New G-MW leader ready for a challenge

By Country News

Civil engineer Charmaine Quick will have a shorter travel time to work when the Shepparton-based professional takes up the role as managing director of Goulburn-Murray Water at Tatura.

But she takes up a position with a lot of recent controversial history.

Ms Quick has lived in Shepparton for 14 years but has been working for Melbourne Water, most recently as executive general manager of service delivery.

Her two most recent G-MW predecessors left in murky circumstances. The last one after an Ombudsman’s report and the earlier one without any explanation.

Asked why she wanted the job, Ms Quick talks about how her skills fit with the job in asset management and managing a larger workforce across a wide geographic area, and her connection to water.

She puts her job role in context with the new chair, Dianne James, and speaks about governance as a team approach.

‘‘This is about moving forward. I suppose over my 28 years in Melbourne Water, driving high performing teams and accountability has been a clear focus of mine,’’ she said.

‘‘I have read things about the past but my focus is on how do I create a high performing team which has strong leadership from chair, to myself to my executive team and customer officers on the ground.

‘‘Over my career I have been able to link corporate strategy to all levels within the organisation.’’

For her it boils down to getting affordable, sustainable water for the region.

Ms Quick acknowledges some of her work will be about repair and recovery and knows she will have to win the hearts and minds of the 500 staff.

She also becomes the first female managing director in an organisation dominated by men (less than one quarter of employees are women) and where about 300 of the staff are more than 45 years of age.

Working in a traditional male occupation, though, hasn’t worried her.

She grew up in a farming family near Horsham with three older brothers, and she was just as happy working on fixing the old farm motorbike as doing any other farm job.

She remembers growing up in a drought; seeing her father tapping the side of the water tank to check the level, gathering up bodies of dead sheep from the paddocks.

‘‘I’ve always been in operating environments and they are predominantly male.

‘‘In my first leadership role I managed 13 shift workers when I was fairly young.

‘‘I remember it was a whole brand new office upstairs with no female toilets and they told me hell would ‘freeze over before a female worked up here’.

‘‘I said, ‘well, hell must have frozen over’.’’

She hasn’t worried about gender differences.

‘‘Half the time I feel like I’m talking to my brothers, or people I have grown up with.

‘‘All my experiences and style has been about trying to engage, asking questions and pulling people up when they have to be accountable.

‘‘But I’m not the expert and there are people around who have valuable information.’’

The gender statistics at G-MW do concern her, and she said she would also like to see diversity not just across gender but age and background as well.

She wants to see the next generation encouraged.

‘‘You can make incremental changes and make sure you are giving people the right opportunities.’’

Ms Quick flagged more change and agility for G-MW.

On a personal level she hopes her new appointment will give her more chances to engage with the Shepparton community.

Ms Quick reports to the G-MW board and the Connections project also reports to the board.