Walking Our Talk: Welcoming Three New Board and Committee Members


(L to R) Rachel McNamara, Paul Goddard and Karen Firth.

Amaze is including people on the autism spectrum in key governance roles by appointing three new members to the Board of Governance and its Committees.
Chair of the Amaze Board, Jane Evans, said Amaze was ‘walking our talk’ on inclusion by creating more opportunities for people on the autism spectrum to have a voice and contribute. “Amaze can’t serve our community without the active contribution of people on the autism spectrum so I am delighted to welcome three amazing new members to our governance team,” Jane said.
 Rachel McNamara, 40, has joined Amaze’s Board of Governance. Rachel has a Bachelor of Science and on her blog writes about autism and social justice issues. Rachel is autistic, and has two autistic sons aged 8 and 9.
Paul Goddard, 23, has joined Amaze’s Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of the Board. Paul has a Bachelor of Arts and is currently in his second year of a Juris Doctor (postgraduate law degree). Paul identifies as Aspergers and is a trombone player with the Melbourne Lawyers Orchestra.
Karen Firth, 45, has joined the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee of the Board. Karen has worked in accounting roles and is a regular presenter at Amaze’s workshops for parents, sharing her family’s experience of the NDIS pilot. Karen is autistic and is a parent of three sons on the autism spectrum, aged 7 and 8.
Rachel, Paul and Karen are all enthusiastic about their new roles and the opportunity to work with Amaze.
Rachel McNamara said it was exciting to be involved in Amaze at a time of great change. “Now Amaze can really say that they have all stakeholders represented at decision-making levels in the organisation – and a diverse board is a higher performing board.”
Paul Goddard said it was wonderful to join Amaze at a time when there is greater awareness of the condition. “People on the autism spectrum have untapped potential in society. I joined Amaze because it seeks to ensure that our society is able to tap into that potential for the benefit of people on the spectrum and the broader community.”
Karen Firth is finding the two-way learning between herself and Amaze rewarding. “It’s important for me to be able to share my experiences as an autistic adult and as a parent and we’re both learning. Amaze have been very responsive and I feel like I’m being supported to do this role well.”
Amaze’s Board of Governance sets the strategy, oversees risk and performance management, and ensures the organisation is sustainably managed. There are four sub-committees of the Board. This is the first time the Board or Committees have included members who are on the autism spectrum.
Jane Evans said the appointments were an important step in Amaze delivering on its strategic directions to 2040, which were launched in 2015.
“Everything we do is focused on our goals to build awareness and understanding of autism, to influence for systemic change through policy and advocacy work, and to up-skill the community to create more opportunities for people on the spectrum to participate and contribute to society,” Jane said.
“There’s no question that our new members bring all sorts of skills and experience and different generational perspectives,” Jane said. “We are committed to creating opportunities for people on the autism spectrum, and in this instance, building leadership and governance skills so the Amaze Board can benefit from the tremendous contribution they will make through their own lived experience.”
“My role is to ensure the experience is a fulfilling and rewarding one for Rachel, Paul and Karen, and that we make the necessary autism-friendly adjustments to how the Board operates so they are comfortable and fully able to participate,” Jane said.
Karen has found Amaze’s mentoring program – where each new Board and Committee member is matched with a mentor – to be really valuable and mutually respectful. “I wouldn’t have taken on this role if it felt tokenistic,” Karen said. “There’s a genuine interest at Amaze in encouraging people on the autism spectrum.”
While only Rachel is a member of the Board of Governance, Paul and Karen will attend Board meetings as observers to give them a broader perspective on Amaze’s work and build their knowledge of governance systems and processes.
All three appointees have completed, or will complete, Board induction training to cover the legal responsibilities of their roles. All Board positions are voluntary, and meetings are held monthly. Paul and Karen will also attend quarterly meetings for the Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Committee and the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee, respectively.
Every November at the Amaze Annual General Meeting, three Board members are elected.
Amaze supports self-identification and the terms used to describe the people in this article have been checked personally with them.

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