Richard Hill - Beyond Words

How did you come to be involved with Beyond Words?

I signed up with Beyond Words because I was looking for more mental stimulation in retirement and loved the idea of writing biographies.

I trained as a biographer in 2016 and by 2019 had completed my fifth biography. I was enjoying doing two a year … hard work but immensely rewarding.

Along the way I started to help the Operations Manager and Volunteer Coordinator with the communications segment of the training. I had taught communications when training youth workers and I wanted to help biographers reflect on how we can best put our client at ease and hear their story.

When did you become Board Chair?

Everything changed with Covid lockdowns preventing access to aged care and funding dried up.  I per chance discovered, that as a result, the Company was winding up with the practicalities already well under way. I could not accept the fait accompli, and by the end of the year, I was the Chair of a new Board and coordinating the rebuilding of our organisation. Covid and lockdowns were never boring for me!

What is your role as Board Chair?

As Board Chair I lead the Board in setting the organisation’s future direction and plans to serve the best interests of our clients as well as our storytellers in aged care, and to ensure that we effectively pursue those plans. I led the discussion from which we wrote our strategic plan. It is also the Board’s role to ensure that we manage risk, comply with the law and our constitution, and maintain our values and principles. We meet at least once a month by Zoom and are happy to include guests with new ideas at these meetings.

You wear another hat, as Operations Coordinator. What does this role involve?

As Operations Coordinator I ensure that we have the people and processes to effectively pursue and improve our work and support them to implement the strategic plan. So, I have the pleasure of working with our amazing volunteers, most of whom are biographers, who step forward to do training, editing, newsletter creation, regional coordination, IT work, and whatever else needs doing. I then write a report to the Board about this work and how it is meeting the Board’s direction.

I work closely with Dan Kavanagh, our Program Coordinator. Dan directs the program and placement of biographers with our clients in aged care. But the reality is we overlap and collaborate a lot. All documentation of how we do things is agreed between us. While we are different in more ways than we could count, the partnership works because we share a passion for the biography business and a determination to build Beyond Words.

What is your background?

In my career I designed youth services, reviewed community organisations, chaired several Boards of small organisations and as a consultant helped people with their planning and teamwork. I loved working with people to solve problems and find ways to do things better. My last ‘job’ was as a freelance consultant facilitating discussions, conflict resolution, review and planning for the local tip, soccer clubs, but mainly local government and community organisations. So I had developed some pretty relevant experience for my current volunteering.

I think in retirement I had missed these things, which explains why I could not resist taking on my two main roles at Beyond Words. Despite the work overload and stresses, I have had great satisfaction from being part of our community of volunteers, creating a vibrant and sustainable organisation.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am always checking the wind so I can windsurf out on the bay. I follow the Inverloch Windsurfing Club’s motto ‘Never let a breeze go by’, both figuratively and literally, for as long as my body stays strong.