Power Move

Former ACT chief minister Kate Carnell appointed beyondblue CEO

Kate Carnell, the newly appointed CEO of national depression initiative beyondblue, is renowned as a steely operator – which is just as well. Her predecessor, Dawn O'Neil, lasted only nine months, quitting after Chairman Jeff Kennett allegedly bullied and undermined her.

Carnell, named one of The Power Index's most influential lobbyists late last year, has already flagged that she won't attempt to stop the former Victorian premier from expressing his often controversial personal views.

Gay rights advocates called for Kennett to quit last year after he claimed that children are mentally healthier if raised by heterosexual parents. He's also attracted criticism for his opposition to mandatory poker machine pre-commitment.

In the wake of O'Neil's resignation, others came forward to suggest that the $29 million-a-year organisation had been plagued by bad morale, high staff turnover and a lack of transparency in detailing its finances.

Beyondblue, which is focussed on raising awareness about depression and anxiety, received $12 million in federal government funding last financial year and $9 million from the Movember fundraiser.

Carnell, who has been a beyondblue board member since 2008, will focus on increasing transparency and raising awareness about anxiety. The former ACT Liberal chief minister's interest in mental health issues was sparked by a battle with anorexia in her late teens.

Media reports from Carnell's time as chief minister describe her (and quote her describing herself) as "in your face", a "high-flyer with a flair for self-promotion" and a "can do leader". She was electorally popular, but resigned in 2000 with a no-confidence motion looming over the blowout in costs of the Bruce Stadium development.

Since then the former pharmacist has held high-profile roles as CEO of the Australian General Practice Network, the National Association of Forest Industries and the Australian Food and Grocery Council in 2008.

Michael Moore, who served as health minister in Carnell's ACT government, told The Power Index late last year: "She's very good at what she does, she will work and deliver for those who are paying her.

"Kate is amazing at building networks, at getting to know people, at remembering names."

Carnell will leave the food and grocery council at the end of March.

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