Woman Keating, Colma Derlua Monica

Consultant, Environmentalist and Policy adviser

Written by Judy Lambert (edited from blogs prepared by Jane Elix), Australian National University

Colma Keating was born in 1960 in Three Springs, in the Western Australian wheatbelt. An 'intensely Catholic' upbringing strongly influenced Colma and her siblings - all of whom have become social change activists in various ways. Colma's Catholic schooling gave her an impetus to think of others and, significantly, instilled in her a sense that women are capable of achieving things in the world. Her family, she says, is still very close and connected.

Colma became involved in environmental groups, including the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Western Australian Conservation Council, while studying for her BSc (with majors in Botany and Geography) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She became Honorary Secretary of the West Australian Conservation Council and a Councillor for the Australian Conservation Foundation. Her working life began as a contractor, doing botanical surveys for government and non-government organisations, but her commitment to environment organisations was the major focus of her personal and social life. After working in the Department of Agriculture from 1988, Colma became Landcare Liaison Officer in the West Australia Agriculture Minister's office, where she made good use of her networking skills. In 1992 she was seconded to the Federal Department of Primary Industries in Canberra for a year.

Since returning to Perth in1993, Colma has worked in a range of government, non-government and contractor/consultant positions. New faces in the environment movement have energised her and she has focused on government liaison and skills development activities needed in the Conservation Council. She played a pivotal role in establishing Environment Matters, a Conservation Council networking and skills development initiative, choosing this shift in emphasis largely to avoid the high pressure that campaigning often visits on personal relationships, particularly with her partner in mind.

Colma reflects on the importance of leadership being situation based - directing, coaching, supporting or delegating as needed. Much of her work has been in supportive leadership - helping others to develop in their roles. In general, she sees men as more directive and less collaborative than women, with women being more prepared to work to seek solutions. Colma sees as often going unrecognised, both by the leader and their organisation, the important role of partners and children in enabling strong leaders to fulfil their role, and the sacrifices those others make. Although women who remain strong and true to themselves, even in the face of adversity, sometimes put others off, Colma identifies a need to be very directive, very obstinate and unyielding as qualities that are sometimes needed to get things happening.

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