From the bush to the boardroom: Sarah Hunter MAICD

Thursday, 29 September 2022


She hails from a small town near Bathurst and is chair of the Ag Institute of Australia. AICD scholarship winner Sarah Hunter MAICD reveals how completing the Company Director’s Course this year changed her approach in the boardroom and opened up more of a big-picture view of decision-making. Applications for the next round of the Women’s Regional, Rural and Remote Diversity Scholarship 2022 are now open. To find out if you’re eligible, click here.

Sarah Hunter MAICD first joined a board in 2019 and admits she’s in the early stages of her board journey, but now sees governance in a new light, which has been useful not only in her day job but also in her board career.

She works as a facilitator delivering the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme – Strengthening Business for business owners in bushfire-affected LGAs.

“In my day job, I support businesses to pivot and grow and one of the things that I start them with is the governance and strategic and structural aspects. In that context and also in a wider board experience context, I see people responding to those (aspects) as being a little bit boring.

“But actually, the Company Directors Course made me realise that those governance fundamentals absolutely underpin everything that an organisation does. And most importantly, they shape culture as well so that … without them you really aren't going to have a well-performing organisation.”

As well as being chair of the Ag Institute of Australia, Hunter, who comes from Newbridge near Bathurst, is also a non-executive director of Rural Aid and the Veterinary Practitioners Board of NSW. She received a Women’s Regional, Rural and Remote Diversity Scholarship and used it to study the Company Directors Course in July 2022.

She has applied learnings from the course and says it’s changed her approach in the boardroom, especially in terms of stakeholders. “It's had a big-picture effect — reminding me to be methodical and to look at decision-making through multiple lenses. That, of course, is a good model for all decision-making.

“It has made me mindful of thinking, ‘Wait a minute, let's see what angle we haven't considered or what stakeholder we might have overlooked, or what situation could arise?’ That way, we can be confident nothing's been missed. It’s not that it has slowed down the decision-making process — it has enriched it.”

“Usually on the boards that I'm on, we have stakeholders at a fairly high level of consideration anyway but now we are just pushing that little bit further to uncover perhaps (other) stakeholders or to scenario test situations.”

Some aspects of the course were challenging, such as realising the breadth of a director’s obligations and what board members need to be aware of, at even a basic level.

“The course brought home the significance of the fiduciary responsibilities of being a director, but also the great privilege of playing a part in value creation and legacy building. It was also operationally challenging to find the time to read and absorb all the material and prepare for the assessments.” 

Hunter is also the chair of a subcommittee for the Rural Aid board and the course has helped her to shape recommendations being taken to that committee.

“So it's had a big picture sort of effect, but also a very specific effect. I know there are things which I should now be considering because of the organisational stage and maturity of the organisation.”

Tags: AICD scholarships, women

More about the Women’s Regional, Rural and Remote Diversity Scholarship 2022

With support from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women, the AICD’s Women’s Regional, Rural and Remote Diversity Scholarship program provides existing and emerging female leaders in these areas across Australia with the opportunity to take part in world-class courses and to develop their director careers.

AICD welcomes applicants who reflect the diversity of Australia’s population and encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, culturally diverse women, women with disability and those in the not-for-profit sector to apply.

The program is offering courses to be undertaken in 2023: 30 full-fee scholarships for experienced directors to undertake the Company Directors Course; and 24 full-fee scholarships for emerging directors to undertake the Foundations of Directorship program. The scholarships are administered by our facilitating partner, the Australian Scholarships Foundation. To find out if you’re eligible, click here.

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