New Chancellor advocates UniSA’s can-do spirit

Chancellor Pauline Carr says there’s an inherent pride in all the people she’s come across at UniSA, who are determined to do everything to the best of their ability and want to make a difference. INSIDE UNISA
Chancellor Pauline Carr says there’s an inherent pride in all the people she’s come across at UniSA, who are determined to do everything to the best of their ability and want to make a difference.

UniSA’s new Chancellor is disciplined, outcomes-focused and likes getting things done.

Pauline Carr has built a 30+ year career bringing her executive experience, business improvement, governance, compliance and risk management consultancy services to a range of companies in the resources, construction and superannuation sectors.

She was invited onto UniSA’s Council in 2010 and was appointed Chancellor last month. She has been chair of the Council’s Audit and Risk Committee and a member of both the Finance Committee and the Senior Remuneration Committee. Throughout her time on Council she has had an oversight role over the University’s rapid growth through two chancellors, two vice chancellors and several changes at senior management level to an imminent will they/or won’t they merger discussion with Adelaide University.

During her eight years so far, she is happy to report that the institution has remained energetic, youthful and way ahead of where it might be (she dislikes the phrase “punching above its weight”).

The University got to where it is through hard work, discipline and planning and implementing good decisions, a regimen that Carr, a firm believer in the business-case – evidence as the foundation of good decisions – intends to continue.

“Getting things done, making a difference is easiest to achieve in organisations that are young and tend to have those attributes,” she says.

“I think that agility, that responsiveness, that openness to the idea that ‘we can always do it better, we have the discipline and the skillsets to implement it better and we can do it sooner than anybody else’ is actually very appealing and is an incredibly important part of what makes UniSA so special.”

Although UniSA is only 27 years old, Carr believes the University will still be as strong and vibrant – and as enterprising – on its 127th birthday.

In many ways Pauline Carr’s life mirrors that of a UniSA student. She is a country girl, born on the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula, and was the first in her family to attend university. Because her local school only went to Year 11, she moved to Adelaide to finish high school. Itchy feet then took her on to Canberra, to Australian National University (ANU) where she took a bachelor’s degree in economics.

She was part of the graduate intake into oil and gas giant Esso Australia (now Exxon Mobil) in Sydney where she worked as a financial analyst. American companies tend to put their best people into internal auditing and there she went, fast-tracked to management. She became an accountant looking after among other things, community relationships, sponsorships and government relations.

Seven years and a lot of travel later she returned to Adelaide to a role with Normandy Mining, making the adjustment from the large multinational entity that Esso was, to the young, agile and ambitious Normandy Mining Limited. Carr was a member of the executive team and an integral part of the company’s growth and international expansion through mergers and acquisitions, which led Normandy to become Australia’s largest gold mining company, the fifth largest in the world. She eventually took an executive role with Newmont Mining Corporation, the world’s largest gold miner, which took over Normandy.

In her career, which has included several board positions – she is chairman of National Pharmacies, a non-executive director of ASX-listed Highfield Resources Limited, a board member of the SA Government’s Minerals and Energy Advisory Council and the deputy chair of the South Australian Minerals and Petroleum Expert Group – Carr has come across her fair share of institutions that might “do planning exceptionally well, but find the real challenge lies in implementing those plans”.

That is not what she found at this University.

“There is an inherent pride in all the people I’ve come across at the University who do want to do everything to the best of their ability and do want to actually make a difference,” she says.

“They have the discipline, the foresight and the courage to do something well, and then review the results to learn from them.”

No surprise then that the three words that she chose to live by, now embedded into the DNA of Pridham Hall, are Plan. Do. Review. However, she credits vice chancellors and senior management with walking the talk and cascading an appropriate culture down throughout the organisation.

“The University has always had such wonderful values, particularly its commitment to access and equity and these are values that are truly shared across the board throughout the institution,” she says.

Given her areas of expertise in governance, compliancy and risk management she has a very high attention to detail and likes things done exceptionally well.

“The role of the Council and the Chancellor is not only to make properly informed decisions that support our charter, particularly the need to provide education programs to those who may be disadvantaged, but to provide a mentoring role, to act as a bridge between the University, the business world and the broader state and national communities,” Carr says.

One of the highlights of her new role as Chancellor, she says, will be officiating in graduations where she will, on any given graduation event, personally award 300 or more parchments to graduating students.

“Graduations is an absolute highlight,” she says. “I think we go out of our way to make it a truly special experience for graduands. And the joy on their faces is amazing. I love it. And I tell graduating students who might think of giving the ceremony a miss how special it is, how they’ll always remember that day. I think it’s important that they celebrate the moment because we really don’t celebrate enough in modern life.”