroom?

Firstly, understand what expertise you can bring to a board.  Most not-for-profit boards seem to have plenty of lawyers and accountants, so having expertise in marketing, HR, IT, clinical health or government is a point of difference you can bring to improve board diversity and your chance of being appointed.  Having credentials in governance is also an asset.  I have a certificate in risk management and am a Fellow of the Governance Institute of Australia.  Most boards are looking for AICD qualifications or equivalent. Lastly, be patient and resilient.  It can take time to get a board position, and I initially set myself the goal of achieving that in 2 years. I achieved it in 1 year, so was very happy!  I found that applying only for boards that were seeking my skill set in industries that I was experienced (human services) meant I had a higher “hit rate” for gaining an interview. That helps with your self-confidence as well.