Natalie Devlin, Chief Experience Officer, Charter Hall was recently appointed Chair of the Property Industry Foundation’s NSW Board of Advisors and has also joined our National Board. Natalie shares her reason for volunteering with the Foundation and how she’s been able to integrate her professional skills with personal passion to contribute towards the goal of ending youth homelessness.
“As a new member of the Board, I am keen to learn from my fellow members and contribute my skills and experience. By working together, we can achieve far more than we could on our own.”
What drew you to volunteering for the Property Industry Foundation, Natalie?
I grew up in South Africa where homelessness was and is a widespread and enduring consequence of a political and economic regime. When you grow up there you have a keen awareness of social inequity and an understanding that our fates are all connected, that as a society we are only as strong as our weakest member or group. I have always volunteered in my personal life and it took me a while to work out that the theme of homelessness was consistent across all the organisations with whom I had volunteered – Lou’s Place, a day refuge for women fleeing domestic violence, Milk Crate Theatre, a theatre company for homeless people, and then the Aunties and Uncles Program through the Salvation Army. The wonderful thing about volunteering with the Property Industry Foundation is it enables me to integrate this personal passion into my professional role and hopefully together with the industry have a broader impact.
Why did you want to join our National Board?
After being appointed as Chair of the NSW Board of Advisors, I was thrilled to be asked to join the National Board. I saw it as an opportunity to broaden my involvement, as well as work with other passionate individuals from across the country who share the common goal of ending youth homelessness.
What skills and passion do you bring to your positions on both boards?
I specialise in bringing people together and driving transformation, I have a deep understanding of how to create and sustain effective teams and a strong customer orientation. I hope this knowledge will be valuable in driving the Foundation’s mission forward. As a new member of the Board, I am keen to learn from my fellow members and contribute my skills and experience. By working together, we can achieve far more than we could on our own.
What do you and the board hope to achieve, this year, and into the future?
Many charities and foundations really struggled during COVID. The Foundation is back on its feet, with some great projects in the pipeline and an exciting vision for the future. I’m hoping we can increase engagement across the industry and especially with our younger generations in a way that delivers on that vision over the long term.
Tell us how you came to know about the Foundation?
Charter Hall has been a longstanding supporter of the Property Industry Foundation, in fact some of our Board Members were founding members. We have been a partner of the Foundation for over 22 years, and during this time, we have worked together on a range of fundraising and volunteering initiatives. It was through working at Charter Hall that I first became aware of the Foundation and have attended many of their flagship events over the years from the ball, to the Tour de PIF walk, the Regatta (with Charter Hall winning several times!). More recently I have taken part in workshops where we crowdsource ideas to systematically address the issue of homelessness. I lead our approach to Community Investment at Charter Hall and the Property Industry Foundation has always been one of our key partnerships in that space. We are working closely with the Foundation to ensure we help them help us to deliver social impact.
Do you have any special link to youth homelessness?
My husband and I joined the Aunties and Uncles Program run by the Salvation Army a few years after we arrived in Australia. We were matched with the most gorgeous little boy who had spent a good part of the first five years of his life with his mum and sisters on the street or in refuges. He is now in his early 20’s and living in Melbourne. We have had a long and loving relationship with him and through him we came to understand intimately the many struggles that homeless individuals face even after they have shelter.
Tell us a bit about your life outside work?
Outside of work, I am someone who is big on stories and experiences. I’m a lover of the arts, an avid reader, writer and film and theatre goer. I think stories help us understand each other and the world, they are the way we find common ground – by sharing joy, hardship, passion, fear we connect with other people’s lived experiences. What’s most important to me is engaging with people and understanding the way they think. Everyone has a unique perspective to offer, and I’m always curious to learn from others and discover new ways of approaching challenges and opportunities. Whether I’m working with colleagues, volunteering with community organisations, or pursuing my own personal interests, I’m always driven by a deep passion for people and the power of human connection.
Where can our community expect to see you flying the flag for the Foundation this year?
You will find me at the Philanthropy, Purpose & Passion Lunch (28 June), QLD 10 Year Anniversary Dinner (31 August), NSW Friends of the Foundation Lunch (12 October) and I will definitely be cheering on the Charter Hall band at Construction Rocks! Behind the scenes I’ll be flying the flag to recruit new members and work with my peers on finding new sustainable revenue streams.
What is one thing that the property and construction industry could do to support the Foundation in ending youth homelessness right now?
Financial support is of course invaluable. But our industry is also in the unique position of being able to provide expertise and resources to support the Foundation’s work. This could include donating building materials, providing pro bono services, or offering mentorship and training opportunities for young people experiencing homelessness.