Paula Westhead is among scores of recent graduates of ICDA’s governance diploma, which is tailored for not-for-profit leaders.
Ms Westhead is the executive officer of Emerge Women & Children's Support Network, a family violence and housing service based in Melbourne. The organisation provides specialist family violence support, a high security refuge, and outreach programs.
Ms Westhead won a $1,000 part-scholarship for the diploma (in the women's scholarship round) and completed her study in 2021, just as a new board landed. Drawing not only on her 28 years of experience in the sector, but also on what she'd recently learnt, she was able to immediately put into practice lessons about conflict, negotiation, risk, financial management and strategic planning.
“There were many new challenges around governance and getting to know a new board and their ways of working,” Ms Westhead said.
“I have learnt a great deal, and I have had the bonus of using the knowledge immediately in my day-to day-work, which helps maintain the new skills and information."
She said the qualification came at a time in which demand for services was increasing rapidly as Victorians emerged from lockdowns and more women and children were seeking help.
Ms Westhead said her studies would help her to lead Emerge through the uncertainties and opportunities the pandemic had created, and into a period of growth.
The Diploma qualification had given her confidence that the organisation was better adhering to governance and risk requirements and the was up-to-date with the latest legislation.
The course also furnished students with a “broader skillset” in areas such as human resources, which often needed to be managed by fewer staff in small NFPs, she said.