At the start of next month in Sydney, the Australian Institute of Company Directors will host the fourth annual Australian Governance Summit.

    In December, Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan reminded us that 30 years ago we celebrated the end of the Cold War. In 1989, there was a growing belief that the future of global governance would be founded on vibrant democracies working within established international rules and norms. As she points out, even in 1989 there was sufficient evidence from Afghanistan, Serbia and China to challenge that belief.

    So even in this digital age, foreign policy experts agree that the most effective diplomacy happens face-to-face. “It all gets down to the conduct of foreign policy being personal,” said former US vice president Joe Biden in an interview on the Obama administration. Face-to-face meetings can help us to build the trust and understanding necessary to navigate uncertainty and disagreement. And in 2019, there is a great deal of uncertainty and disagreement to navigate.

    As with diplomacy, so too with the pressing governance issues facing our organisations and society today — it is important for the director community to gather in person from time to time to share insight and knowledge.

    At the start of next month in Sydney, the Australian Institute of Company Directors will host the fourth annual Australian Governance Summit (AGS). The Summit has become the must-attend event on the governance calendar, bringing together more than 1000 directors and senior leaders to discuss the pressing challenges they and their organisations face.

    This year’s theme for the summit, “Rising to the moment”, asks how boards and organisations should respond to this tumultuous period in governance.

    Occurring as it will only a month after the release of the final report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, culture and ethics will be front of mind for delegates. The Royal Commission has raised important questions, not just for boards in the financial services sector, but for all boards on how they set the tone from the top. The expectations of the community, government and our stakeholders are increasing; there are clear calls for heightened accountability and responsibility.

    This will be the first opportunity for the director community to define the path forward in the post-Hayne landscape. Panels will debate the future of corporate governance in Australia, whether we need to take another look at directors’ duties, how to ensure ethical decision-making when faced with complex dilemmas, and community expectations. With global competition and disruption also putting pressure on business models, the summit will include several sessions on innovation, strategy and growth.

    The ideas generated by delegates will inform AICD positions and policy for the coming year.

    We are excited that this year’s AGS will feature speakers of the calibre of David Gonski AC FAICDLifeAnn Sherry AO FAICD, Penny Bingham-Hall FAICD, Steve Vamos GAICD, and former Royal Commissioners the Hon Justice Neville Owen and Robert Fitzgerald AM.

    Even more than the speakers and panelists, the Australian Governance Summit is a unique event because of you: the cross-section of AICD members who attend each year. The delegates to the AGS come from every sector. They are directors or senior leaders of listed entities, family businesses, not-for-profits and government entities. This is a chance for us to have the measured, evidence-based discussion that is often lacking in today’s public discourse. Connections are forged that strengthen the director community. A chance meeting can bring just the right insight or skill-set that your board needs. The ideas generated by delegates will inform AICD positions and policy for the coming year.

    Governance will continue to be front and centre in 2019. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which commenced hearings in January, will report later in the year, and a federal election featuring questions of fairness and accountability is on the horizon.

    As a director community, we must rise to this moment. The Australian Governance Summit on 4-5 March will be a tremendous opportunity and I hope you can join us.

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