Cool heads in a cold climate

Cool Leaders video

Video transcript

Ali Dean, Casey Station Leader

I've been working in the Antarctic for the last 20 years, first as a research scientist and more recently as a Station Leader. I first became fascinated with station leadership, as I transited through the stations, going out to work in the field. So, I saw them as these dynamic places that virtually make work in the Antarctic happen, so without them we wouldn’t be doing anything down there.

I see my most important role as an enabler. So not just for the science and the work programs, but for that real important community that you've got to develop when you're at a remote place. I consider that I'm really fortunate to be working in a job that I love, in a place that I love as well. Antarctica is unique, and I think everyone should experience it.

David Knoff, Davis Station Leader

Prior to joining the Antarctic Program I spent a few years in the Army as an officer there, as an infantry officer. And then followed that up with 10 years with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, working at embassies around the world.

Some of the skills I’ll bring to this role are a sense of adventure. I’ve been a traveller and come from a travelling family. I’ve also worked in a number of remote environments in Pakistan and Iraq and Turkey, and hopefully those experiences in those locations, away from home and away from family and friends, will help me while I’m in Antarctica as well.

Why I wanted to work with the Australian Antarctic Program was the uniqueness of the environment that we get to work in every day. The science, the remoteness of the location as well, is certainly something I’m interested in, and the people.

Certainly one of the biggest challenges over winter is being separated from your friends and family. One of the other challenges we face down in Antarctica is the fact that you live and work with the same people. Making sure that there’s a harmonious balance between work and recreation down there as well, will be one of the bigger challenges we’ve got.

Matt Williams, Mawson Station Leader

My backgrounds pretty varied. I come from senior leadership roles in Afghanistan, where I worked with NATO, the US, Australia, and multinational forces. I worked in Africa as the head of Australia's aid program to Africa for many years as well, working on humanitarian and aid issues. And I've worked as a senior public servant on health and international health issues, keeping Australians safe from health emergencies.

As a leader I think you need to understand people, you need to understand the issues, and you need to be able to motivate people on a daily basis to tackle some of the most incredible challenges there are in a really difficult but incredibly beautiful environment.

Finn Taylor, Macquarie Island Station Leader

I’ve been doing operational leadership roles for a long time, where I’ve been leading teams through a lot of different scenarios; from emergency response to managing remote and alpine parks, working with regional communities.

Now is a really exciting time to be part of the Australian Antarctic division; there’s a real commitment to modernise and improve our operations so that we can deliver much more benefits for peace and science.

I think my leadership style is that I’m very collaborative and inclusive in the way that I work with people. I enjoy being creative and I think a bit of fun is really, really important. And that’s something that I’ll bring to the role.

The environment on Macquarie Island is extreme. We’re going to have a lot of extreme weather events with rain, hail, snow. It’ll be cold. But we’ll also have this opportunity to see amazing wildlife right on our doorstep. It’s more like we’re the zoo and the island is the natural environment. It’s very exciting.

[end transcript]

Australian Antarctic Program Station Leaders, Finn Taylor, Matt Willliams, Ali Dean and David Knoff at headquarters in Kingston
Australian Antarctic Program Station Leaders, Finn Taylor, Matt Willliams, Ali Dean and David Knoff at headquarters in Kingston (Photo: Jessica Fitzpatrick)

Australia’s new Antarctic leadership team are prepped and ready for their deployment to the icy continent, ahead of the first flight and voyage this coming week.

The four Station Leaders, going to Casey, Davis and Mawson and sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, come to the role from a diverse career history.

The Station Leader job varies from 6 to 18 months in duration, over the busy summer period or a quieter winter time.

Alison Dean, at Casey station, is an experienced Station Leader having worked in the Antarctic for more than 20 years and wintered 9 times.

David Knoff, who will lead the team at Davis station, has a background in the Australian Army and has worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australian Embassies.

Matt Williams is taking over the leadership role at Mawson station. He’s worked for the Australian Government in health and aging and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Finn Taylor, will spend a year on Macquarie Island as Station Leader, coming from an background in environmental work and park management.

All the Station Leaders will head south over the next few months.