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Outstanding regional and rural leadership


Territory Tuesday: Annette Burke

Territory Tuesday: Annette Burke

With just 24 days to go until the 20th cohort of the Australian Rural Leadership Program graduate in Darwin on Friday, 19 September, we're dedicating each Tuesday to profiling a Fellow or graduate based in the Northern Territory. It's a huge place, and a unique, highly-rural environment, shaping its own unique leaders. So to get you in the graduation mood, here is one of the Top End's top leaders! 

(More Territory Tuesdays here: Alister TrierSally BanfieldRowan Foley, Katherine Winchester and Clair O'Brien)

Annette Burke, ARLP Course 12. Darwin.

I arrived in the Northern Territory in late 1991 from Sydney, so almost 23 years ago, as a military wife. My husband was to take up his role as Commanding Officer of the Second Cavalry regiment in the Top End as part of APIN (Army presence in the North). Before my packing cases were collected, I was elected as an Alderman on the local Council of Palmerston, the fastest growing city in Australia and within a few years became Mayor, a position I held for the next 10 years before taking an executive job in leadership training in Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

The Territory is definitely a place where you can be anything you want to be!! Currently I am Chair of the Top End health Services Board, which oversees delivery of all health and hospital services here, a huge job! I am also Chair of the Charles Darwin University (CDU) Foundation Board which allows me to put back into this wonderful community. I am also a Director on the Cancer Council Board. 

The main challenge for the NT is attracting people to work, live and invest here, mainly because of the high cost of living and scarce housing availability. I think the initiatives being undertaken by the current leaders to progress investment, develop affordable housing and progress the $34 billion INPEX gas project and also advance the development of the Northern Australia initiative by the Federal and Territory Governments go a long way towards meeting our challenges. However, I also believe that innovation could play a much greater role in managing our challenges. Thinking outside the square, as they say, is something I firmly believe in and practised very much in my Mayoral role.

What I love about being in the Territory is that we do business on a different level to most other places. We work together cooperatively and the tall poppy syndrome is largely non existent here. You can speak directly to a Senator, Member of the Legislative Assembly or minister about an issue. There are very few barriers to achieving all you want as a leader. When I first started as Mayor in a male dominated local government scene I was treated with great respect and managed to achieve lots of goals in spite of the 'red-neck' impression of Territorians that some people from "down south" might have. This continues today I am pleased to say.

My advice to Course 20, upon their graduation, is to remember the lessons learnt in the Kimberley where the onion layers were peeled back to reveal the real you, warts and all, and apply them in your leadership challenges. Also keep up the network with your ARLP colleagues as they are a treasure trove of experience, influence and advice. My graduation was memorable as we had bonded so well, especially after our experiences on the overseas session in Brazil. Our presentation to sponsors and family was passionate and made us take stock of our 12 month long experience and really feel gratitude for the opportunity given to us by our sponsors and the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation.

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