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WorkSafe CEO Ni­cole Rosie seems to have been pre­par­ing her­self for this role her whole work­ing life.

She’s a former ten­nis cham­pion, a Ful­bright Scholar who passed law with first class hon­ours at Otago, then went on to com­plete a Masters of Pub­lic Health at Har­vard and she is a mother of four chil­dren un­der 12.

Add into this mix a woman who is liv­ing with chronic pain from a neck in­jury sus­tained from sport, who was told that she may end up be­ing dis­abled for life, and you be­gin to get a sense of the type of de­ter­mi­na­tion that drives her.

Time spent in an Auck­land pain clinic helped ce­ment her in­ter­est in the con­nec­tion be­tween law, medicine and health and in an em­ployee as a whole per­son. It also pro­vided a re­al­ity check on how poor the sys­tem can be for peo­ple who have a dis­abil­ity.

She says while the sys­tem does its best, it is hard for those in chronic pain to see the wood for the trees, they are of­ten suf­fer­ing from lit­tle sleep and they need peo­ple around them who help them see what they do have and what they can do, rather than what their lim­i­ta­tions might be.

She be­lieves chronic pain is a mind­set and, while many peo­ple have some form of chal­lenge they live with, it is how you choose to treat it that mat­ters. In some ways her con­di­tion has been an as­set to her. “It meant I slowed down,” and she says it has ended up be­ing ben­e­fi­cial and a gift to her. “I know that now.”

She is also a be­liever in hu­mans not be­ing a body sep­a­rated from a mind but that they need to be treated as a whole per­son. The mind can af­fect the body as ev­i­denced by back pain in some peo­ple where there are no symp­toms, but the pain is still very real. The back may have ‘gone out’ as the per­son was deal­ing with prob­lems at home and a con­trol­ling boss and then they strained their back, but it is all in­ter­linked.

Her back­ground also in­cludes a stint at ACC deal­ing with peo­ple with very com­plex files and help­ing to es­tab­lish the ACC self-in­sur­ance pro­gramme for Fletcher Chal­lenge Forests. She also had re­spon­si­bil­ity for lead­ing the health and safety func­tions on the Waipa Sawmill site, which had the worst health and safety per­for­mance in Fletcher Forests at the time, and the best per­for­mance a year and a half later.

More re­cently she led health and safety for Fon­terra, with a team of 120 health and safety pro­fes­sion­als in 51 coun­tries. She took the role with Fon­terra when she was nine months preg­nant with her fourth child and has only praise for the pro­gres­sive lead­er­ship there which em­ployed a mother of three about to give birth.

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