20 July 2010
There's no point doubting it. When Christine Nixon is in the company of bushfire survivors, she is a class act. She has a way of working her words to make the listener feel as if it's the first time she's had that thought. She has the ability to make you feel as if your opinion matters.
In April, when it emerged that Ms Nixon had received a haircut, met with her biographer, and went to dinner on Black Saturday, I was in two minds about whether that was the right thing to do. Part of me thought that she must trust the people working under her enough to make that decision. But I also knew that as a reporter, there was no way I was going to go home at 6pm, just as the worst of the bushfires hit. So if I had to be on deck, why wasn't the Chief Commissioner?
Ms Nixon's defence has been that she kept in contact with the control centre while she went to dinner. And while the phone records tell otherwise, I think the only way to examine her argument is to break it down into a philosophical argument.
Since she was given the job as chief of the Bushfires Reconstruction and Recovery Authority four days after Black Saturday, Christine Nixon has done an amazing job of simply just being there. While there are many people who still have far to go in the way of rebuilding, Christine Nixon has done a wonderful job of listening, and counselling many of the people who still don't know whether they want to rebuild. While she has worked hard to make decisions and be the glue that's needed to draw the different jigsaw pieces together, arguably her greatest asset has been her unique ability to make people feel included.
And that's why she was right for the job.
Her ability to communicate change is her greatest skill. That is why she was hired as Victoria's Police Commissioner. Her job, in hindsight, wasn't necessarily to lead on a day to day basis. But rather to shape the direction of the police force, and move it away from the male dominant "force", and into a community service. This made her terribly unpopular with many of the people who got left out of the new Nixon service, but terribly popular with the community and many of those who dealt with her one to one.
And so again I'm left in two minds about her decision on February 7. On the one hand it was her management style to delegate to the people that were better equipped to make operational decisions. Just as the Premier delegates power and responsibility - not one person can be all-seeing and all-hearing.
But as her term as chief of the reconstruction authority comes to an end, I have gained a different perspective.
Perhaps Christine Nixon wasn't meant to make decisions on Black Saturday. Perhaps she actually believed she had the right team in place. However, what she needed to do was simply be there. Be there to offer support, even just emotional support, as the worst of the bushfires unfolded.
Her decision to go to dinner simply gave her opponents ammunition. And eventually the pressure grew to the point that she might have become a political liability.
And so, under the cover of the federal election announcement, Chrstine Nixon was gone. At the time of writing this piece, Ms Nixon is undergoing surgery in hospital. Our thoughts are with her.
Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been approved.