A conversation with Mike Blake AM, new VLGA Board Member

Thursday, 27 July 2023
VLGA e-news

Mike was Tasmanian Auditor-General for almost 12 years prior to which he was Auditor-General for the Northern Territory. His career has involved working in both the private and public sectors, firstly with Deloitte Ross Tohmatsu in Zimbabwe and ending in Western Australia, where he joined the Western Australian Audit Office rising to the position of Deputy Auditor-General. 

Mike has been active in standard setting having served on the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, the Australian Accounting Standards Board and the International Public Sector Standards Board. He chaired the Audit and Risk Committee of Tasmania’s Health Department and was a member of the Board of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand where he also chaired its Audit and Risk Committee. As well as this, Mike was chair of TasTAFE, Tasmania’s public provider of vocational educational training, for four years.

Currently he chairs Tasmania’s Electoral Commission, is a member of the Board of Anglicare Tasmania and a member of the Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand Audit Committee. This month he took up the role of Chair of the Teachers Registration Board, Tasmania. 

In 2021 he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours – for services to the public sector and the accounting profession. 

What motivated you to be on the VLGA Board?

I have for some years now wanted to give back service to the public sector which has provided me with a wonderful career. During my term as Auditor-General I focussed on local government, a sector I believe often overlooked in our system of government. Initially my interest was sparked by the possibility of joining the VLGA's audit committee where I saw my experience as perhaps more directly relevant. However, the invitation to join the Board gave me the opportunity to apply my broader governance skills. 

Who are some leaders in politics or local government that inspire you? What lessons have you learned from them?

This is a hard one! I am often disappointed with our political leaders and politics in general. However, Paul Keating comes to mind because of his determination to tackle difficult long-term issues such as the reforms he had involvement with including tariffs, Medicare, superannuation and independence of the Reserve Bank.

What leadership qualities do you think are important for local government officials at this moment? 

My experience of local government, mainly in Tasmania, suggests to me there are multiple issues and many improvements needed and, to its credit, the VLGA is addressing these. Managing conflicts of interest, making decisions in the best interests of communities as a whole and across LGA boundaries, having a long-term focus on financial and environmental sustainability and better cooperation between State and Local Government are a few such issues.

What has been the best advice you’ve been given in your career? What did you learn from it?

Be humble (you do not know everything), be strategic (I was too operational), be bold and therefore willing to tackle the difficult issues and tell it as it is (I found this to be in the best interests of the Parliaments to which I reported). Be honest and do what you promise to do has held me in good stead both in my career and family life.