On a beautiful morning spiced up with clear skies after a few days of rain, I found myself waiting at a cafe in East Perth eagerly looking forward to meeting Justine Colyer, CEO of Rise. I had heard good things about Justine and within a few minutes into our conversation she was exactly how I had imagined – vibrant, enthusiastic, and a cheerleader of diversity. 

Rise has won the 2021 Difference Maker Diversity award as a recognition for an organisation that leads the way by example through embedding diversity on their board. To celebrate and acknowledge this remarkable achievement, I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Justine who was a proud spokesperson for Rise’s conscious efforts to embed diversity in their board. 

Justine described to me that diversity on board is not only what is visible like gender, age, ethnicity, and skills but also most importantly what is invisible like lived experience, personalities, ethics, and beliefs. An amalgamation of all these becomes a catalyst to ignite the sparks for comprehensive thinking and introspective decision-making within the board. She also revealed an interesting aspect of diversity at a board level that I particularly found intriguing. While the pandemic has now made virtual meetings the new normal, Rise were acknowledging this way of operation before last year’s outset of change in working patterns. She mentioned how the complete acceptance of a board director’s sincerity and commitment to the role despite their virtual attendance at a board meeting is another facet of diversity. It became clear to me that the key element for a board to accept, adopt and adapt to change is diversity. 

While diversity on boards stimulates a broader perspective, I was curious to know what it means to Rise’s employees and people who use their services. Justine highlighted that it gives people “hope”. A hope for employees aspiring to be a leader that is not far-fetched because they can see diversity in action at a board level. A hope to the people who seek Rise’s services that diversity promotes advocacy. Rise certainly kindles hope within Western Australian community by inspiring other organisations to encourage diversity. 

Justine cited a quote “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. She mentioned this to narrate how over the years Rise has worked hard to shift from the traditional model of board director’s recruitment to tapping into various aspects of diversity and reaching out to different avenues to explore this potential of diversity. Emerging Leaders in Governance Program has been an incredible source for Rise as it has introduced to the organisation several of their current board directors. Listening to her, I understood that goodness certainly prevails all around us, embracing this goodness is what makes all the difference. 

As my conversation continued with Justine, it was evident to me that Rise’s legacy of 35 years has continued to strive to interweave different threads of diversity within their organisation and have truly lived by their vision of “Celebrating People”. 


Written by Vidhatri Lakkim Setti  

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