Young people are awesome powerful agents of change that are sadly often mis and under-represented in society. We’d like to see more young people involved in governance, decision-making and strategy of organisations. Our Cadet Gabrielle (Gabby) Breheny is a Board member, Chair and HR Director of the I CAN Network and offers some insights into her experience.
Getting involved in I CAN
Hey! My name is Gabby. I am a 22-year old Cadet studying my fourth year in Psychology at Monash University. I’m also a Board member, Chair and HR Director of the I CAN Network. I CAN is Australia’s first social enterprise founded by people on the Autism spectrum, aiming to drive a ‘rethink’ of Autism in the community through mentoring, educational programs, and advocacy.
Honesty. Integrity. Autonomy.
My journey with I CAN came about through Doxa; by participating in the Cadetship program, I was offered the opportunity to attend a Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) residential camp at Malmsbury in 2013 and met founder Chris Varney who was a speaker there. I was looking for some volunteer experience and had always been a very passionate Autism advocate, so I didn’t hesitate to put my hand up to help out…and the rest is history. I currently spend between 10 – 30 hours a week on I CAN projects, meetings and tasks. I enjoy it so much it doesn’t feel like work. I’ve been involved from the start and helped to build the culture in the organisation.
I enjoy it so much it doesn’t feel like work. I’ve been involved from the start and helped to build the culture in the organisation.
My personal values are centred around honesty, integrity and autonomy and I strive to create a positive, passionate culture at I CAN in which these values are honoured and represented.
Why be a (young) board member?
I am super passionate about being a board member. Having young people on the Board can really help inject energy, progressive thinking and vigour to an organisation. Another element that is really important for Boards is that they maintain their company’s vision and mission.
I loved the idea of being involved in the progression of a start up from the grassroots and making it into a success story. It can be scary. Being a board member means that you are accountable for the performance of an entire company. But that just means that it has taught me to have an extra level of responsibility and diligence about how I work.
Being involved in the I CAN Network as a Board member has helped me further develop skills such as:
- public speaking
- group leadership
I’ve also realised that I’m incredibly passionate about developing people and making them feel like they’re performing at their best at work they they love doing… which all ties into Human Resources. Three years ago, I would never have imagined saying that I love Human Resources. I’ve developed some amazing personal and professional skills in:
- conflict resolution
- talent management
The most rewarding thing about being a young board member in the not-for-profit space is knowing that your decisions really do have a positive, significant impact on the lives of the people we work with.
The journey so far
Mentoring has also played a key part in my development contributing to my confidence and career direction. In addition to my work placement and mentor at the Australian Taxation Office as part of the Cadetship program, I’ve had the pleasure of being mentored by quite a few different people in my journey, who have been invaluable. The most rewarding thing about being a young board member in the not-for-profit space is knowing that your decisions really do have a positive, significant impact on the lives of the people we work with.
Recently, a group of us attended Parliament of Victoria’s Inquiry into Services for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder which was a definite highlight in my journey so far.