Leeuwin sailing into stormy weather

CEO sacked and ‘boys club’ boards queried

THE long-serving CEO of the foundation that runs the STS Leeuwin has reportedly been sacked by its board of directors, sparking howls of protest from crew and volunteers.

Carol Shannon has been with the Leeuwin Ocean Adventures Foundation for almost 25 years, but the Herald has been told that at a recent meeting the board decided to end her tenure immediately.

An insider told the Herald the timing of the decision, with the Leeuwin away on a voyage, was a shocker.

“They did this without giving any warning to those aboard the ship and during a time when Carol was the ‘designated person ashore’ in case of emergency,” they said.

“This was done without any consideration or planning regarding who would become the designated person ashore.

“This put the life of those on-board at risk.”

The insider said the board reconsidered because of the voyage and to give time for 

a hand-over, but have been unmoved by letters of support from staff and volunteers.

The Leeuwin also has a board of governors which nominally sits above the directors to provide the advice, who were reportedly not told of the decision to sack Ms Shannon for two weeks.

David Forrest, a managing director of Ashburton Air Services, sits on the board and wrote to the directors urging them to rescind the decision.

“Should the board’s decision be carried out I am certain there will be implications that will be regretted,” Mr Forrest wrote.

He also took a swipe at the make-up of the board of directors.

“It is now very obvious the board should be made up of experienced Leeuwin crew or ex-crew with hands-on common sense expertise.”

Our insider also took exception to the foundation’s lack of diversity at the top level with just two women amongst the 16 governors and directors. The remainder are without exception white executives, judges and politicians ranging from late middle-aged to retirees.

“This is really disappointing given the fantastic women who have come through the organisation, such as Carol,” our insider said.

The chair of Leeuwin’s board of directors, retired Woodside Energy vice president Warwick Pointon, said it would be “inappropriate to comment on staff matters”.

“The LOAF (Leeuwin Ocean Adventures Foundation) board of directors is committed to continuing the enduring legacy of the foundation that has seen 45,000 young Western Australians safely across its gangway,” Mr Pointon said.

“Organisational matters are managed by the board in accordance with the fiduciary duties of its directors.”

Ms Shannon declined to comment on her position, but was full of enthusiasm for the Leeuwin’s voyage next month, which will take it out of Perth’s stinky weather and into the warm waters and gentle breezes of Exmouth and Dampier.

One of its programs while up north will see kids who’ve been on previous journeys given the chance to come back and train to become fully fledged volunteers, thanks to a new Woodside sponsorship deal.

There’s also an adults-only voyage (but not THAT kind) that helps to fill the not-for-profit’s coffers. Despite the magic sailing that the Dampier Archipelago offers (a Chook tip), Ms Shannon says they don’t always sell out, with people often mistakenly thinking it’ll be a tour of an industrial estate and opting for much pricier Kimberley boats.


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