COMMUNITY services sector expert Anita Veivers has put Cairns on the map after being named one of Queensland’s most influential women in the field.
The Centacare Cairns executive director is one of five Queensland women leading the community services industry who will be profiled in a blog with the Community Services Industry Alliance.
She is one of two people working in regional Queensland to be profiled.
Ms Veivers said she was excited to be part of the blog project, which launches on International Women’s Day today (March 8), and have a regional leader represented.
“It’s nice to see the regions represented as we do have some great organisations making a difference to those in the margins of our communities,” Ms Veivers said.
Originally from the United Kingdom, she said her journey towards a leadership role was not planned.
Admitting to “drifting off a bit” in her school years, Ms Veivers saw an advertisement for a job with a mental health organisation, applied and got the position.
An opportunity to volunteer at an American summer camp with people suffering from emotional difficulties was the clincher for a career in community service.
“I had the best summer and realised I had found my calling,” Ms Veivers said.
She made her Australian community services career debut after meeting her husband, a Cairns native, in her home country.
The pair moved their life to Cairns where Ms Veivers landed a career-changing role with ARC Disability Services, staying with the company for 23 years.
When she left the company last year, she was ARC’s chief executive officer and increased the company’s annual income from $500,000 to $10 million.
Ms Veivers said organisations that focused on disability services faced the challenge of trying to change community perceptions.
“People with disabilities are just people in the community, a lot like you or I,” she said.
After more than two decades working purely in disability services, Ms Veivers took up her new role with Centacare in May 2016.
She encouraged young women looking at starting a career in community services to talk with leaders in the field and surround themselves with good mentors.
“I’ve been very lucky to have good mentors around me, and I am very open for others to use me to bounce off their own ideas,” she said.
“It’s just about talking to people, because the community services sector is so wide and broad that there are endless opportunities.”
Ms Veivers said while women were the predominant workers on a grassroots level, men tended to dominate the leadership roles in the industry.
“This is why we need to be encouraging leadership as an opportunity for women in the sector,” she said.
The former Catholic schoolgirl said she had “great respect” for the Catholic Church and the role faith-based organisations played in the community.
Ms Veivers was in Brisbane on March 8 to help launch the CSIA’s Leading Women in Community Services Profile blog.