Getting to know Dr Rowena Coutts: The new Chair of the RCH Board

Dr Rowena Coutts has strong Victorian ties, so it’s no surprise that her connections to The Royal Children’s Hospital began before her time on the RCH board.

“I was thrilled to be appointed as Chair of The Royal Children’s Hospital, having served on the Board now for three years. Like many Victorians when you think of the RCH, you think of the Good Friday Appeal. My father was a journalist with the Herald and Weekly Times, so as I child I recall it was the significant stand-out event to start each Easter. Our son and two of my grandchildren have been patients at the RCH, it really is a hospital for all Victorians,” Rowena said.

Rowena spent her first 23 years in Melbourne and graduated from Monash University with a law degree before practising general law in Ballarat and then moving to a property just west of Clunes with her husband and three young children.

“During this time, I commuted 120km each day working at the then University of Ballarat (now Federation University). I started there as the University Solicitor and ended as the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor. I gained valuable experience in senior management and was fortunate enough to lead the international education partnerships throughout southeast and south Asia, as well as China.”

After 23 years Rowena retired from the University but continues to work (part-time) and has a strong interest in international higher education. She now resides on the Surf Coast at Anglesea on her family’s 140+ year-old home.

When Rowena considers the future of healthcare in Victoria, she draws on her time in Melbourne, regional and rural Victoria to understand the breadth of needs across the state.

“We have an opportunity to expand access to first-class paediatric care so that the RCH skills, knowledge, and experience is available to all children and families in Victoria and further afield.

“Our amazing staff always do such a wonderful job, but even more so over the past years with all its challenges. If we can build our staffing numbers to help meet increased demand and ease the pressure on our existing staff, that would see an enormous benefit to our capacity to treat and improve the health for children and their families. And of course, provision of appropriate funding.

In her latest appointment as the new Chair of the RCH Board, Rowena will draw upon her extensive experience in leadership roles and her own key pieces of advice.

“First rule, be a good listener. Try to always gain consensus and balance the needs of different groups but be prepared to be decisive also. Be respectful of others’ opinions and acknowledge the importance of all stakeholders. Communicate and encourage transparency in decision making. Lead by example—be ethical and act with integrity. And be accountable. Take responsibility for your actions and their consequences!”

An avid reader, Rowena’s literature preferences could have led her to a different career in foreign affairs and diplomacy.

“I regrettably don’t have any superpowers or skills! I have had a fortunate life with a wonderful family. However, in another life I would have liked to have been a diplomat and perhaps an international agent! I read far too many mystery/espionage books.”

For now, Dr Rowena Coutts will use her diplomacy skills—along with her notable experience and knowledge—as the new Chair of the Board for The Royal Children’s Hospital.

Rowena’s appointment will come into effect from 1 July 2022 after the retirement of long-serving current Chairman, The Hon Rob Knowles AO.

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