Interview with Justin Untersteiner: Psychological safety for men

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In this episode, our The 100% Project host Hilary Lamb speaks with Justin Untersteiner, Chief Operating Officer for the Australia Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Justin Untersteiner is responsible for AFCA’s core operations and corporate services. He has extensive expertise in leading large scale, significant organisational transformation programs.Justin combines strong relationship management skills with technical knowledge of regulation, procurement, contract management, property management, and financial compliance. 

Justin held a variety of leadership roles at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) over a 13-year career, most recently as the Assistant Commissioner of Integrated Compliance. In this role he was responsible for leading the ATO’s approach to large scale, complex taxation and superannuation matters focussing on compliance.  

Prior to this Justin was the ATO’s Chief Financial Officer, responsible for the agency’s annual budget of $3.5 billion. Justin also brings valuable private sector perspectives and experience from Cadbury Schweppes and Woolworths to his role as COO. 

Justin is a passionate advocate for gender equality and workplace equality and flexibility. He has worked throughout his career to build inclusive workplaces that engage, inform and support employees and has designed and implemented a variety of programs to improve outcomes for diverse workforces. He is a hands-on Dad with two young children; he himself utilises flexible practices such as part time hours, set finish times and a mix of office/home work to balance both his role at work and at home.

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Hilary: Today, I’m speaking with Justin Untersteiner, who is the Chief Operating Officer for the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. So welcome, Justin.  


Justin: Thank you for having me.  


Hilary: You’re welcome. So, can you please start by telling us a little about yourself, Justin, perhaps what your role is and your broad responsibilities at AFCA? 


Justin: Before I start on that, just note that I am married to an amazing wife, Mel, and I have two young kids, Jack and Ava, who are two and four.   

From an office front, I’m the Chief Operating Officer at AFCA. The Australian Financial Complaints Authority is an independent dispute resolution scheme for the financial services sector.  We’re industry funded and we help to resolve disputes between consumers, or small businesses, and the broader financial services sector, such as banks, insurers, super funds or advisors. 

Really, we’re an alternate to the court system, so we’re a more cost-effective and more efficient way to deal with disputes. We’ve only been operating for two and a half years, but to give context, last year we received over 80,000 disputes. So, it’s quite a large service. 

My role at AFCA, I look after all the operations of the business. I look after everything from the call centres, the registration areas through to the dispute resolution areas that look after all the products and services.  And I’m also responsible for all the corporate services of the organisation too, so it’s a large role.  


Hilary: Thank you for explaining. 80,000 disputes that you’ve received, that’s obviously a very large role and an organization which, apparently, is very necessary within Australia.   

So, today we’re talking about psychological safety, particularly for men, as it relates to the working environment. So, you’ve had personal experience in working in a non-traditional way, at least not traditional for men. Can you tell us about that? 


Justin: Sure. If I go back in time to about five or six years ago, I was offered a very big role in my previous organisation. One I was really excited to be offered and I took on. I had great responsibility, huge portfolio, a lot of influence, it was very exciting. But what came with it was very long hours, lots of stress, a lot of travel, and I was away from home, generally, Monday to Friday most weeks. It meant working weekends. But it was just one of those things that I did.  I didn’t have kids at the time. My wife and I were both very focused on our career and it seemed like the right thing to do.  

And then along came our first son, Jack, and had a view that I would be quite a committed parent. I’d be quite a contemporary parent. My wife and I are very focused on being quite equal at home and making sure we both have the same opportunities. But then Jack came along and just like that a year passes, and I reflect on his first birthday and realise that I haven’t been that parent I wanted to be at all.  

In fact, I had been very absent for the first year of his life. I spent a lot of time on FaceTime seeing him before he went to bed. My wife was very much doing the heavy lifting, and it’s not at all what I had really planned for. At about the same time, I was on a development program at work, and we were doing a deep dive into values, discussing what are our core values and how are they connected to the jobs that we do. 

And I have always considered myself someone that’s very connected to my values, but I’ve realised at that point that there was a huge disconnect in one of the things that were so important to me, being really involved in my family and with my kids. And another thing that was very important to me, it was about these equal responsibilities at home for my wife and I, and here I was not doing any of that. And it was really confronting and quite scary for me. 

Another event that took place, and actually predates all of that, is when I was a little bit younger. I had some great mentors in two uncles, my Uncle David and my Uncle John. Unfortunately, Uncle David has since passed, but I remember Uncle David sitting down with me and talking to me about where I was going in life. He noted that I was really disciplined at work, I had a great plan and I was really at the time quite successful, but he questioned whether I had that same kind of discipline in the rest of my life. He spoke often about comparing your life to a pie and making sure that the different parts in your life are equal. 

So, you’ve got equal parts in that pie. At the time, that advice went in one ear and out the other ear. But all of a sudden, I was faced with this dilemma about my values and about my absence from home.  And that advice came back to me, I think he must’ve been looking down on me, and I realised that I didn’t have any balance at all. 

So, it forced me to make some large shifts.  The kind of shifts that I made first is I immediately went and moved to part-time working arrangements, so I could have dedicated time with the family and so my wife then had the opportunity to invest back in her career. I moved to much more flexibility, doing pick-ups and drop-offs and those sorts of things. I started to work from home as well. I made a series of changes at that point, and fast forward to today, I still work part-time and I have great flexibility here at AFCA. 


Hilary: It sounds as though you had two different interventions there that made you really rethink the way that you were living your life. Firstly, the program, which focused on your values and then your uncle, who sounds a very wise man, just to re-establish what the priority is and really important parts of your life were. So, you were lucky to have those incidences. Not everybody, I would imagine, gets that opportunity. 

You talk then about going to part-time work. It sounds as though it was a simple transition from full-time to part-time work, but what was the reality? What did you anticipate would be the reaction from your manager and colleagues when you requested more flexibility and reduced working hours? And what in fact was that reaction? How easy was that process?  


Justin: Look, there’s really two different stories here. So, at the time I had an incredible manager. Her name is Alison, she’s since retired, but she’s just one of the most incredible leaders I’ve ever worked for. I really wasn’t concerned about her reaction. I knew I’d have her full support. In fact, I had great support from her. When I was part-time, she was always that person checking in to make sure that I wasn’t working on my days off and she was just so supportive. 

I guess I was concerned though about the perception that others might have. Just because I was making changes to the way I worked, it didn’t change the fact that I really love what I do. I like to be valued and I was concerned that there might be some kind of impact. 

It was interesting. I talk about the two different stories here. The first was an overwhelming response that really blew me out of the water a little bit. I got huge amount of attention, because I was in a very senior role and I’d made a decision to go part-time. That was a bit of a novelty, but even more because I was a male, who was in a senior role, who went part-time. I became a bit of a poster person for this.  

Just to give you an idea, the organisation does a regular newsletter segment every week. There was an article published about my arrangements, and it went out to over 20,000 people in the company. I got told it was the history of communicating internally, it had the highest number of hits out of any article. Which is really incredible. It just showed the interest. And I had lots of people reaching out to me, men and women, saying thank you for talking about your journey, asking me questions and huge amount of interest. And it was really exciting! And again, it surprised me that it got so much attention, but it did. 

But the second story was really what sat beside that, and the kind of experience that I had, particularly with my colleagues, like the at level kind of colleagues. I had a lot of comments or jokes. Jokes that on the surface we’re jokes, but I think there was truth behind them. Jokes around me not being able to make events because I’d be babysitting the kids. Jokes about me having the easy life and being on a holiday. 

Constantly I saw this, I saw also the really passive aggressive behaviour of colleagues wanting to remind me of just how many hours they work and how tough they have it. And really implying that maybe I don’t have those challenges. I even saw early on people organising meetings regularly on my days off. Sometimes I think it was unintentional, but sometimes I think it was very intentional.

Then the real kicker for me, and this really frustrated me, I remember after a few years I went back full-time for a little while. And that wasn’t because of pressure, that was just because my wife and I both wanted to do that, and it would work for us. I remember a very senior person in the organisation happened to call me into her office and said, “How you going? I haven’t spoken to you for a while. And I just want to talk to you about where you’re at now in your career. You’ve finished your break, so what’s next for you?”. I was pretty shocked by that comment. So again, there was really two stories here. One was really positive and one was quite negative.


Hilary: Wow. That’s really interesting.  The comment that you just made about you “finished your break” obviously there was a feeling within the organisation that you were, again, not being serious about your career.

How did that response make you feel, and how did you handle it? Did you find a way of managing those comments or did you basically try and ignore them? What was your response to your colleagues?


Justin: In terms of the comments from our colleagues, at first, I got really frustrated.  But what I did is I turned that into a different kind of energy, and I really used it as an opportunity to publicly call out those kinds of comments.

When someone would make a comment, I would deliberately stop and not laugh and say, “What do you mean by that? What are you implying?  Is there something I’m not doing? Is there an issue here?. And often that would, I think, make that person really question what they’re doing.

We were in a leadership meeting; we were working through the talent list across the organisation. I remember hearing someone make a comment about that person, she’s excellent, but she’s part-time so maybe she shouldn’t be on the list.

I just immediately called it out. Is this person any less intelligent, or capable, because she doesn’t work the same amount of hours that others are doing?  I just don’t understand how you could form that conclusion. And I really used it as an opportunity to call out those behaviours.

In terms of the comment, I had from that senior person about having a break, I will say that I was really frustrated and quite angry. In fact, I felt a bit helpless as well, because I thought that I might’ve made some impact on the organisation. That my actions and my words were helping to bring this issue to the surface, and that maybe as an organisation we might be thinking a little bit differently about it.

So, when I heard that, it made me feel like, in fact, I’d had no impact. I felt that maybe I wasn’t able to shift the dial. Once I got over that feeling of frustration and anger and helplessness, I then tried to turn it into more positive energy. I used it as motivation then to make really bold statements.  I’ve become very loud in this space, and I do as much as I can to talk about this issue. I’ve tried to turn the negative into a positive, and I’ve tried to use my frustrations to channel a more positive attitude towards the issue.


Hilary: It’s really interesting comments and experiences that you’ve had there, and I think that feeling of helplessness really resonates. That what can you do about this? This is something people want to have more of a work-life balance, but you apply to have that flexibility and the reaction, probably in a lot of instances, would turn people against even asking for it. Which is where the psychological safety for men is really negatively impacted.

So, what do you think contributes to that negative reaction to men’s requests for non-traditional working conditions? What is it that we need to respond to? What is it that those underlying concerns, from some of your colleagues and colleagues throughout Australia, that really impact men’s ability to request these flexible working conditions?


Justin: Look, I think if I’m experiencing this, I can only imagine what a more junior employee might be experiencing. And in fact, I would suggest that many others wouldn’t even get as far as I did. I think there’ll be many people who just don’t ask the question.  They just don’t make a change.

Statistics prove that very few men in this country take up flexibility. That might’ve changed a little bit through the pandemic, but I still think the numbers would be quite low.  It was only 50 years ago that it was very common practice that organisations, whether it be public or private sector, had policies which meant that once a woman was married, she was to quit her job.

And that’s because why does she need to continue to work? She’s going to have babies, and she’s supported by husband. I just can’t believe that this was only 50 something years ago. It shocks me to my core. We are burdened by a fairly awful and significant history here of discrimination against women.

I saw this wonderful example, I recently read Annabel Crabb’s quarterly essay, ‘Men at Work’. It’s a really great read and I do recommend it. And she gave an example here of social norms in this country. And she spoke about when Jacinda, the New Zealand Prime Minister, came out and announced that she was pregnant and it got an enormous amount of attention.

There was a camp out there that were just really excited to see the Prime Minister being pregnant and having a baby. And then there was other camps too, though. There was a camp out there that was very loud and saying, how could you possibly be a great mother when you’re the Prime Minister as well? You can’t do those two things. It was really interesting how that played out and the attention of got.

And as Annabel Crabb highlights, that are around the same time, there was a really significant shift in Australia in that Scott Morrison became the Prime Minister of Australia. The highest office in this country, and he appointed Josh Frydenberg as the Treasurer, which you could argue is the Deputy really to the Prime Minister. It’s a really significant role.

Now Josh Frydenberg had very young kids at the time. Toddlers in fact. Scott Morrison also had a young family. Yet, if you go and search anywhere, you won’t find any record of questions or media interest or anything about how Josh Frydenberg, or how Scott Morrison, are going to balance your work life commitment with young children.

No one asked that question.  I think this just goes to the heart of the social norms that we’ve created. Is that it was just expected that Scott Morrison’s wife and Josh Frydenberg’s wife would be at home looking after the kids.  I think it’s deeply embedded in our society. So, I think we’ve got a fair way to go to change that. 


Hilary: Yes, I agree. I remember reading Annabel Crabb’s quarterly essay, and it was so pointed. There were some really direct experiences that you could relate to. Turn the questions around from a man to a woman, and there is no logic. Certainly, there are very gendered stereotypes that still exist. They’re the paradigms that we need to try and break down and normalise women being in a full-time work, being in senior leadership positions.

Just going back to the psychological safety for men, why do you think it’s important for men to have greater options in the way that they do turn up for work? Why is it important that we normalise some of these situations?


Justin: Well, if I go back to my uncle’s advice to me, about making sure your pie has balanced pieces in it. What I’ve certainly learned is, by having greater balance in my life, which means I’m dedicated to my career, but I also have time dedicated to my family, my study, my hobbies. Because I do that, I’m a better person for it.

From a psychological perspective, it helps me with my mental health.  I’m certainly stronger and healthier, but I’m also a much better employee. I can tell you that even though I’m not working the hours I might’ve worked 10 years ago, I’m much more effective. I deliver amazing outcomes.  And I can do that because I have greater perspective, I think.

I’m also a better parent. I’m really active parent. I’m very involved in my kids’ life and that will pay dividends in the long run. And I’m a happier person. So, that’s one reason I think we can actually create better employees as a result.

I think the other reason is it the direct impact it has on women and on issues around gender equality. What these stereotypes lead to, and what the social norms mean, is that the practices, the unspoken practices; a new child comes into the family, mom stays at home and looks after the child. That’s just what happens. And then what we see as a result of that, is that mum creates a bond with the children, a bond that maybe the father doesn’t create or it doesn’t have. Mum then gets really used to the routine of the kids and the domestic duties, and then all of a sudden trying to inject into that can be difficult.

And so therefore, let’s take the easy option mum just keeps doing it. It then leads to even when mum goes back to work, the kids are sick, mum goes home and looks after the kids. And next minute you look back and five years has passed, and it’s likely that the male in the situation has had three extra years of employment in that five-year period under his belt, he’s been promoted once and he said three pay rises. And all of a sudden, what we’re seeing here is dad’s got more opportunities and mum’s got less opportunities, less pay. And we see this gap.

The argument that gets thrown back to me on this as, yeah, wait a second though. My wife wanted to stay home and look after the baby and I’m not disputing that. There’s a lot of reasons that we make decisions. But what is important is that we do have a true choice. It’s not just happening because it’s expected. What’s important is we actually have a choice and we have a discussion about the kind of roles we want to play.

What I would like to see is that both parents can play a role. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. I think that, yes, there are options, whether it’s the mother or the father or the partner that stays at home. I think there’s an opportunity for both parents to be actively involved in the routines with the kids, the bonds with the kids. And I can tell you, that’s what we do at home. We’re both actively involved, equally.  We both work the same amount of hours. We both take turns when the kids are sick, we both have the same bond with the kids, and we both know the routines.


Hilary: Yeah, I agree. I agree with all of the points that you’ve raised there Justin. Especially, with regards to women’s career aspirations, financial security, et cetera. It’s really important that they do have choice. And some women are happy to stay at home, but some do want a career. Unless their partners, especially when they’ve got children, are going to contribute to the family, aged care for parents, volunteering, not-for-profit work. Unless there is a rebalance of everything that all genders contribute to, we’re not going to be able to make the progress that we’re all hoping to see.

I think, from what you’ve said, you’re enjoying having greater time with the children and I’m sure they will remember that as they grow up and the bond will stay strong. 

How can we move ahead with this? How can we actually de-stigmatise men’s aspiration to have that more balanced life? Do you think that there is any generational perspective here? Do you think, as we’re moving through younger people, 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, kids coming through school, teenagers, do you think each generation that passes has a different perspective on what their role is in life?


Justin: There are definitely generational shifts that are occurring, right? And I think there are different attitudes that are emerging through a younger generation. I’m in my thirties at the moment, and I’m certainly seeing that with my friends and others my age. I’m definitely seeing it in the younger generation to me as well in their twenties.

But in saying that I think people’s beliefs and their biases are really formed through a range of different systems. And so, the kind of systems that might influence a person could be their education, it could be the home environment, their religious views, political environment, the media environment. You’ve got all these different systems that we work through and we interact with, and they play a role in shaping your views and beliefs.

One of the challenges we have still, that there are people my age, there are people younger than me, that their beliefs have been shaped a particular way. And I see it. I see young people there that are living very traditional kind of lifestyles as a family unit. That are very inconsistent with my own values. But in saying that, I think there is a certainly a greater number of younger people these days who are saying, no actually that’s not the kind of life I want to live.

I think then we’re faced with a different barrier, which is the system itself. I think the system, as it stands at the moment, works against change. Whether it be government policy, or whether it be the policies that sit within organisations, they are not geared to support men playing a much more active role at home. Whether it be maternal leave policies, or parental leave policies, at the government level they are really for mum. If you look at organisations, again, it’s for mum, or you might see primary and secondary arrangements.

What it often looks like in reality is that mum might take six or twelve months off and dad might take two weeks off. It does create a barrier. It’s interesting if you look over history, I think it’s fair to say that there was a time when it was the government that was driving policy to shift changes like this, or it might’ve been the public sector even leading the way. I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. I think really what we now need to see is the private sector take the lead here. And in fact, there are organisations that are taking the lead. There are organisations out there that are recognising that a much better policy would be parental leave for both parents, for a period of time. Meaning that one parent can stay at home, it doesn’t matter which parent it is, which partner it is, or both can do it.

I really think there’s two things here. I think there are social norms that are so deeply embedded. There’s still a way to go and we need to talk about it, we need to educate, but also, I think we need to change the system as well.


Hilary: That’s really interesting. You talk about private sector leading the way, and I do appreciate a lot of internal policies are changing. It’s interesting then to consider the policy changing, to give as an enabler to men and women sharing more of the parenting responsibilities, the aged care, the community.

I wonder how long it will take before men are actually recognise that as a choice for them and take advantage of those policies. And I think you can’t have one without the other. You were talking about the way that home, religion, culture, so many elements actually come into play.

When you’re thinking about people’s behaviours and expectations in life, they have to really be in parallel. They have to be the enablers there through policy, but also the acceptance by men and women that maybe both of their lives could be a little bit more balanced.

Looking at that and looking at the private sector, is your organization doing anything in practical terms to try and improve the gender balance within your organisation?


Justin: As an organisation, we strive to be highly inclusive and quite contemporary when it comes to our people policies. We do that because it’s the right thing to do, but we also do it because it helps us attract talent. It’s a workforce attractor. We’ve got some exceptional people in this organisation, and some of that is they’ve been attracted to our culture and our policies.

Before COVID, we had already introduced policies which gave much greater flexibility to our employees, so it allowed people to have much greater selection on how they worked, when they worked and where they worked. So, in fact, when the pandemic hit, we were actually very well-placed already because we had done so much work.

In that space, I think we’re ahead of the pack when it comes to some of our policies. Our next step is, and back to my previous point, I think we should be playing an active role in the parental leave entitlements. So, we currently are reviewing our parental leave entitlements to look at how we might be able to create a more contemporary offering, which drives more balance at home and provides much greater flexibility for men and women. Then finally, I think we do work in the financial service sector. It’s a heavy hitting sector.  It has a lot of influence, and so we do try to share as much as we can with other organisations as well to try and influence change.


Hilary: Do you see that men will take up these opportunities?


Justin: I do think men will, and we’re starting to see a shift. It’s not as simple as just flicking a switch and making a change to a policy. I think what we need comes down to the culture of an organisation. It comes to the way we lead the organisation. People need to feel safe in that system, and they need to see evidence that they won’t be at risk for taking on those arrangements,

For us, I know at our organisation, again, I’m very vocal about the fact that I work part-time, that I’m very active at home, and I do things very deliberately. I try and make sure that people can see that I’m walking the walk. But again, I think the risk that sits there, that slows this journey down, is really the experience that I had previously, where on one hand you’re told it’s acceptable, but in reality, your experience can be something else. I think we have a role to keep talking about this issue. We have a role to share these kinds of experiences, and to help people feel more confident in taking on more flexible arrangements.


Hilary: We’re looking at psychological safety for men, it’s a really important consideration, but we’ve also touched on what that means for women. You were talking about how you were the poster boy for the organisation, it was held up as an amazing thing, as a real innovation within your organisation. Why do you think it is that men are celebrated for taking that flexible family approach to work when women are not? Is it purely based on history?


Justin: I would suggest it’s a different point in time for the two journeys. I think there have been lots of discussions for many years about creating greater flexibility for women. That’s resulted in policy shifts, parental leave policies and other flexibility policies, that have been in place now for longer than what have been in place for men.

I think what that means is there’s a sense, right, that it has become a bit more normal for women, but it’s still not for men. That’s dangerous, that assumption though. That’s why I was a bit surprised that I got the attention that I got, because I know that women are discriminated against all the time for working flexibly.

They are.  I see it.  And I’ve seen examples. I do lots of mentoring and I reached out to lots of people, and I’ve been given way too many examples, across the industry, where women are discriminated against. They either have been on maternity leave, or because they work part-time, or because they’ve got responsibilities at home.

There are so many reasons women are discriminated against, but while we’re talking about flexibility, they are discriminated against because of flexibility. Yes, we’re talking a little bit today about the policies for men, and I think those policies are really important, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that we’ve still got a broader issue here and how organisations view and accept and embrace flexibility.

I want the best people around me.  I want the best people in this organisation. And I can tell you, we attract the best people because of our policies.

When I was approached about this particular job, I sat down with the CEO, David Locke, and the job sounded amazing. The company sounded amazing. I asked David the question, “What will this look like for me from a flexibility perspective, because I have young family and this is critical to me that I have flexibility?”.

And David promised me that he would give that to me. The great thing about David is, he is so committed to his values, and the organisational values, he then sent me a whole lot of evidence to show how committed the organisation was. He showed me the policies. He showed me the messages he sent to the staff. He was living that, right. That attracted me to the organisation.

I think for any organisation out there, if they are not embracing flexibility for men and women, if you are discriminating against men or women, based on flexibility, you’re just losing talent and you will not attract talent. And that’s a huge risk for an organisation. You look at the financial services sector, it’s a people business and there is so much demand for talent. There is so much competition. You must be able to offer flexibility.


Hilary: That’s a really strong message though, isn’t it? People are more aware, now than ever, that they have some bargaining power. I think if you’re going to be attracting talent by looking at your internal culture, your policies and procedures, that provide a greater balance for families, women, and men.

That’s a strong message to say that the talent pool is going to be reduced for your organisation if we don’t start coming up to speed with some of these flexibility, and other family friendly, policies.


Justin: Absolutely.  I love working for AFCA and I plan to be here for a while, but any future job I have, it will be part of the conversation. If an organisation can offer me everything, but they can’t offer me that flexibility, what’s unlikely that’s going to be the organisation for me.

There are lots of people out there that share that kind of view, that attitude, and it’s really shifting. So, it is critical and it is important that organisations that want to be successful, their people policies around flexibility must be part of their organisational culture and strategy as well.


Hilary: So, multiple pieces of research predict that it will still be at least a hundred years before we reach gender equality. And obviously this issue forms a part of that striving towards a gender equal society. It’s not a great legacy for any of us to leave, but how confident do you feel about the future? Do you feel as though we’re making inroads into opportunities for women and for men to live a different type of life?  


Justin: It’s a very depressing statistic, isn’t it?  And it is one that we’re all part of.  We all have to own that statistic, because we are all part of the society that we live in. I’m optimistic. I think though that we can do much better than that.  I mentioned about what did it look like 50 years ago? It was dramatically different to where it is today. There has been an enormous amount of change, positive change, in Australia and internationally.

I’m absolutely hopeful that we look like a very different place in the next 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years. I think there have been events even in the last couple of months that have occurred that are bringing all sorts of gender issues to the surface and helping us to move forward.

For me, not only do we need system changes, but we need to keep talking about this. And in fact, we need men more involved in the conversation too. I think gender equality issues are not a women’s issue. They’re a social issue that impacted all of us. And so, we need men to step up and be actively involved in the conversation and helping to design a future?

One of the great examples I love to give is, one of my favourite books that I read to the kids often is “How to be a Lion” and “How to be a Lion” is about a lion called Leonard and his friend, Marianne, the duck. The other lions are very critical of Leonard, because he shouldn’t be friends with the duck. In fact, he should eat the duck.

Leonard writes a poem, because he and Marianne loved to write poetry. They speak to the other lions about the fact that it’s okay for every lion to be different, and it’s okay for Leonard to be friends with a duck. The final statement is some people say that words can’t change the world. Leonard says, if it makes people think, you can change the world. That message is so powerful.  I think what we need to do is, we need to keep talking about these issues and sharing our experiences. If we do that more people will start to think differently about these issues, and then they will help to drive change.


Hilary: I love the story about Leonard and Marianne. I think maybe you should give them the last word. But seriously, you seem to be a key influencer in your previous role, and certainly a key influencer in AFCA. Some of the work that you’re doing, I think a lot of other organizstions will be interested to hear how you’re approaching these issues, to not only give men and women greater balance in life, but also to get the best talent within your organisation.

I agree with you totally, that men need to be part of this conversation. Statistics show that men are still the decision makers. They’re the majority of senior leadership, and change won’t come about unless they actually embrace it and understand not only what’s in it for women, but what’s in it for men too.


Justin: One last comment I’d like to make if it’s okay, because this is on the topic of dads. I’ve got a very good friend of mine, Justin Kelly, he’s a single dad and his son, Luca, is currently suffering from leukemia. He was diagnosed two years ago, and they’ve been going through an awful time. I’ve been absolutely inspired by Justin and the strength that he’s been bringing to this issue and what he does for his boy every single day. It’s just incredible.

So, I just wanted a shout out to Justin and Luca. I know they’re going through a really rough time at the moment and I know they’ll get through it and I’m looking forward to sitting down with them when they’re back at home.


Hilary: Thank you for sharing that and all our best to the both of them. Justin, thank you for speaking with me this morning. It’s been a really interesting discussion. Thank you for being so open and honest about your own experiences, and what you feel we can do better in Australian society.


Justin: Thanks so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.