Meet Ali­son Kennedy, the Woman of the Year

Ali­son Kennedy on re­ceiv­ing the Downs Woman in Busi­ness of the Year award

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On Thurs­day, Novem­ber 8, Ali­son Kennedy was over­whelmed. The chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Toowoomba Hospi­tal Foun­da­tion, Ali­son was sur­prised to hear her name an­nounced as Busi­ness Woman of the Year for The Downs. “I started cry­ing!” Ali­son says. “It was a very emo­tional ac­cep­tance speech, that’s for sure,” she says.

“There are so many amaz­ing women in our com­mu­nity do­ing in­cred­i­ble things, so to be recog­nised as one of them is such a priv­i­lege.”

Ali­son has been CEO for about two years — since Jan­uary 2016, when the found­ing CEO Peter Rookas re­tired af­ter 25 years with the Foun­da­tion.

“I was very lucky to step into a Foun­da­tion that was al­ready do­ing in­cred­i­ble work within our re­gion,” Ali­son says.

“It’s been a real priv­i­lege to see it grow and reach fur­ther and wider across our com­mu­nity.”

This year has been a big one for the Foun­da­tion, with a record more than $1 mil­lion of fundrais­ing and do­na­tions achieved.

“To­gether, my team and I as­sist our com­mu­nity of pa­tients, their fam­i­lies and staff in a num­ber of ways,” Ali­son says.

“The award may be in recog­ni­tion of my work, but I hon­estly wouldn’t be able to do what I do in our com­mu­nity without the sup­port and hard work of my team and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

It was said team that nom­i­nated Ali­son for the award.

“I do what I do be­cause I love it and I never ex­pect to go to work to win an award for what I do, I just do it be­cause I love help­ing oth­ers.

“So to be named Downs Woman in Busi­ness was such an hon­our and it wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble without my in­cred­i­ble team.”

Each day at work is very dif­fer­ent for both Ali­son and her team.

“We have this say­ing at the Foun­da­tion that ‘no day is ever the same’,” Ali­son says.

“Whether it’s the peo­ple we meet, the do­na­tions that come through the front door, the pa­tients and staff we as­sist in our hos­pi­tals — there’s al­ways a dif­fer­ent story, a dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­nity or a dif­fer­ent piece of equip­ment or pro­gram that we help to fund,” she says.

“So I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘typ­i­cal’, we should all be try­ing to get the most out of our days in what­ever it is we do, and you can’t do that by be­ing ‘typ­i­cal’.

“At the end of the day, I’m here to do all that I can to help my team fundraise for our hos­pi­tals and make sure that the Foun­da­tion is here to stay and mak­ing a real dif­fer­ence in the lives of pa­tients, their fam­i­lies and the nurs­ing and med­i­cal staff that care for them.”

Ali­son is glad to have a sup­port­ive fam­ily be­hind her as she works with the Foun­da­tion.

“I’m lucky to have a hus­band who sup­ports the work that I do and the work of the Foun­da­tion,” she ex­plains.

“He’s been dragged along to his fair share of events, but he has al­ways been my big­gest sup­porter in ev­ery­thing that I do.

“And I have won­der­ful par­ents who are there for the grand­kids and who also come along to sup­port the Foun­da­tion at events and fundrais­ers.”

Th­ese things are crit­i­cal when it

comes to be­ing a fe­male leader, Ali­son says.

“Even though it’s hard on them when you need to sac­ri­fice your week­ends and your Thurs­day nights, hav­ing their sup­port, en­cour­age­ment and be­lief in what I’m do­ing and for them to see and ex­pe­ri­ence what the Foun­da­tion is achiev­ing in our com­mu­nity makes up for it.”

A per­son-cen­tric woman, Ali­son en­joys spend­ing time with her fam­ily, her kids and grand­son, and also en­ter­tain­ing when she’s not at work.

“Cook­ing and en­ter­tain­ing is some­thing that I re­all en­joy do­ing — the more the mer­rier!” she says.

“It’s won­der­ful to be able to bring peo­ple to­gether and en­joy good whole­some food and com­pany; I re­cently got a new stove top in­stalled, so I’m itch­ing to break it in and cook up a storm for our friends and fam­ily.”

Ali­son also vol­un­teers as a board di­rec­tor at TASC Na­tional in her spare time.

“[TASC Na­tional] is one of Queens­land’s largest re­gional com­mu­nity le­gal aid ser­vices,” Ali­son ex­plains.

“There’s so many peo­ple out there who are less-for­tu­nate than our­selves, who don’t have any­one to turn to for help and ad­vice and who are in some pretty ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tions.

“To be able to help give them a voice through my role on the TASC board is a great feel­ing and it’s nice to be able to bring my knowl­edge and life ex­pe­ri­ences to help guide an­other lo­cal ser­vice do­ing in­cred­i­ble work within our lo­cal com­mu­nity.”

Be­fore be­com­ing CEO of Toowoomba Hospi­tal Foun­da­tion, Ali­son spent time in sales, mar­ket­ing and cor­po­rate re­la­tions.

“I would say I’ve been work­ing in the not-for-profit sec­tor for al­most 10 years now in vary­ing man­age­rial roles,” she says.

“I love talk­ing to peo­ple, find­ing so­lu­tions and gen­er­at­ing new ideas so I’ve al­ways been drawn to roles that chal­lenge that and push the bound­aries and stretch those abil­i­ties.”

So what is it that makes Ali­son a good leader?

“I can only speak from my own ex­pe­ri­ences and my own knowl­edge of what makes for a good leader and man­ag­ing a suc­cess­ful team, and I feel that stems from be­ing a good lis­tener, ob­serv­ing and learn­ing,” she says.

“I al­ways want my team to know and feel like they can trust me to lead them, to be there for them, that I’m ap­proach­able and open.

“A lot of this comes down to good com­mu­ni­ca­tion and mak­ing sure that every­one feels like they are a part of a team and they have a place and a pur­pose and that we all work well to­gether.”

Ali­son’s ad­vice to those want­ing to be­come a leader is to al­ways al­low your­self to take ad­vice and learn from oth­ers.

“Be open, hon­est and ap­proach­able, and sur­round your­self with peo­ple who are skilled and tal­ented in ar­eas you are not.”

I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘typ­i­cal’, we should all be try­ing to get the most out of our days in what­ever it is we do, and you can’t do that by be­ing ‘typ­i­cal’.” — ALI­SON KENNEDY

BY JES­SICA KRAMER

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