June 12, 2024

Celebrating a year of leadership: an interview with Spectrum’s CEO

It’s been a year since Rebecca Power took the helm at Spectrum.
Over the past 12 months, she has worked tirelessly leading the organisation to support migrants and refugees in Melbourne’s north and northwest.
In this special Q&A, we asked Rebecca to reflect on her journey so far.

A collage of four photos highlighting key events in Rebecca Power's first year as CEO; a group of four people signing up for the Yes campaign, a group of four people launching a new resource; Rebecca and another staff member in front of a Spectrum poster at a SCOA conference; and Rebecca presenting at the Annual FRC Dinner


What three words would you use to describe your first 12 months as CEO?

Opportunity. Privilege. Inspiring.


What has been the most inspiring moment so far?

There have been so many but for me it has been seeing our impact on clients. Whether it is meeting a group of women hearing about their rights in Australia for the first time or spending time with our social support groups celebrating culture, family and connection. It is seeing the passion the team have for the work and sharing stories of impact. It’s a job that every day I see, touch and feel why we are here and why we do what we do.


Can you tell us about a memorable interaction you had with a client or community member?

I love to meet with our community and listen to their stories and these hold a special place in my memory, but equally I feel privileged to have been able to hear about a few situations where peoples experience has not been the best. To sit and listen to feedback of how we could do better is just so valuable and has been a catalyst to continuously improve what we do. Feedback is gold, especially in the communities where we work with, where trust in services has often been eroded through the difficult journey of migration and/or the experience of profound trauma. It is the bravery of the few who have given us frank and fearless feedback that has ensured we learn and improve.


What have you been most proud of?

Creating an environment where the team can shine.


And what have you found most challenging?

This is my first time leading a for-purpose organisation and it has made me even more aware of the fantastic job that for-purpose do with limited funds. The biggest challenge I think has been the funding model. Very few grants provide for anything beyond direct work costs, but the reality of operating and providing a safe and effective service is well beyond this. For-purpose’s are required, of course, to meet the same legislative and compliance requirements, we require the same safeguards in place. To be successful and reach out to our clients and community we need a good website, social media, and the capacity consult and co design. To continuously improve we need to have capacity to trial new things, seek feedback, collect data, and analyse. To measure our impact and outcomes we need to update our systems, to provide a wraparound service for our community we need to partner with others. To be the best we can be we need to invest in our team and build capability. Very little of this is considered in the funding and for many of our services we run at a loss, costing us more to deliver than we make. But we continue to do this, as without for-purpose services like ours, these hard-to-reach cohorts would not be serviced and would not have a voice. How sustainable this is into the future is uncertain.


What is the one thing you have learned that has truly surprised you?

I am not sure I realised how much being a CEO of a for-purpose organisation is like running your own business. I am so thankful of my varied career journey from large operational roles, evaluation, improvement, partnership, advocacy and governance – as you need every tool in your toolkit to optimise the opportunity.


How has Spectrum evolved under your leadership?

I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask this and this should come from the experience of the team here and the board. But what I can say is that being the CEO of this organisation is a privilege. Spectrum staff have always delivered fantastic work, they have consistently made a difference in people’s lives and championed belonging, through constant change in funding, leadership, policies and politics. My role has merely been to showcase this work, to bring it to the fore, and celebrate it. To support the team to do the work they do each day. To try and reduce barriers and frustrations in the delivery of services and to build skills and capability to do more. Aligning with Values, Mission and Vision is relatively simple here, as everyone essentially works here for the same purpose. Setting a strategic direction that everyone could get on board with and commit to it was a pleasure. Encouraging co design, collaboration and radical candour helped to ensure we had honest and realistic way forward and I am so proud of how the whole team have embraced this opportunity.


And looking forward to the next 12 months – what are you most excited about?

Year one at Spectrum has been about building strong foundations. Investing in people, systems, partnerships, and processes to set us up for success. Setting a clear direction and strategy and building a culture focused on belonging, inclusion, and learning. The next 12 months will be about leveraging these foundations to continuously improve our services, reach more clients and support positive outcomes and impact. It will include building our advocacy arm and showcasing the stories that I see each day in our multicultural community of determination, compassion, and contribution.


And finally, what is your vision for Spectrum for the next five years?

To be unapologetically ambitious for the community we serve. To deliver the best, person-centred services. To punch above our weight in advocacy, making a difference in connection, inclusion and belonging in the community. To invest in our people to support everyone to be the best they can be.