As someone with no direct "business" qualifications, I approached the start of my MBA earlier this year with a degree of nervousness, unsure if my previous experiences were suitable, or how diverse the backgrounds of my cohort would be.
I was born and raised in regional NSW, and, even though I've now lived in the city for a number of years, it was my passion for regional Australia that eventually led me to an MBA. Children born in very remote Australia are up to five times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable at age five. This means that they may experience additional challenges when they start school – with reading and writing, coordination, and social skills. Royal Far West, the 94-year-old children’s health charity I work for, provides essential developmental health and support services to children and families living in rural and remote areas across Australia. We believe that every Australian child has the right to the education, health and developmental care that will help them unlock their potential, wherever they live.
Childhood vulnerability is not purely a social policy and equity issue that Australia needs to address, it is also one of the most pressing economic issues facing Australia today. Children who are developmentally vulnerable are more likely to end up homeless, unemployed, incarcerated and with personal relationship and mental health difficulties. The potential economic cost of not halving Australia’s rate of developmental vulnerability is likely to curb Australian GDP growth by 10 percent over the next 60 years. This is a statistic that should make treasurers across the country shudder.
Too often, social policy is treated as a second-tier issue by State and Federal Governments, and not given equal footing to defence, roads and the economy. We need to continue to change the narrative around social policy and convince policy makers that an early investment in human capital is an essential input to a strong and vibrant regional Australia. The increasing interest from philanthropists and governments in models such as social impact bonds is encouraging, as it shifts the collective mindset from charity to social impact.
I embarked on my MBA because I want to be able to successfully walk the walk and talk the talk in the business world, as well as the non-for-profit sector. It’s still early days on my journey, but I can already see that a Sydney MBA will give me the leadership tools I need to be a more powerful and convincing advocate for rural and remote children. It is also quickly introducing me to an amazing group of fellow students, with a more diverse range of backgrounds than I could have imagined, who have already helped me to build a broader network and hone my leadership skills.
Claire Taylor is the Head of Advocacy and External Relations at Royal Far West, Chairman of the NSW Nationals Women's Council, and recipient of the UN Women National Committee Australia MBA Scholarship.