Held in style at Sydney’s ICC, AHRI’s final big event of the decade wasn’t just a celebration of excellent work.
The proof that AHRI has fostered a real community came about an hour from the end of its 2019 Awards night. Sportsmed won the Rob Goffee Leadership Development award and the person accepting it on behalf of the organisation was giving a speech.
She began by saying she was genuinely surprised to have won and so had not prepared anything to say. Then, after ably handling the appropriate thank yous, she told the audience, “I guess the most important thing to say is that one of the competitors for this award was my husband’s organisation.”
At this she gave a fist pump and declared, “And we beat them!”
Returning MC, comedian Peter Berner, took the microphone and said, “We can guess who’s driving home tonight.”
That a husband and wife were up for the same award signals Australia’s HR community is as close as any other profession’s – this is a married couple in the same specialisation, going for the same award – but it also says something more.
Award nights can be a bit of put-on. They’re often done because they’re done, rather than for any real goal. So moments like these, where the audience is genuinely delighted and gets a sense that this isn’t just about pinning medals, matter a lot. The repeated sentiment that finalists as well as winners should be proud of their achievements rings a lot more true when one of the winners isn’t afraid to gloat.
The Sydney ICC ballroom
Farewells, and calls to action
The 2019 Awards didn’t just mark the end of a decade, they were the final big AHRI event for two long standing leaders of Australia’s only HR peak body.
CEO Lyn Goodear spoke after a stirring welcome to country was given by Yvonne Weldon, chairperson of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. Goodear mentioned that what Weldon called on the audience to do – to make a difference – was not only what the Awards were about, it was a quality needed now more than ever.
“The headlines keep coming,” she said, alluding to the recent Westpac scandal. “We experience shock, and the organisations experience shame.”
Though she will be leaving in February, Goodear gave the impression that the high levels of importance and expectation she places on HR will not diminish. She called on the profession to make sure organisations don’t go back to “business as usual” and encouraged it to guide companies to “do what they should be doing. Not just what they can do or what they can get away with.”
She wasn’t the only one to use her time on stage to insist on change. More than a few of the award winners did likewise.
The team from the Australian Tax Office won the Michael Kirby LGBTIQ Inclusion award for their efforts in setting up the organisation’s first LGBTIQ network, and asked the audience to “keep pushing” when it came to the inclusion of all people.
ATO – winners of the Michael Kirby award
Charitable organisation Life Without Barriers, who won the Stan Grant Indigenous Employment award for introducing ‘Culture Support Planner’ roles and embedding culturally appropriate organisational practice, bluntly said that Australian organisations need to, “Front up to our past and walk together into the future.”
Chairman and President Peter Wilson, who will also be leaving AHRI early next year, spoke at the end of the evening. Realising that 10:30pm is not the time for a long, wistful goodbye, he gracefully thanked the audience and reiterated AHRI’s gratitude to assembled HR professionals for justifying the tagline given to the event, “The mark of excellence”.