The Observership Program


Founded in 2014 in Sydney and based on a successful model in the USA, the Melbourne Program launched in 2017. Following four successful years in Sydney, the Program places talented, mid-career professionals aged between 25-40 on not-for-profit boards for a period of 12 months as Observers.

The Program’s vision is to create an active and engaged diverse network of socially aware emerging leaders, equipped to embark on NFP directorships following a year-long practical exposure to a range of decision making via their board placements, alongside a structured training Program in good governance delivered by Strategic Partners, AICD and The Ethics Centre. 

Participating NFP boards gain access to a fresh perspective and specific skills relevant to the organisation's needs. Boards can specify a preference for the profile and skills for their Observer prior to “matching”.

Boards provide their Observer with an opportunity to attend all board meetings, to join a board sub-committee or lead or participate in a key strategic project throughout the Observership year.

Observers sign a confidentiality agreement. A range of Corporate Partners fund the Program through L&D, including: Aria, ASX, Bain and Company, Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey and Co, Macquarie Capital, Microsoft, PwC, Qantas, Scentre Group, ShineWing, Vicinity Centres and UBS. 25% of Melbourne’s Observers are nominated by the Program’s Corporate Partners with 75% of candidates applying through the general stream.Government Partners, Creative Victoria and Victorian Rural Women’s Network (VRWN) fund the Program in recognition of the Program’s role in building board capacity in the NFP sector.


 Melbourne Boards participating in the 2019 Program include:

Abbotsford Covent, Ardoch, Asialink, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Australian Book Review, Agribusiness Yarra Valley, Australian Jewish Funders, Australian National Academy of Music, Australian Volunteers International, Bicycle Network, Breast Cancer Network Australia, Chunky Move, Community Security Group, Consumer Actions Law Centre, Creative Partnerships Australia, Deloitte Foundation, East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Family Life, FareShare, Fitted for Work, Footscray Community Arts Centre, Geelong Grammar School, Give Where You Live, Infoxchange, Koorie Heritage Trust, Lifeworks, Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne Olympic Park Trust, Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Writers Festival, Montsalvat, Multicultural Arts Victoria, National Council of Jewish Women of Australia, Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation,  Oxfam, PANDA, Philanthropy Australia, Phillip Adams BalletLab, Public Galleries Association Victoria, RSPCA, Save the Children Australia, The Nature Conservancy, State Sport Centres Trust, State Library Victoria, Victorian Institute of Sport, Victorian Opera, WaterAid Australia and Women in Super.


 Board Participation involves an agreement to: 

  • Provide any profile or skills preferences boards would like their Observer to have;
  • Review between 3-4 CVs based on the preferences provided; 
  • Interview between 3 – 4 of these candidates;
  • Rank interviewees in order of preference and provide feedback to the Program;
  • Appoint a Board Liaison to facilitate contact and context for the Observer;
  • Provide the Program with feedback twice during the year via a scheduled call to gauge how the Observership is progressing. 


The timeframe for the matching process is as follows: 

  • September 2019 – Confirmation of participation in 2020 Program;
  • September/October/November - Boards are sent 3-4 Observer CVs to review based on preferences provided. Interviews take place and feedback is provided to Observership Program; 
  • 29 November - Final Matching is done by The Observership Program with placements confirmed;
  • 4 February 2020 - Melbourne Program Launch at NGV;
  • January/February 2020 – Observership begin with the first board meeting of the new year.


For further information about participation, please contact:

Catherine Reiser, Melbourne Program Director, The Observership Program

E: M: +61 400 454 250


Program Patrons, David Gonski AC and Jillian Segal AM. Board members, Alison Deans, Conor Foley (2018 Observer), Joe Skrzynski AO, Jonathan Gavshon (Founder, Chair), Mark Rohald, Peter Joseph AM and Suzie Riddell.