Rick Callaghan has been an independent director for six years. Over that time he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience.
A constant challenge for all directors (member directors and independent directors) is ensuring that financial and governance aspects of the corporations they govern are maintained at a high level.
As a director you must know what’s going on in your corporation and make sure people are accountable for their decisions and actions. It’s also important to know when you need outside advice and to get it.
Strengths and skills
I have a background in business management and development, corporate governance and investigations and compliance. My degree is in business management, majoring in small business management, human resources and public policy. I also have a pretty steady temperament, I enjoy working with all kinds of people and I can get on with most! Over the years it’s this ability that has proved my greatest asset.
What encouraged you to become an independent director?
I know it’s a bit of a cliché but I want to make a difference and give back some of what I’ve learnt through the opportunities that have been presented to me during my professional life.
What are directors’ meetings like?
Board meetings are serious but I have to say some of the best meetings I’ve attended have been those run by the member directors, no humbug. It’s made me proud to see the people leading the business of the corporation in such a professional manner. They lead the discussion, show they know what needs to happen, and then they take control and make it happen.
There are many highlights but I was particularly pleased with the way the board helped the management team to get community patrols happening in the APY lands. I’m proud too that RASAC is the largest full-time and part-time employer of Anangu people, the local Aboriginal people—and it’s a real buzz that we’re able to return to the community some of the income that RASAC generates for such things as job fairs and sports carnivals.
RASAC is going from strength to strength. For example, we have nearly gained quality accreditation in the civil construction area. Our staff have also implemented an OH&S system in an environment that many people didn't think was possible or necessary but they’ve done it, and with great care and professionalism. Take a look at the safety videos and large-scale posters that have been produced—they’re in language as well as English and they’re terrific!
Style of management
I’ve always believed that you don't have to be out in the front to provide direction, support and clear thinking. I’m not a ‘take-over’ guy. I believe in gathering the facts and considering each matter carefully.
Yes, sometimes tough decisions do have to be made and being an independent director means you must be prepared to make them. Call it as it is. No watering down or fudging.
The directors must look to each other for support and keep in mind what’s the right thing for the corporation, and do it.
Do you think Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations should consider independent directors?
It’s really up to the corporation’s members to weigh up the benefits and possible risks. I think there may be a fear sometimes that independent directors lack direct community involvement or don’t have or understand the relationships. But, in fact, they can bring in new ideas and challenge the thinking of the existing directors, which in turn can inject new energy and encourage different ways of doing things—‘thinking outside the proverbial square!’.
As an Aboriginal man myself I understand the importance of a community being central to solving its own problems and delivering services. Bringing on independent directors isn’t about losing community control. It’s about empowering member directors so they can make the best decisions for their community.
Most independent directors just want to offer their expertise and knowledge—which doesn't mean that they always work out. Sometimes they don't—that’s the reality. But I personally think independent directors, far more often than not, are very useful for a corporation. Corporations must just pick well—choose the right type of person with the right set of skills to make a good fit with them.
See the full newsletter ORIC Oracle, February 2016: INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS: can add a skill set