“Youse have a good conference, a good chat, a good yarn,” said Neville Collard, a Noongar man, one of the traditional owners of Rottnest Island, or Wadjemup by its Noongar name, as he welcomed Western Australia’s director community to Country for this year’s 42nd Annual Rottnest Forum last Friday, 23 March.
"I ask for the good spirit to come. To walk with youse, talk with youse and look after youse as you travel into the future on the Noongar land,” Collard intoned first in Noongar then in English as he gave the day his blessing.
Over the last four decades, the Rottnest Forum, held on the iconic island just off the coast off Perth, has become a flagship event in the Western Australian business calendar, bringing together the state’s directors and senior business leaders to chat and yarn about the pressing issues facing their boards and organisations.
The day has a laid-back atmosphere but a serious purpose. "By allowing directors to share ideas and insights in a more relaxed setting than the usual boardroom, the forum helps to strengthen Western Australian business and governance networks,” said Jody Nunn, AICD Western Australia State Manager.
"It is a perfect Rottnest Day,” Nunn declared as the 245 attendees arrived on the island on the sunny early Autumn morning for this year’s event.
Travelling into the future
The brave new world of digital media was the subject of this year’s keynote address held in Rottnest’s Picture Hall.
Keynote speaker John Driscoll, CEO of Seven West Media WA, publisher of The West Australian newspaper, brought news from the coalface of digital disruption. While digital had initially brought a splintering of audiences across a proliferation of outlets, the ‘fake news’ phenomenon had seen traditional news sources making a comeback, explained Driscoll.
"People may get news from a multitude of sources but when they need to verify that information they are increasingly coming back to a news source they can trust," Driscoll said. “Trust that has been developed, in some cases for more than a century, is transferrable from traditional print publications to their digital mastheads.”
Driscoll also had advice on the governance of digital marketing budgets. Directors need to be asking questions of their marketing executives about the transparency and efficiency of their media buying arrangements. They cannot afford to be 'dazzled by digital’ but must look to understand if and how their media options, both traditional and digital, are delivering quantifiable audiences.
As is traditional, the formal part of the day ended with a networking lunch at Hotel Rottnest and a round of selfies with Rottnest’s famous quokkas. Over lunch, comedian Mary Coustas, best known for portraying Effie in 80s sitcom ‘Wogs out of Work’, spoke passionately about the power of comedy in helping to forge understanding in multicultural Australia.
“It’s been a great day, a great day,” said Russell Curtis, a partner at Ernst & Young, a sponsor of the event, as Forum attendees unwound over drinks by the water before getting back on the chartered ferry to return to Fremantle. “It’s been a really fantastic chance to reconnect with people in the business community and to talk about where business is heading.”
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