Elizabeth Proust is a favourite daughter of Melbourne, with a varied career in the corporate and public service sector she brings a wealth of experience to her current portfolio of roles.
Among other things we talk about the push for tax reform coming from the Australian Institute of Company Directors, of which she is the current Chairman.
Elizabeth was the frequent public face of the 90’s rehabilitation of the City of Melbourne and this built her profile.
She says her strong opinions and leadership come in part from being the oldest of nine siblings:
I grew up in country New South Wales, Sydney and Wollongong.
The longest I lived anywhere as a child, was during high school, in Wollongong, but the difference between leaving Sydney and arriving in Wollongong as a twelve-year-old child, struck me as a backward step.
The day I finished my HSC I packed up and moved to Melbourne.
Two degrees, a family and working her way up the public service career ladder gave Elizabeth great contacts, a broad range of experience and led to her being appointed as deputy of the Industry Department.
All departments then were run by men.
In the time since John Cain had been premier he had insisted that there be women on shortlists and that there be women on interview panels.
Which was a long way ahead of its time, so the fact that the public service at senior levels is roughly 50/50 in Victoria is not surprising. It’s taken a long time, but it’s not surprising.
A non-transactional approach to networking, enjoying people for their company, led to some happy opportunities in, among others the attorney generals department, where she put her law degree to use.
She also had a high-profile role as the CEO of the City of Melbourne during the early 90’s rejuvenation, that gave her a role in a wide range of public service activities and helped avoid being pigeon holed.
This experience has also led to another role representing thousands of board members and their interests as the chair of the Australian Institute of Company Directors where she is one of Australia’s most recognisable Company Directors, with confidence to speak up on important issues.
I guess being the bossy eldest of nine might help.
I don’t think enough directors speak out on issues that are of concern to the country beyond the business community. I think especially CEO’s don’t speak out beyond their work.
Some of it’s understandable, I’ve seen people worry about partisan comments effecting their business.
But I think that if you do it in a way that takes the debate forward, whether it’s infrastructure, taxation or energy policy I think you’ve got an obligation to do it.
I’m fortunate at the Institute of Company Directors that we’ve got a well-resourced policy group who do great work.
Often a solo director doesn’t have that backup.