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Leesa Chesser: From Politics to the Boardroom

Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

Release Date: 10/04/2021

Optus blame game: Do we treat male and female CEOs the same? show art Optus blame game: Do we treat male and female CEOs the same?

Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

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Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

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Claire Braund in conversation with Dr Amber Tan show art Claire Braund in conversation with Dr Amber Tan

Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

You may well think Dr Amber Tan has the world at her feet and job offers flowing in. A former Malaysian national who was born and raised in Ipoh (the gateway to the Cameron Highlands hill station), Amber migrated to Melbourne in 2011 with her partner and received an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship in 2013 to complete her PhD at Monash University. A feat she accomplished in 2017 with no amendments.  Her thesis critically examined national security and public order laws in Malaysia and their impact on constitutionalism and the rule of law and Amber has also conducted extensive...

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Claire Braund in conversation with Dr Monique Beedles show art Claire Braund in conversation with Dr Monique Beedles

Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

Dr Monique Beedles was not your average teenager. At 15, as well as having posters of Murph Hughes and the Adelaide Oval on her bedroom wall, it was her dream to be CEO of Swiss multinational healthcare company Roche. To this end, she went on to study German and chemistry at school. “I was always interested in medical research from a very young age. But I didn’t know back then that to be the CEO of Roche, your name has to be Roche,” she tells Claire in this podcast. Undeterred, Monique went on to study pharmacy and gained her first board role with the Australasian College of Pharmacy....

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Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

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Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

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Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

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Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

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Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

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Women on Boards - Leaders and Directors in conversation with Claire Braund

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If anything can prepare you for battle in the boardroom, it’s being a politician in the middle of a crisis. 

Former-South Australian Mental Health Minister and Women on Boards member, Leesa Chesser (nee Leesa Vlahos) was thrust into the spotlight when allegations of elder abuse of dementia patients at the state-run Oakden nursing home were exposed leading, in part, to the aged care royal commission.

In this podcast Leesa opens up to Claire about what it was like being at the centre of a political scandal, and how vital lessons learned from the experience have helped in her boardroom journey.

“That time taught me a huge amount,” Leesa tells Claire. “There will always be failures, but how we respond to them in an appropriate way for an organization or institution or corporate entity is hugely important.”

Now after calling time on 25 years in politics, Leesa is drawing on her experience in politics and the health information management and human services sector, plus her lived experience caring helping her mother through mental health issues, to work on her board portfolio.

She says having had to understand and talk through complex pieces of legislation in Parliament has provided her with great skills to take to the boardroom table. 

And while she admits having a seat in a parliament is more “adversarial and shouty at times” than sitting in the boardroom, she says the same rules apply when it comes to negotiation, mediation and getting a consensus.

“What I've discovered in the journey walking away from politics after 25 years, is that the most surprising and rewarding Boards I’ve been on are not the ones that I would have predicted four years ago.”

She is now a NED and Chair of Governance, Remuneration and Nominations Committee at Community Options Australia, an advisory board member with virtual reality start-up Add Life Technologies which specialises in neurological rehabilitation technology and mentor and Advisory Board member for HCI Insights which is developing a learning application called Frank which she describes as “like a Fitbit for mental health and wellbeing”.

An avid shooter, sailor and CWA scone-maker, Leesa is also hoping to get her pilot’s license before retiring. As she tells Claire, “I’ve learned not to rule things in or rule things out.” 

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Leesa Chesser
Claire Braund (host)

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