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Leesa Chesser: From Politics to the Boardroom

Women on Boards I Making it Real

Release Date: 10/04/2021

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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 SA Mental Health Minister Leesa Chesser 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 talks to Claire about what it was like being at the centre of a political scandal, and how vital lessons learned helped in her boardroom journey.

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More Episodes

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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