Philippa Moss: Activist, Feminist, Health Policy Expert

4 May 2016

Courtney Lawler

Courtney Lawler is YWCA Canberra's Communication & Events Coordinator.

The 2016 She Leads Conference will be held on Tuesday 17 May at QT Canberra, with She Leads masterclasses to be held on Monday 16 May. Tickets and program details are now available at

Open to all, the She Leads Conference brings women from a range of sectors, at all stages of their leadership journeys, together with Australia’s most inspiring women leaders. This year, our program explores the theme ‘Transform’ – focusing on stories of personal transformation and experiences from women leaders who are transforming their workplaces, industries and communities.

We had a chat with Philippa Moss, one of the  speakers for the 2016 She Leads Conference. Philippa is the Executive Director of the AIDS Action Council (ACT), a passionate advocate for better health policy, and considers herself to be a professional feminist. In 2015, she was awarded the ACT Telstra Business Women’s Award for Purpose and Social Enterprise and the Australian Institute of Management’s Not for Profit Manager of the Year (ACT) award.Philippa Moss

Describe yourself in 30 words or less.

I am intrigued by life and all it has to offer.  I am comfortable in my own skin, but it has taken me a long time to get to that place.  I am generous to the core – sometimes to my own detriment.  I am passionately interested in health public policy and urban development.

What has been a significant moment that has transformed your career to date?

I’ve been the Executive Director of the AIDS Action Council (ACT) for several years now. We work closely with a diverse range of people who share common experiences of stigma and discrimination. It’s a rewarding role, which constantly delivers opportunities to learn about my community and myself. It is a job with a heartbeat, and whilst the heart is beating there are so many significant moments.

The communities my colleagues and I work with represent a diverse cross section of Canberra’s population. These include people living with HIV, people impacted by HIV, sex workers, people who inject drugs, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people.  These individuals and the communities they belong to are completely different, yet are intrinsically linked by experiences of stigma and discrimination. We work together because, historically, our communities have made some of the most significant strides forward when we support one another.

The AIDS Action Council strives to reduce stigma and discrimination by working to remove the institutional, regulatory, cultural and systems barriers which prevent genuine equality of care for all members of our community. While progress is slow, and there is lot of work to be done, we embrace our work and the challenges it provides.

In 2015 I had an amazing year of personal recognition and success.  While honoured and proud of this important recognition, I’m most excited about the opportunities this presents to support my work and advance the human rights of the communities I work with. At a more personal level, they also boosted my own aspiration to become a more confident and outspoken representative for the people I work with.

What is a book that has influenced your leadership journey? 

I don’t read a lot, but I often listen to audio books.  Two books that have recently impacted my thinking have been Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and an old favourite, Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

How does having women in leadership transform our community?

While “diversity” is often a code for “gender balanced”, a truly diverse workforce is one that gives everyone – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual preference – an opportunity to contribute and to be their best self.

As women, perhaps one of the best ways to transform leadership is to ditch the archaic notion that careers are linear trajectories. We need to be brave and transformative leaders, to step outside the box, and sometimes over the edge.  I have high expectations and demonstrate the standards I expect.  I “walk the walk” and encourage the people I work with to share that passion.

How do you be brave/resilient in situations where you feel uncomfortable?

Life is an adventure and it took me a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin.  I have taken some major risks, I have made mistakes, I’ve had my heart broken but I am always open to learning and growing.  I often say “fake till you make it” and that is what I do.  I have decided to accept being uncomfortable and work hard for what I want – and that is to be generous and supportive of my family, friends and community and live a happy life.

Philippa will be a panel speaker at the 2016 She Leads Conference. You can find her on Twitter and hear more from her by registering to attend the conference by visiting the She Leads website. You can follow the conference online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 


Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply