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Member Profile - Annie De Jong

"We are the custodians of very important community assets. The challenge is to make cemeteries a place for all our community."

1. What is your full name, title, company name?
Annie De Jong, CEO, Ballarat Cemeteries.

2. How long have you worked in your industry and what do you like most about your profession?
I have been with Ballarat Cemeteries for three and a half years. I like the people, the people and the people! Wonderful, dedicated people work in our industry and they are very committed and community-minded. I have also met awesome people associated with our industry and their passion in assisting people at end of life is inspiring. I believe The Compassionate Communities movement also opens our industry up to other connections and possibilities in supporting these families.

3. What distinctive challenges do you face working in this unique industry?
Our community is changing and we are in an industry where change is challenging. The community has expectations of wanting things now, and the provision of new services now; this is not easy within the products and services we offer. There are a variety of product offerings and the challenge is being flexible and open to new options and technologies. There is the challenge of agility, flexibility and identification of what our community wants from us and working that into our business financially. The challenge is engaging with our community to understand their needs for their departed loved ones and for themselves.

4. Why do you attend the Annual ACCA Conference, and what do you get out of the experience?
I attend the Annual ACCA conferences to talk to people and mutually share experiences. I thirst for the knowledge of what others are doing, implementing, and learning about. Also I'm interested in their communities and their organisations, and sharing thoughts and experiences about their connections and product service offerings.  Before I started in this industry, I would have said that all cemeteries were the same – how wrong I was. I would say sharing the challenge of supporting different cultures and communities has opened my eyes.

5. Who or what has influenced you most professionally?
Individuals whom you meet during your life influence you in different ways. I have a long history working in local government within a council that dedicated a significant part of its resources to professional development of all its staff. We were able to participate in the old 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® (S.R. Covey, Free Press 1989), – self-learning and understanding, IAP2, Myer–Briggs, Human Synergistics (360-degree feedback); these all played a part in how I shaped my role in my profession. The challenge is to learn something from everything you are able to participate in, and use that to shape you as a person.

6. What were your career goals while you were still at school?
To make money! To be honest, career goals came to me later in my working life. When I was younger, I wanted to have fun and enjoy life (perhaps not so different to now!), and working enabled me to do this. Later in life, I knew I wanted to work in community-based organisations and in regional communities.

7. What are some things that are on your 'bucket list'?
Travel is the top of my bucket list. Since working at the Ballarat Cemetery, I have been inspired to take the ANZAC Trail to Gallipoli, and then finish in either Spain, Greece or Portugal where there is great food and wine!  I am also very happy relaxing in the Australian bush, sitting by the campfire and enjoying friends' company.

8. What is must-see TV for a great night in?
When I watch TV, I like it to be a relaxing experience and have a laugh, so anything comedy is my preference. I could recite most key lines of Seinfeld – now I am showing my age!

9.  What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?
Think two, three or four steps ahead. Working life is a stepping stone to where you want to be, and not always in a straight line. Take every opportunity that is presented to you. Things happen for a reason; I am very big on the power of karma. Work is not everything, but a means to other things to do. Lastly, keep learning – it is never too late to study.



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Friday, 26 April 2019

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