Alison Page rides her bike to what she believes is the best job in the world. Five years ago she gave up her own creative business to take the helm of social enterprise, Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance, working with a variety of stakeholders to help revive and protect Aboriginal culture and heritage.
Below, the winner of the Emerging Leader in the NFP/Public Sector Award at the 2013 NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards explains how she juggles her leadership career with being a mum, and why the best help you can get often comes from your own open-ended questions.
What does an average work day for you look like?
I ride my bike to the best job on earth. On a typical day, I am collaborating with Aboriginal elders and artists to revive culture and design amazing products that will communicate our rich cultural heritage to the world. Saltwater Freshwater is an Aboriginal social enterprise so the biggest challenge is balancing the needs of various stakeholders from government, philanthropists and sponsors to community and clients.
What key turning point has put you in the career you’re in and gotten you to where you are today?
Five years ago I decided to wind up my design business and take on the role as Executive Officer here at Saltwater Freshwater.
What’s your best tip for juggling a busy career with being a mum?
Make your job nourish you in such a way that you aren’t using your downtime to satisfy your needs. My spiritual and cultural needs are well and truly met in my job and this frees up time for me with my kids when I am not at work.
Any lessons motherhood’s taught you about leadership?
Sometimes all you can do is surrender.
Experience, guidance, education or all three? How did you learn what you know about leadership?
I am still learning everyday but I am the biggest advocate for mentorship. I have two mentors at the moment and their wisdom helps me make better decisions and I am so much more confident knowing that I can ask for help. I am also mentoring two young people starting out.
Sponsors, mentors, babysitters or role models? What kind of advice/help has most assisted your career and why?
The best leadership advice I have been taught that improved my management style is how to ask good open questions. It helps people find their own answers and have ownership over the solution so that they are empowered. I want to create an environment so that the people around me can be brilliant.
How can women get better recognised for the businesses they build and the career success they achieve?
By talking themselves up more and not feel that it is ‘bragging’. Find your own way of ‘putting yourself out there’ that I you are comfortable with.
What’s on the agenda for you in 2014?
The year will kick off with the Saltwater Freshwater Festival in Kempsey NSW which will attract thousands of people to immerse themselves in Aboriginal art, weaving, dance and music on Australia Day.
The National Aboriginal Design Agency will be working with Kempsey Aboriginal artists to design interior finishes for the Kempsey Hospital redevelopment. The Agency will be launching our own range of products including bags, cushions and home-wares that contain Aboriginal art and ‘tell a story’.
Want to enter the NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards? There’s still time. Entries are open until January 23.