In June 2008, Susan Williams (pictured), was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Masonic Youth Welfare Fund (MYWF), a charity run by the famous all-male fraternity, the Freemasons. Susan is the first female to hold this role and the first woman to write an editorial for their magazine.
The Freemasons are a humble bunch. For more than 80 years they have been quietly helping our nation’s most disadvantaged, giving them financial assistance and support from birth into old age. But if Susan Williams has her way, we’ll be hearing a lot more about the fraternity’s charity work in the future and in particular, their work with disadvantaged young people.
Susan Williams told Australian Women Online, “The Freemasons have helped and assisted people all over Australia far more than anyone would ever realise. But I would like to see the Masonic Youth Welfare Fund and Compass Youth Education in particular, not kept a secret.”
MYWF helps young Australians with education funding and support through a number of funding programs. Almost 65 percent of students supported by MYWF come from rural and regional Australia and financial assistance includes funding for essential education items such as uniforms, stationery, text books and student accommodation, as well as tuition and specialised training, and sometimes optical and dental costs.
In addition to financial assistance, children and their parents also receive advice, moral support, guidance, practical help and reassurance. MYWF’s aim is to encourage young people facing adversity to become strong and caring citizens.
“The Freemasons see education as being the paving stones to growth and to enhancing your life. They also have a large emphasis on good citizenship and contributing to the community,” Susan Williams said.
In her short time at MYWF, Susan has already made a significant impact on the operations of the charity, making more use of technology and bringing the charity’s activities into a new era.
But her biggest achievements with MYWF have been the creation and implementation of two new programs which are now included under the charity’s banner of activities assisting Australian students: Compass Youth Education; and Barinya.
Compass Youth Education supports financially disadvantaged children from all backgrounds at primary, secondary and tertiary level with both monetary support and guidance.
“The Masonic Youth Welfare Fund isn’t just about handing money out to families and students, it’s about making sure that money is spent on the essentials they need, so they won’t feel different from their peers and can complete their education with confidence,” said Susan.
The Barinya program has been specifically created to assist Aboriginal children to ensure they are given the best start in life with their education.
Susan Williams explains, “We have a wonderful partnership with a group of volunteer specialists in health, education and psychology. They have created a program for Aboriginal children in a large number of preschools across New South Wales, that combines the preschool curriculum with Aboriginal culture. We have children in regional and metropolitan areas and we have committed to fund these children through their first 13 years of school and we would hope they would then move into tertiary education.”
Prior to her appointment as CEO of MYWF, Susan Williams had achieved many things in her diverse career. She started as a Special Needs Teacher in regional Queensland, specifically for mentally and physically disabled children.
After 10 years in the school system, Susan left teaching and established CHILDSPLAY, a retailer of educational aids for teachers.
In 1984, Susan pursued her second business venture, HF Radio manufacturing. HF Radios are used by isolated school children for School of the Air. Susan was involved in the first successful dial-up data transfer between land-based HF radios and laptop computers and the success of the business also led to her appointment as an advisor to the Queensland Department of Education.
In 1988, Susan moved away from the education industry and worked as General Manager for an owner-operated office and computer supplies’ company. She was hired to bring about the necessary growth to take the company to a new level of business turnover and profitability, and managed to double the company’s annual turnover in four years.
She then worked as the CEO of Employment National and then as Director of Strategic Development of Manpower Australia.
From 2005 to 2009, Susan moved into the world of politics, winning the role of Deputy Mayor for Blayney Shire Council.
In 2005 she was featured in the NSW Department of Primary Industries Rural Women’s Network’s Daring to Dream book, which celebrates and recognises rural women who are playing key roles as agents of change within their communities.
Just prior to working for the Freemasons as CEO of MYWF, Susan pooled her career knowledge and experience and mentored future managers and CEOs in areas from staff management and motivation, to facilitating business strategies.
When asked to comment on her many career achievements, Susan said, “I always seem to land in roles where being a pioneer is a requirement. I’m also an optimist – although I do wonder sometimes whether that’s an asset or a liability.”
Currently MYWF assists more than 300 students annually and Susan aims to double this number in the next five years.
“I think over the years it hasn’t been heard about enough and I would like to see the good work this charity has done, be recognised, so that those who need help actually know about us and those who have a little more, will get behind the charity and support it so we can help more Aussie kids.”
Main operations of MYWF are in NSW and ACT and 100% of donations go directly to students in need. If you would like more information or would like to make a donation please visit the website www.compassyouth.org.au