Woman Bond, Carolyn

Consumer Activist

Written by Kate Moore, Australian National University

Carolyn Bond was born in Melbourne in 1956, the eldest of three children. On leaving school she worked as a clerk and later a computer operator, but became involved in the consumer movement through the Tenants' Union, where she volunteered for several years. Her progression within the consumer credit and legal service organisations over the past 30 years mirrors the growth of the movement and she is now co-CEO of Consumer Action Law Centre and has represented consumers on a number of bodies, including the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman Board, the Legal Services Board and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Consumer Advisory Panel.

Drawing on her volunteer experience Carolyn moved into the emerging field of financial counselling in 1981 and, with her partner consumer lawyer Denis Nelthorpe, was part of the group which set up the Consumer Credit Legal Service (CCLS). In 1987, she wrote a practice manual and ran training for the Financial Counsellors Association. Following the birth of her first child, she worked in a varied range of part-time positions, but, in 1997, when her younger child was about 3, took a part time policy officer job at the CCLS. Two years later she was appointed acting co-ordinator, a position which she held until 2006 when the Consumer Credit Legal Service and the Consumer Law Centre of Victoria merged to form the Consumer Action Law Centre. Initially reluctant to take on the extra demands of a larger centre, she eventually applied for the new CEO position as a job-share arrangement with Catriona Lowe. Both women value the opportunity to work part-time, describing their job-share as 'very like a marriage' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/1026/).

Carolyn has not had any training for the considerable leadership work she is now doing. However, she recalls that her first purchase after she was appointed to her leadership position was Joan Kirner's co-authored book The women's power hand book which recognised that while women brought special skills to leadership, they faced particular challenges. Carolyn argues that there can be subtle differences between women and men leaders. 'For Catriona and me, our position has the ego, rather than us. We committed to giving priority to the internal functioning of the centre and to the employees - on the basis that external engagement won't have a long-lasting impact unless the Centre itself is robust. While there is some tension between external and internal demands, I think we've been successful in building an experienced and skilled team - where we are not the only ones who have a high external profile' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/1026/).

Carolyn describes herself as 'an accidental leader' driven by her 'passion' for the movement. 'There have been a number of times during my life, where I've been privileged enough to be able to wait and see what happens next - rather than actively searching out what I'll do ... While I may not have planned to be a leader, I think I have been successful in working with others to build and (where necessary) change the direction of organisations' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/1026/).

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