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The 2023 Vision Australia Annual General Meeting (AGM) is the end of an era for Andrew Moffat, as his time as Chair of Vision Australia draws to a close.

Andrew joined the Vision Australia Board in 2011 and became Chair in 2015. Having served as a Director for the maximum period allowed under the Vision Australia Constitution, Andrew admitted to being unsure how to feel about his time ending.

"It feels very weird, it has crept up on me over a period. When I joined the Board 12 years ago, I never expected to be Chair," Andrew said.

"But particularly over the eight years as Chair, more and more of my time has been aligned with Vision Australia and it's going to be very odd going cold turkey," he said.

"Two men in suits, one holds a trophy in the shape of the Vision Australia logo"
Caption: Outgoing Vision Australia Chair Andrew Moffatt, left, was presented with a Vision Australia Award by CEO Ron Hooton at the 2023 AGM. 

An experienced legal and financial professional and now a leading mediator, Andrew joined the Vision Australia Board after filling a similar role in the UK with Action for Blind People.

While the position of Chair was never something he considered, Andrew's previous experience saw him become a natural fit for the position when Dr. Kevin Murfitt vacated the position.

"I had been on the board of one of the biggest blindness charities in the UK before I moved back to Australia and that was motivated by the fairly traditional thought that I've been successful in my career, and I thought I had an opportunity to give something back.

"Because I had my experience of living with low vision, I thought I potentially had some useful insights in that area and that got me into governance within the sector and then when I moved back to Australia there was a dialogue initiated by Vision Australia when they were looking for governance succession.

"The Board asked me if I would consider becoming the Chair in the middle of 2015. Form the Board's point of view, the complexities of the decisions Vision Australia was facing as an organisation, as well as strategic and governance needs, the Board felt my skills would be useful in respect to that."

Challenges on the path to success

While he has served as Chair, Vision Australia has faced a number of challenges, most notably the transition to the NDIS and the COVID-19 pandemic, however Andrew said navigating those has been made possible by the collective strength of Vision Australia and its mission.

"Vision Australia is always going to go through challenging periods because of how ambitious an organisation it is, so I don't think my tenure has been uniquely blighted by that. If we want to keep moving forward as an organisation, there are going to be challenges, regardless of the external environment.

"The key thing that I think is Vision Australia's strength is that we've always known what we're there for. The mission that I was told on my first day on the Board of supporting people who are blind or have low vision to live the life they choose is still the same mission today. If you know what your purpose is, it's much easier to make the decisions you need to.

"The Board is also amazing. Every Board member contributes and wants to be challenged by one another. Management then brings ideas to the Board that they'd like endorsement on and there is a creative tension that I believe delivers the best results for the organisation."  

While reluctant to take any singular credit for progress as his time as Chair, Andrew is certainly proud of the contribution he's made.

"I can remember sitting on the grass outside a fast-food restaurant in Alice Springs watching a service delivery for a young Indigenous client because that's where he wanted to have the service delivered.

"Everything we've done has been about that client-focussed flexibility, but also making sure that our staff are empowered and creative. Sitting cross-legged in the grass in Alice Springs was the ultimate extension of everything we had been working towards and it is a memory I often reflect on."

Leaving the organisation in good hands

Ron Hooton, Vision Australia CEO, said Andrew's time as Chair has been a huge benefit for Vision Australia.

"Andrew has made a remarkable contribution to Vision Australia over his twelve years on our Board. His leadership, connection with mission, and engagement at all levels of our organisation has gained him the respect of many. Perhaps his most significant achievement has been building our governance effectiveness," Ron said.

"At a time when the demands on Boards and the complexity of our operating environment were increasing, Andrew led a significant change in the way our organisation is governed. Through his diligence, we have a professional and skilled Board, and governance practices that would be the envy of many in the for-purpose and for-profit sectors. At a personal level, I am grateful to have had a Chair who has provided support and wise counsel at every stage of our journey," he said.

Andrew will be succeeded as Chair by long-serving Board member Bill Jolley, who he believes will bring valuable insights and experience to the role.

"Bill brings an understanding and knowledge of the organisation that he has developed over his whole life. That is a huge value for someone in the position of Chair and he'll be able to leverage that to great benefit.

"As a Board member, Bill has great ambition for Vision Australia and will be the perfect fit as Chair to help the organisation find the right way to do things it needs and wants to do into the future."