October 7 -13, 2012: Issue 79     

 David John HANLEY

I have worked in a variety of operational and human resource management areas of different Government Departments both in Australia and overseas. Prior to my transferring to the Bureau of Meteorology I worked as the Human Resources Manager at the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) for 3 years. Prior to that I worked in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) in many operational Immigration areas, including Compliance, Onshore Refugee Program, Client Services, Corporate Services, and as a Principal Migration Officer (PMO) on short term postings to Singapore and Malaysia and as the First Secretary, Immigration in Pakistan during the First Gulf War. In this latter position I was also solely responsible for all migration processing and administrative control, as an officer alone post, for both Pakistan and Afghanistan. In this position I was responsible for strategic delivery of very complex services to a very demanding clientele.

I have a strong management and Human Resources background prior to coming to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and have gained formal recognition of my skills and abilities in this area by gaining professional membership as a Chartered Member of the Australian Human Resources Institute. I have been a professional member of the Institute for over 20 years. In more recent times I have built on my practical expertise by gaining formal qualifications in a Diploma in Business as well as a Certificate Level IV in Training and Assessment from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

After taking a VR package from DIAC in Sydney in 1998 I managed my own retail franchise (a Howard’s Storage World franchise) for six years during which I utilised many of the higher level management skills learnt during my time in the Australian Public Service.  During my time in the private sector I also developed and refined my marketing and merchandising skills to enhance these skills already gained in the Australian Public Service (APS).  

I have strong representational skills which have been refined by providing a direct client service for the last 20 years in a wide variety of situations ranging from immigration services to retailing of household storage products. On returning to the APS as an Administrative Services Officer Level 6 in DIAC, Canberra in August 2005. I worked in the Detention and Offshore Services Division in a variety of positions ranging from Policy Development to Training to Complex Case Coordination. Six months after returning to DIAC I was promoted to an Executive Level 1 in Detentions Training and have worked in a variety of operational and policy areas since. I am currently working as the NSW Corporate Business Manager at the Bureau of Meteorology where I am responsible for the entire range of corporate services practices for the NSW and ACT offices of the Bureau. This includes HR, Finance, Property Management, Security, Purchasing, Office Services, OH & S, Social Justice, Learning & Development, Registry and Switchboard. 

I have had extensive human resources and operational experience as well as gaining strong management skills in a wide variety of situations which adds considerably to my utility value. Having been required to develop expertise in a range of different areas over the last few years is a clear indication of my ability to be able to quickly learn new tasks and apply myself vigorously to them.

What was it like working in Pakistan during the First Gulf War? 

There were a number of things that stood out. Firstly, it was the first time I (or anyone else, including the Defence AttachĂ©!) had seen a war by CNN. Everything was filmed so anyone with a TV and satellite could see what was happening. It got pretty scary at times as although the Government supported the Western Alliance the people themselves didn't and let us know all about it!. We all got offered evacuation out of the country but we all decided to stay (all 14 of us at the High Commission) and tough it out. We were restricted to our houses for a few days but my family and I had to be extra careful as we lived next door to the French Embassy (which had been threatened with having an Exocet missile being put through it) as we had a car with diplomatic plates and a daughter named Danielle (indicating we might be French)!! There were a few personal problems (e.g. people throwing rocks at our cars, etc) but in the main the majority of people simply got on with life. We had to be a bit more careful going shopping to the local market, etc. and made sure we wore clothing with an Australian flag sewn on so that people didn't think we were American! 

For most of the locals it was business as usual, particularly since it the war itself was so short and everyone quickly got back to normal business The only real problem is that, like a lot of Third World countries with a largely uneducated population, the people who could influence stability invariably didn't, for their own altruistic reasons, and I think we've seen a recent reflection of that in Pakistan with the riots over the 'movie' which is so insulting to all of Islam. It was important to always remember that situations could get out of hand very, very quickly and, unlike Australia, the police couldn't (or wouldn't) always respond to help so the best solution was to quietly shy away from any public profile at all.  

You have worked in a variety of posts overseas, In Singapore and Malayasia as well as Pakistan. Could you share with us the two most memorable moments from those postings?  

For me, personally, my biggest insight was the cultural differences between the three Islamic countries. Pakistan, Singapore and Malaysia are all countries where Islam is the predominant religion but is expressed very differently. I do not pretend to be an expert on Islam but the Malaysians are certainly culturally more relaxed about their religion, albeit they are all very devoted Muslims. As an Immigration officer doing Refugee work in refugee centres the difference between the three countries was even more pronounced and was completely different. In Pakistan, as the only Immigration officer responsible for all visa processing for Pakistan and Afghanistan, I had to deal with the 64 refugee camps with 50-60,000 people in each camp which was completely different to the much smaller camps in Malaysia. All of the situations in refugee camps were desperate, although in Pakistan the Afghan men in the refugee camps just wanted to rest before they went back to Afghanistan and continued fighting. Seeing the work being done by the UNHCR in both countries was inspiring, many were volunteers from around the world or got paid minimal wages to do very difficult jobs. My family absolutely loved Malaysia mainly because of the diversity of living and the food, which I quickly became addicted to and enjoyed, perhaps too much! Singapore is different again as its really a Chinese city with different cultures and foods - the shopping there is as good as Dubai (especially on Orchard Road) and electronics are their speciality. Singaporeans, in my opinion, did the best Chilli Crab and Salt and Pepper Crab (at Pongol out on the peninsula) I've ever tasted and the many tourist attractions on such a small island should not be underestimated. If you are ever in Singapore you should ride the cable car to Sentosa Island - travelling 5-600 metres up in the air over one of the world's busiest shipping lanes is an experience not to be missed (just ask my wife who doesn't like heights!) whilst the island itself offers a great holiday attraction. 

In Malaysia I enjoyed the unfortunate 'thrill/experience' of having to go to the prison camp island of Sungai Besi (about 30 miles off the east coast of Malaysia) in the middle of a monsoon where the waves were thirty feet higher than the boat and frequently threatened to toss us into the South China Sea! Not a great thrill when I got told whilst out in the ocean that the boat was always breaking down and we had to go fifty miles out to sea so we could turn around and run back into the jetty on the island! What made up for this trip was the incredibly good reception from the Vietnamese refugees who knew we were the last visiting refugee assessment team from any country in the world to visit the island before the Government closed it down for good. 

Visiting the memorial to all the Vietnamese who had failed to make their hazardous journey alive from Vietnam was a very sobering moment and one that will remain with me for a very long time. What will also remain with me was the constant presence of fifty to one hundred children who surrounded us wherever we went on the island just to hear us talk English and to play soccer, basketball, anything, with us. For me the visit was made memorable by the fact that I was able to give visas to many of the very lovely people that I met under the most trying circumstances in the world. 

Your main field is Human Resources. What three factors or attitudes makes a successful Human Resources Manager?  

For me the most important factor that makes a successful HR Manager is that you must firstly be a Humanist or People person (I think this may help explain how I was able to transition from a HR Manager to a professional Immigration Officer so quickly). Not everyone is and some so called 'people persons' do it really badly. I prefer to think of a people person as someone who treats others as they themselves would want to be treated. Everything else after that is 'icing on the cake'. Secondly, a successful HR manager should be experienced in a wide variety of areas not just Personnel. I have personally been trained in workforce planning, in learning and development, in managing staff and thinking strategically. All of this training has led me to believe that I am an effective HR manager. The last factor that you need to be a good HR manager is knowing how to manage staff with the right degree of communication, openness and discipline (when its required) and this is not something that you can acquire overnight. You need to have a flexible management approach to managing staff as dealing with 4 or 5 staff needs to be handled differently to managing 125 staff. Management is not something that one 'acquires' overnight just because you have advanced technologically in your chosen profession and are now asked to manage other professionals - despite what most professional believe! Its a separate skill based, mostly, on old fashioned common sense. 

You have a passion for the water and swimming, originally a member of the Nth Narrabeen Shivering Sharks and currently a referee with the Winter Swimming Association of Australia as well as a founding member  of the Pittwater Pirates. Where does this stem from ? 

I started winter swimming in 1979 when a friend of mine convinced me to go down for a swim on a Sunday to a bunch of blokes called the North Narrabeen Shivering Sharks. Well, I fell in love with the sport, the camaraderie and the friendships immediately and have never fallen out of love with it since. In fact, even when I was working overseas for Immigration I still insisted on coming back to Australia once a year (from Pakistan that meant coming back from 50+ degrees to the middle of June/July swimming seasons!) just to maintain my membership and continuity with the sport. After my break away from the Sharks after 20 years of swimming with them my friend Eric Haynes (a local builder in Pittwater for many years) and I decided to start a new club based in Mona Vale, we originally called the Mona Vale Vikings until one drunken night in my spa (with our wives, I hasten to add!) we decided that the Pittwater Pirates was a better name. We had two swims that inaugural year with just the two of us but the following year we had managed to cajole half a dozen other guys to join us. 

After a couple more years when the sport finally accepted the reality of women participating we had a couple of competitive women join us who have also learnt to love the sport and 'enjoy' swimming in 16 or 17 degree water with a wind chill factor of another minus 2 or three degrees. I think that swimming in winter makes you feel more alive and 'with it' than just lying in bed moaning about how cold it is - you should be outside in the water where its really cold but at least you know you're alive. I naturally gravitated to the National arena because of my very firm belief that you should always try and leave something better than how you found it. I was the National Secretary of the Australian Winter Swimming Association until my work took me to Canberra for a few years and I have been the National Referee for the last four years where I control the Australian National Titles yearly in various venues around Australia, most recently on the Gold Coast with almost 1200 swimmers competing. I am particularly proud of my lobbying to get women involved in the sport of winter swimming and cherish the fact that now almost 50% of events at the Australian Titles are exclusively for women. 

What is the main benefit, in your experience, of having an outside physical interest that maintains a healthy work/life balance?  

For me the main benefit has definitely been to act as a volunteer for the wider community as well as the local community.  Going down for a swim in the cold water, regardless of the weather during winter helps me to balance the stresses of daily living and my work and gives me a focus on maintaining as healthy a lifestyle as possible. The social aspects are also very important as it helps to establish networks of friends and acquaintances across Australia that I would not otherwise have had. Its very important these days, particularly when you consider that we all have varying degrees of stress every day, that there should be some way of helping to manage that stress. For me its winter swimming but for others it could be shopping, going to the movies, volunteering, etc. as long as you do something and not just vegetate! 

If you could be another creature for a day (furred, finned or feathered) what would you be and what would you do and why this creature?  

If I could be anything for a day I would want to be a Sea Eagle. I'm a devoted Manly fan, despite their poor finish this year. I think they'll be back next year and the year after - providing they solve all their Board problems! I would just want to soar above Brookie Oval whilst Manly were playing an important match to show my support. I have been a Manly fan since I first arrived in Australia as a '10 pound Pom' many years ago and have always followed Manly. My (long suffering) wife reckons I'm more Australian than she is and she's an eighth or ninth generation Australian!  

What is your favourite place in Pittwater and why?  

My favourite place in Pittwater is actually Pittwater - there's always something going on there, boats sailing, pleasure craft cruising, etc. I like it when there's lots of interesting things going on. I used to be an avid fisherman but not so much anymore (time vs. work constraints) but I still appreciate the fact that Pittwater is so clean and stocked with all types of different fish. 

What is your 'motto for life' or a favourite phrase you try to live by?  

My motto for life is try and live each day as you go and try and leave it a little better than you found itAlso appreciate all your friends as we're all only here for a short time and you need to value your friends for who they are and why they're your friends

Pittwater Estuary by A. J. Guesdon. Portraits of David John Hanley by Michael Mannington. 

Copyright David Hanley, 2012.  All Rights Reserved.