Dr Veronica Bondarew initially studied economics before switching to education, a move that resulted in a twenty-year career teaching first in primary and then secondary school and finally tutoring in Organisational Behaviour at the University of NSW Business School. After completing a Master of Commerce degree, she started working for the not-for-profit sector with the Australian Property Institute (API) in the role of National Education Manager.
Veronica’s Doctoral thesis focused on the barriers to growth of small firms in the Australian biotechnology sector with a research question that asked why Australia had numerous Nobel prizes for medical research but at the time only one successful international commercial company in the sector. The case study methodology provided insights into the problem and resulted in the extension of the Cochlear case study into a book. Together with bioengineer and co-author Peter Seligman, they wrote “The Cochlear Story” which was published by CSIRO in 2012.
A key finding of the research was that the process of firm growth is generic regardless of the sector. There are certain steps that every organisation must complete as it moves through its phases of growth. Without appropriate processes and resources to support each stage, long term sustainable growth will be difficult.
Harnessing her knowledge and experience of the property and business sectors, Veronica worked in several executive roles for Association of Consulting Engineers (now known as Consult Australia) and the Cement, Concrete & Aggregate Association (CCAA) before accepting the position of CEO of the Association of Consulting Surveyors where she worked for nine years to significantly improve the organisation’s capital assets and national profile. She led research with BIS Shrapnel into the supply and demand conditions of the surveying profession and in recognition of its leadership position in the industry Consulting Surveyors National was invited to provide evidence to the Federal Senate enquiry into skills shortages in the engineering and related professions.
During treatment and recovery from breast cancer in early 2013, Veronica became involved with the Zonta Club of Sydney, where until very recently she was a Director through her position as Vice President. Zonta International provides advocacy for the rights of women around the world and Veronica initially joined a committee providing advocacy for women in prison before joining the Board of Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN now known as WJN).
WJN trains and provides mentors and matches women being released from prison with a mentor who meets them at the prison gate on their release to assist with finding housing, (a fixed address being the minimum parole requirement), court appearances and to reconnect with children and find employment.
“Women are coming out of prison with a few hundred dollars, with few life skills or knowledge after years of institutionalisation and are expected to settle back into society, without family support, any form of network and little or no education so it is not surprising that the recidivism rate in New South Wales has reached forty-nine per cent. WIPAN’s recidivism rate is seven per cent, clearly demonstrating the benefit of the service. These women are not ‘hardened criminals’, they are women born into situations with no hope, are usually the victims of crime themselves and often victims of domestic violence, resorting to drugs to reduce the pain of their lives. They are in desperate need of support and advocacy to have any chance at resettlement.”
Currently Veronica is Executive Director of Foster Care Angels, an organisation that provides services to reduce the trauma associated with children taken into foster care. The organisation which began with family and friends around the kitchen table trying to fill gaps in the foster care system, has grown at an impressive rate. Veronica’s networks and experience are working to incorporate the appropriate processes to ensure continued sustainable growth for a desperately needed community service.
Veronica brings a depth of knowledge of the VET and University sectors and broad-ranging experience working with government and the property and construction industries to her role as CPSISC/Skills Oz Board member.
She has seen dramatic and rapid change across the industry sectors and various trades and is a strong advocate for continued improvement of training and education to ensure currency of skills and qualifications.
“Not that long ago, the surveyor’s training package included a module on how to put together a safe surveying team using bullock teams. No one had found a way to simply take that out of the package because the bureaucratic process was too cumbersome.
“Training providers are hampered by time constraints and the inability to participate in the evaluation process, making it difficult to bring the training packages up-to-date.
“Skills Oz is not weighed down by bureaucratic process and is able to provide strong support for the Australian qualifications framework by ensuring national consistency and currency of skills and qualifications.
“The involvement of a broad range of industry organisations provides the capacity to research and to demonstrate the changing work environment and impact on skills and qualifications required.”
Veronica is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and remains on the Advisory Board of the Business School in the UNSW but when asked what she considered her best achievements, she refers to climbing Kilimanjaro and the very occasional time when she beat someone half her age in a tennis competition.