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Case study: Department of Natural Resources and Mines


The Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) has the important task of ensuring the responsible and sustainable use of the state's natural resources—water, land, minerals and energy—for the benefit of current and future generations. In a recent appointment process for one of its many boards, the Water Act Referral Panel (panel), DNRM sought to achieve diversity of gender, background and geography.

We chat with DNRM staff members Leanne Barbeler (Director) and Sarah Hucklesby (Principal Project Officer) to discover how gender balance was achieved and how the department was able to increase the female applicant pool for this particular board.

Actions taken

Use a range of sources to increase your female applicant pool

To increase the female applicant pool for the panel, DNRM sought candidates through a range of sources, including the Queensland Register of Nominees to Government Bodies (QRON), current panel members, tapping into current members’ professional networks, as well as departmental and other professional networks. As Sarah mentions:

Sourcing candidates from different pools helped us to reach out to women with experience relevant to the matters considered by the panel.

Engage your board members

DNRM found that an effective method to source high-calibre female candidates was through the personal networks of existing panel members. After learning about the Women on Boards Initiative, panel members suggested potential female candidates from their extensive networks of peers for DNRM to include in their expression of interest invitations.

DNRM also sourced candidates from the QRON. QRON provides government recruiters with a quick way to find candidates who are interested in joining Queensland government boards and committees. Sarah says:

QRON allows government departments to request CVs from registrants with particular occupational backgrounds. I’d encourage people who’d like to be considered for a government board or committee membership to register.

Taking a proactive approach

Given the tight timeframe for this particular board recruitment, a proactive approach was taken to identify candidates from a range of sources and contact them individually.

Invitations to express interest were sent to 150 potential candidates. Sarah reports:

Making personal contact, explaining the board's functions and asking for a one-page response to selection criteria encouraged candidates to express interest.

DNRM received more than 80 responses with 35% of these from women.


Through its efforts, DNRM was able to help this board achieve gender, geographic and sectoral diversity. Members come from a variety of locations across the state. They also represent diverse backgrounds including agriculture, conservation, natural resource management, resources, local government, regional and community development, and the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Leanne says:

Diversity, including different life experiences, supports robust board discussions.

Lessons learned

Engage with the Office for Women early

Sarah says:

Reflecting on the process, it was essential to establish a working relationship with the Office for Women early.

By the time DNRM was ready to recruit and select 12 board members and achieve gender balance, relationships with key representatives from the office had been established. DNRM also looked at opportunities for the Office for Women to engage with panel members and provide necessary guidance.

Commitment to achieving gender balance

Having a good understanding of the benefits of gender diversity on boards and having this as an objective from the start provided DNRM officers with clarity and helped the recruitment and selection process greatly. As Sarah puts it:

We had clear support from our senior executive for the Woman on Boards Initiative and kept them briefed on our approach and progress.

Leanne adds:

We work in a field where women have historically been underrepresented, but we were able to attract a strong pool of high-calibre candidates.