While many people seek employment opportunities offering a work-life balance, there are few people, in particular those in chief executive positions, who would credit their professional role with enhancing their family life.
For Hayley Lethlean, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy WA (MDWA) her professional role has enhanced her family life in ways she never would have imagined.
Hayley has headed up the not-for-profit Nedlands-based MDWA, which advocates for its community and provides practical and emotional support, including counselling and advocacy, since December 2014.
Muscular dystrophy is a neuromuscular genetic condition resulting in the gradual deterioration of muscle function and a shortened life span. Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common form, often results in a child being wheelchair bound by the age of 8.
While renowned for supporting research which has changed the way the world views and treats muscle diseases, MDWA is heavily focused on advocacy and providing support to ensure its community members can live their best life.
Jumping at the opportunity to join MDWA, Hayley says she is privileged to work in an environment where empathy is part of her everyday working life, where she can challenge herself to grow and make a difference.
She believes her family, which includes husband Mathew, and sons Jonty, 11, and Lewis, 10, has grown profoundly since she joined MDWA.
Along with attending camps, social events and fundraisers, Hayley’s family join her every year in riding their hearts out on for a fundraising Trail Day at Dwellingup.
“I believe Mathew and I are better parents as a result of our involvement with those living with muscular dystrophy,” says Hayley.
“There are always so many people far less fortunate than us and as parents we should remind our children of that. We all have a deeper sense of gratitude and are more focused on contributing.”
Arriving in Western Australia in 2002, Hayley, who was raised on a farm in South Africa, was formerly the CEO at Equestrian WA and Triathlon WA.
Graduating from Stellenbosch University in 1997, where she obtained three degrees in Agriculture, Hayley moved to London in the late 1990s to work as a nanny, before having a career in retail and management.
A role as a nanny for a family living with cystic fibrosis inspired her to ultimately work in the not-for-profit sector.
Passionate about empowering the MDWA community – which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017 – to lead connected, enriched and fulfilled lives, Hayley has helped articulate a vision that is likely to generate benefits for many thousands of people living with disability across Australia.
This big vision will require a lot of collective energy from the MDWA team and the wider community that supports MDWA.
It includes pushing for systemic policy change to facilitate more social inclusion for children and adults living with disability, a project to connect communities of people living with disability across Australia, improved and more treatments to provide people affected by the condition with a better quality of life, a push for a more coordinated health care system and greater collaboration with other charities.
“Together we can all make a difference and empower those living with muscular dystrophy to lead full enriched lives.”
Hayley says that muscular dystrophy is a condition that no one would wish to be affected by. It causes much heartache, but it also brings together communities to celebrate diversity and create friendships that last a lifetime.
“I’m a very emotional person and at the end of the day we have beautiful people who may lose their lives to this condition. And while we can’t change that for the short term, we can make a difference now – to help and support our community to have the best life they can.”
Calling on herself to do more and be better each day, Hayley says her all-encompassing vision is not at the expense of her own family.
“Work-life balance is critical – if not only for your mental health, but also for your family. Be there when they need you and if you can, be flexible with work hours.
“I advise my team to go watch the kids assembly or sporting carnival and then catch up on work for a few hours when the kids are asleep. Put your health and family first.”
To learn more about MDWA or how you can help visit www.mdwa.org.au