Communities@Work’s board chair Alan Greenslade recently announced the appointment of Lee Maiden to the position of Chief Executive Officer. “Lee is an outstanding appointment known for her collaborative leadership style,” he said of the new CEO. “She brings a wealth of experience from several decades working with Communities@Work.”
Established in the 1970s in Canberra, Communities@work is a social enterprise that prides itself on understanding local needs, with an innovative and progressive culture.
With a rich heritage spanning 40 years, the organisation understands the needs of the local community. And for 30 of those years, Lee Maiden has been a part of the organisation.
Born in Canberra, Ms Maiden started as a casual employee in 1989. Prior to that, she says, “I was at home with my son, and I went down the road to Gumnut House to have a look. At that time, the house relied on ‘roster mothers’ and children could be dropped off safely for several hours while parents went shopping etc.”
“I recognised it as wonderful socialisation for children. As we know with brain development in children, the first four years are extremely important and have a direct effect on their overall development.”
“Gumnut House is now known as the Richardson Child Care and Education Centre, and my grandchildren are going there,” says Ms Maiden with pride.
“I had been volunteering with Communities@Work for three years when I was invited to take on casual work. I’ve worked here for this length of time as I’ve been given great opportunities right from the very start. As I became more interested professionally in child development, I was encouraged to study, to grow my passion. The organisation has been wonderful to me.”
Communities@Work has a healthy culture of staff retention, with one employee of over 22 years, Brooke Unger, recently saying, “over the years the Executive team have always been accessible, and colleagues great to work with.”
Ms Maiden agrees. “It is important for this organisation to have a positive culture. If our staff trust me, then they trust the organisation. I also encourage people to look for opportunities within the organisation.”
Previous CEO Maureen Cane is cited by Ms Maiden as a huge influence – “Maureen mentored me and encouraged me to explore my skills outside children’s services and I have loved the journey.”
Several aspects of the organisation are described with pride by Ms Maiden. Including the Galilee School, especially for disengaged children in years 7 to 10 – “we are seeing growth in outcomes for these young people who have had unsettled or traumatic lives. In 2018 seventeen young people graduated and we could see how very proud the parents and families are, after such complex family relationships.”
“We also have the food pantry and the clothing stores, we’re committed to providing support for those experiencing hardship and challenges.”
Communities@Work is one of the largest community service organisations in the ACT. With a paid workforce of up to 700 staff, 100 self-employed family day care educators, and passionate commitment of around 130 active volunteers, the community organisation provides services to more than 20,000 clients annually.
“Into the future, the organisation will have to deal with a changing landscape. 75 per cent of our work is in children’s services and we are seeing an influx of service providers and suppliers over recent years. We need to keep up with the changes,” Ms Maiden adds.
“Good leadership is important. With over 700 employees, we lead by listening, and consider them family.”
Being the CEO of a community organisation requires more than just skill and dedication, however, which Ms Maiden has in abundance. Personal values must also align with that of the organisation, and in this regard, we find another reason why Ms Maiden is a perfect fit for the role. Communities@Work is governed by the principles ‘Trust, Integrity and Transparency, with Respect for all’, which mirror the values of Lee Maiden, as she told me: “My life philosophy is to always try and do my best, with integrity, humility and with trust.”
A “responsible, smiling human” is how one colleague has described Ms Maiden, and when asked about her happiness she said, “my work makes me feel happy. People often comment that I’m always smiling at work.”
Perhaps another inspiring CEO, Lynne Harwood’s influence is to be seen here. “Lynne was one of the five wonderful CEOs I’ve worked alongside here, and she believed it was up to you to choose your attitude to life.”