Nationally lauded and award-winning community leader Gail Ker OAM, CEO of Access Community Services Limited, is to retire effective December 31, 2021.
Over the past 20 years, Ms Ker’s vast industry experience and expertise in the Australian multicultural, humanitarian and community sectors has seen her change countless lives for the better.
Under her leadership, Access has grown from a one room youth employment service in Logan, Brisbane, into one of Australia’s leading organisations for refugees and migrants, providing settlement, employment, training, youth support, housing and social enterprise services.
Ms Ker is a recognised thought leader in needs-based community planning, innovative business models, social cohesion, strategic partnerships, employment pathways, funding opportunities and strategic direction.
She has led nearly 300 staff in pursuit of the vision to create social, cultural and economic experiences and opportunities that transform the lives of individuals and communities.
Access Community Services is a community-based, not-for-profit organisation committed to community development and capacity building, delivering services across Queensland.
In 2018 Access merged with Settlement Services International (SSI), to enhance service delivery and provide better outcomes for clients, funding partners and key stakeholders.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis commended Ms Ker for her remarkable achievements during her tenure at Access and more recently with the SSI Group, and for her significant contribution to multicultural Queensland.
She said, “As the CEO of Access, Gail concludes a family-legacy spanning 40 years of service to Queensland’s multicultural sector.
“Gail and her parents, Des and Noeline Clamp, who founded Access Community Services in the early 1980s, have established Access as one of Australia’s prominent voices in the multicultural sector with particular focus on Logan, Ipswich City and the Gold Coast communities.
“We are all immensely proud of Gail’s achievements, and those of the Queensland team who have travelled the journey supporting her.
“Her energy and commitment to the purpose of Access Community Services has inspired all those who have worked with Gail over the past 30 years.
“She will be missed on the SSI Executive and around the offices of Wembley Road, Logan, but her legacy will be lasting.”
Ms Ker said the decision to retire had not been an easy one.
She said, “It is with a deep sadness that I will be leaving an organisation that has been central to my heart and passion for so many years, but it is the right time to begin another chapter in my life, turning my focus from the community I love to supporting my elderly parents during a difficult period in their lives.”
Gail Ker OAM
Gail Ker moved to Logan City in 1975 and worked with her husband doing the books and administration work at their jewellery shop.
Her first job in the humanitarian sector was running a mentoring program at a women-only job club in the late 1980s. It was the first of its kind in Australia.
She discovered that getting people ready to commence their jobs and their lives and to become a part of the community was what she was meant to do.
She has described Logan, with over 217 ethnic groups, as an example of multiculturalism at its best and that was what made it the best place to live and work.
She said she believed her work with migrants and refugees told the “Australian Story”.
Her often quoted mantra is, “Every client counts”.
Ms Ker’s knowledge has been sought by politicians, industry leaders and research bodies, nationally and internationally, including her participation at UNHCR’s annual consultations with NGOs in Geneva.
Among Ms Ker’s board appointments are:
- Settlement Services Advisory Council – Deputy Chair
- SBS – Member Community Advisory Committee
- NAATI – Professional Reference Group – Chair
- Settlement Council of Australia – Qld Representative on the Executive
- Migration Council Australia
- Netball Australia – One Netball Advisory Group
- South Brisbane Primary Health Network – Community Representative on the Regional Clinical Council
- Logan Leadership Team – Community Representative
- Interim Multicultural Community Reference Group – Member
- Humanitarian Settlement Planning and Outcomes Group – Member
Previously, she was a member of boards, including:
- Australian Multicultural Advisory Council
- Australian Multicultural Council – Deputy Chair
- Settlement Council of Australia – former roles as Chair, Secretary and Qld Representative
- Ethnic Communities Council of Qld – Board Member
- Multicultural Communities Council Gold Coast – Deputy Chair
- Police Citizens Youth Club Logan – Board Member
Her honours include:
- 2008 MAQ Award – Winner of the Individual Category for Community Development
- 2010 Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her service to the multicultural community in Queensland
- 2012 Paul Harris Fellow -Rotary Foundation of Rotary International “for tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world”
- 2015 Australian Human Resources Institute “CEO Diversity Champion Award”
- 2016 Women’s Federation of World Peace – Ambassador for Peace
- 2016 United Nations Association of Australia – Queensland Community Award for Recognition of Valuable Community Service
- 2017 Australian Migration and Settlement Awards – Winner of the Empowering Women Award
In 2018 she was named as one of the Queensland Greats by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
In June of that year, she launched the 99 Steps to end Domestic Violence program, which provided domestic and family violence counselling and legal support to women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.