Meet our Board Directors: Julia Burns

8 August 2017

At YWCA Canberra, we’re proud to have such a diverse range of intelligent and impressive women on our Board. Here, you can get to know each of them a little better, and learn about their experiences on the Board, the skills they have gained and the expertise they bring to the table. Today, meet Julia Burns.

What attracted you to serve on the Board of YWCA Canberra?

I am a strong feminist, passionate about women’s leadership and fostering young women to be their best. The YWCA Canberra Board gives me an opportunity to give back to the community making use of my background in the Office for Women and in Human Resources. I love the depth and breadth of the services the Y offers in Canberra and am so proud to be associated with the organisation.

As a director, how would you describe the Board’s contribution to the on-the-ground activities of The Y’s staff, members and community?

I see the Board’s role as one of governance, guidance and strategy. We are not there to get involved in operational matters, but we can offer advice and support when needed. We also get great reports at every Board meeting about what the organisation is doing and the challenges and opportunities ahead, so that gives us an opportunity to make comments and offer guidance. Directors can also be spokeswomen and advocates for both the Y and the issues we want to pursue in the public arena.

When you’re not at Board meetings and reading through Board papers, what do you do professionally?

I work with my husband, Des Lyons, running own HR consulting business – curiously enough called Julia Burns Consulting. Our focus is on building productive and harmonious workplaces. We have about 15 consultants who offer a wide range of HR services, including coaching, mediation, strategic HR advice, workplace relations, investigations, seminars and training. Before I started consulting I was in the public service for 29 years. I LOVE being out in my own business!

How does your experience in gender policy, leadership and negotiation, contribute to the Y’s work supporting women and their families to have access to the conditions and resources they need to lead healthy lives?

My background in the Office for Women gives me a good understanding of national and international gender issues, the key players in the sector and the challenges we face. I led the review of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in 2009 which led to the creation of the  Workplace Gender Equality Act and Agency, so I am very proud that the Y is recognised by WGEA as an employer of choice. I also find that my experience in leading complex organisations, negotiating in different (and difficult) situations, and taking a strategic view on big issues allows me to contribute to many of the tough issues we face as a Board, particularly as we consider the National Merger Project.

Aside from reading Board papers, what’s your relaxation activity of choice?

Reading novels, playing with my dogs and catching up with friends and family. I am very sociable! I am also focused on healthy ageing – not that I am old yet but I intend to get there in style!

In your opinion, why is it important for young women to be represented on The Y’s board?

It is important for at least two reasons: to ensure that the Y stays focuses on and relevant to young women; and to build a strong cohort of women coming through the ranks to be leaders on bigger and broader stages in the future.

American humorist, Milton Berle, said that ‘laughter is an instant vacation’. What always makes you laugh; and what would be your dream vacation?

Funny dog antics, the things the children in  my family get up to and a few TV shows (like Grace and Frankie, and Would I Lie to You?) all make me laugh. I like relaxing holidays (not those ones where you trek or walk or climb every day!) so I like time to enjoy a new place, time to rest, time to read and time with Des. If it’s near the ocean – even better!

 YWCA Canberra’s Board Traineeship Program provides our members with the opportunity to actively participate on our Board, without the financial or legal responsibilities of being directors. Applications will open in September, and is an integral part of our commitment to building leadership pathways for young women, including female-identifying and non-binary people. Visit our website to find out more.

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