Illawarra Women’s Health Centre’s welcomes a new general manager

Illawarra Mercury – Natalie Croxon

Coming from a family of feminists and health professionals, it is perhaps little surprise that Ali Anderson eventually found herself heading up the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre.

Ms Anderson joined the organisation as its new general manager in February, having applied for the role because the ethos and mission of the organisation aligned with her own values.

She said she had a long history with trauma, trauma recovery and psychosocial support through her previous roles, and she felt a real alignment with the approach of the centre to supporting “the whole woman”.

“The fact that the centre approached health both holistically and therapeutically with that trauma-informed lens and that genuine support was what really drew me to the centre,” Ms Anderson said.

“It’s proud in what it does, it speaks out on issues that it sees important, and everyone that comes into that centre is swept up and is a part of that.”

The time with the centre so far has been a “whirlwind”, Ms Anderson said, as she became familiar with its services and people, but “incredible”.

“And to work with such a powerful group of women who are all so skilled in their own right has been amazing,” she said.

Her appointment comes ahead of the departure in July of long-time executive director Sally Stevenson, who is leaving the organisation after 10 years.

The IWHC already has a strategic plan outlining its objectives and actions over the next few years, but supporting those with eating disorders is one area that Ms Anderson would like to explore.

“My own passion, aside from the trauma recovery and mental health support, is something we don’t have as yet, but my youngest daughter has anorexia, she’s 18 and she’s struggled with that for a number of years, and I don’t think that that is well-managed clinically in any setting, at all, through my own experience, and very marginally through any trauma-informed lens.

“So I’m really keen to look at ways that we can kind of expand our services to incorporate that in our offerings as well.”

Ms Anderson has lived in the Illawarra for a few years now, moving to the region from her home city of Adelaide with her partner in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

The couple always thought it would be the area they would retire to, Ms Anderson said – her partner used to live in the region and they visited on holidays – but after being made redundant from previous roles due to the global health crisis and seeing the rise in remote work, they decided to make the change.

Most recently, Ms Anderson served as chief executive officer of the training organisation Illawarra ITeC, a role reflective of the bulk of her career in education and training, especially in the not-for-profit sector.

She said she was drawn to not-for-profits because “there’s just more of a sense of meaning, and people with passion are drawn to them”.

“Here in the Illawarra, we work with so many other not-for profit and community organisations… and the willingness and the community spirit and the collaboration of all these organisations in working together without that I suppose fear of IP [intellectual property] or commercial theft or things like that, is truly empowering,” Ms Anderson said.

“And we change lives, we change lives at the grassroots.”