Scholar Profile - Phil Baker PDF Print E-mail
Phil Baker


CEO at ECHO Community Services

Awarded a BankWest Foundation / Governance Institute scholarship for a Certificate in Governance and Risk Management, 2016

What sort of work does your organisation do?

We provide community based aged care by providing in-home supports to people who are frail aged or have a disability to assist them to remain at home. Typically we provide Domestic Assistance (house cleaning, washing etc), Social Support (trips to the shops and social events), Transport (to hospitals, GP’s and other locations) Home and Garden Maintenance (lawn mowing, garden tidy ups), Respite (for the carers), Meals (helping people to prepare menus, shop and food preparation) and a lot more.

Describe a typical day's work.

As the CEO of a small agency my daily duties are varied. Today I:

  • Finished the second draft of a Board report which addresses the issues around our cost structure in a competitive environment
  • Met with the website designers and updated our website
  • Identified a problem with our software following a recent upgrade and discussed with our IT provider
  • Disused a client issue with the Manager Community Services
  • Started work on a Board policy
  • Received a letter from our funders, informing me of a cut in our annual grant due to the impact of NDIS and am now addressing the implications
  • Fixed one of our coordinators computer problems
  • Examined an electronic step on a bus that refused to retract making it roadworthy
  • And a few other things

It just depends on the day.

What are some of the key learnings from the Certificate in Governance and Risk Management?

The course covered a number of areas relating to Governance and Risk Management which are applicable to my role as CEO. Some of this I knew, at least in part, but the course gave me a framework to better understand:

  • The roles and responsibilities of the Board. The importance of the Board being diligent in the areas of financial management and risk.
  • The importance of identifying the risk appetite of the organisation and aligning that risk appetite with the day to day operations
  • Strategies to determine whether a risk can be mitigated or in some instances accepted
  • The legal framework and other standards within which we operate

Possibly the most interesting aspects related to the knowledge and experience of the presenters, who shared their personal case studies with the participants. This gave a real insight of what actually happens, and what can happen, in the workplace.

How has it impacted / changed / benefitted your role and your organisation as a whole?

It has benefitted me in many ways.

  • I now have a common language when discussing risk or governance issues with the Board. This is critical as different people have different levels of knowledge and experience, and having a common language means there is less of a likelihood of mis-communication.
  • I am more aware of the strategic risks associated with operational decisions and can actively engage in strategies to deal with the risks at both levels.
  • I can now appreciate that risk is a normal part of operations and of strategy. The important thing is how you recognise and manage it.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

I believe that as a society we are judged, not by how we reward the most talented but by how we support the most vulnerable. For that reason I have always been committed to the not-for-profit sector and while I value the contribution the for-profit organisation’s make to our economy and our society, for me I needed to make a difference on a personal level. I am blessed or cursed with a profound sense of right and wrong, something which I probably inherited from my mother at an early age growing up in South Wales. If I can help, I will.

I came to Australia in the mid-1980s and have worked in the areas of aged care and disability services ever since, both in large and in small organisations. I did a stint in local government once as well which was an interesting experience. The thing that I learned was that basically we are all the same.

There are difficult times in everyone’s life when they need some help. Whether they come through those times and are able to move on or not often depends on who was there to offer a hand. Organisations whose goal is to help people are at least half way there. The other half is about the people who work in those organisations.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people, both in the for-profit and the not-for-profit sectors. I am currently working with someone who develops websites and marketing materials and both himself and his company is committed to supporting the not-for-profits. It is a mistake to think that the not-for-profit organisations have a monopoly on doing the right thing and having a social conscience. Many people share those values.

I think it is the responsibility of the NFPs to show people what they do. We collectively tend to keep to ourselves and not really tell people how good we are at doing what we do. Get the message out and other people outside the sector will put up their hand and look for ways to help. It’s just a question of giving other people the opportunity to become involved, and being supportive when they try.

In the end, no one can do it by themselves. We all need friends, partners and people who come to the party. I will be happy when the distinction between the NFP and the private sector becomes blurred and we collectively realise that we all have a part to play. Let’s play nice.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

That’s a hard one. Here goes.

  • I’m the only person I know who was once locked up in the Tower of London. That’s a long story.
  • I lived in London for a while and went to Paris regularly to see a good friend. I used to take my guitar and busk down the Paris Metro for beer money (actually wine money). On an hourly rate, that was the highest paid job I ever had.
  • I justified buying a Dry As A Bone coat that went down to my ankles because I wanted to keep dry riding motorbikes. It doesn’t rain much in WA and really I wanted to look like Clint Eastwood.
  • I have three main sporting activities - Golf, as I don’t have enough stress in my life, Pistol Shooting, which helps me get over golf, and Lawn Bowls, just because I like it. They have nothing in common.

I don’t know if that’s interesting or not.

Click here to read about other ASF scholars.

"There are difficult times in everyone’s life when they need help. Whether they come through those times and are able to move on or not often depends on who was there to offer a hand. Organisations whose goal is to help people are at least half way there. The other half is about the people who work in those organisations."


Phil worked in the National health service in the UK before emigrating to Australia in 1985. Since that time he has worked in the areas of community aged care and disability services, currently as CEO with ECHO Community Services.

In 2016, ASF awarded Phil a scholarship to attend the Governance Institute of Australia's Certificate in Governance and Risk Management, supported by the Bankwest Foundation, the Governance Institute and ASF.


Annual revenue / size:

Medium $250,000 - $5m pa

Segment of NFP sector:


Operating in: