When Paul Robertson joined the board of Catholic Health Australia five years ago his mission was to cement CHA’s position as one of the major players in health and aged care in the country.

Now, CHA is being increasingly recognised for its unique position by policy makers and state and federal political leaders.

“We are about the only player involved in public health, private health and aged care in the country. Many others pursue individual interests – there are very few organisations like CHA that step across all the boundaries.

“We can provide a whole of sector view. We’re also being listened to because we are a faith-based organisation, a not-for-profit that is not being driven by shareholder interests,” says Robertson whose experience in corporate Australia is deep and varied.

Robertson says this unique position played out to great effect with the bill on voluntary assisted dying. “After the Bill allowing for voluntary assisted dying was introduced, the Victorian Government turned to us for involvement with the guidelines. We were able to advocate for our staff who could have been placed in extremely difficult situations. We wanted to make sure that when the law was put in place, there would be adequate protections for our staff, our patients and everyone involved. The outcomes and exemptions we achieved were extremely important.”

Robertson is very proud of CHA’s advocacy work. “We’ve always been recognised as very credible leaders in the work we do in aged care. Now, we are being credibly heard in the health care space too.”

One of the challenges facing any board member at CHA is how to reach consensus among the group. He says the key is to refer to CHA’s core values and mission. “We look at who we are here to serve – and it’s our patients. We think about what is best for them. We imagine that patient is in the boardroom and ask how would the decision affect them? We are here to serve people, and we have to do the right thing by them.”

One achievement that he is particularly proud of is the Mission Leadership Program. “It’s become hugely successful and is key to keeping our mission alive and, indeed, to grow it. It became so successful and was too complex for CHA to run. That’s a good thing, because the program deserves to be part of many more faith-based organisations, not just those involved in health.”

He is leaving the board because he has served his maximum term as Chairman of St Vincent’s Health Australia. He was an Executive Director of Macquarie Group for many years and is now Chair of Goodstart Early Learning, Chair of Social Ventures Australia and a Director at Dementia Australia.

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