ARG’s Q&A with NSW Welfare & Integrity Commission CEO Judith Lind

Judith Lind is the head of the new Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission. PIC: Supplied.

LAST month, the new NSW Greyhound Welfare and Integrity Commission appointed its first CEO, Judith Lind, a former senior executive of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) who boasts over three decades’ experience in the public sector.

In a statement, Lind said her goals were to re-establish the NSW greyhound racing industry as a world leader, adding economic value to its participants and communities. Australian Racing Greyhound was lucky enough to secure a chat with Lind to find out some more information about who she is and her thoughts on the industry moving forward.

Q: How have your first few weeks been in the role?

A: Pretty hectic! Really busy, but really interesting. I am only just getting my head around the entirety and the significance of the program of reforms. While it is a relatively small organisation compared with what I have been used to, it’s still a huge task in terms of recruiting, getting the buildings in place, all the internal accounting systems and everything that goes with setting up a new organisation. At the same time, I am trying to meet as many stakeholders as I can. It’s chaotic, but I am learning a lot about the industry.

Q: What made you interested in the position?

A: There were numerous factors. I want to be quite open that I was the acting head of ASADA for most of last year, until September, and I was unsuccessful in getting that position permanently. I had already had 6.5 good years in the Australian Crime Commission and two years before that with the AFP, so I was a bit over working with police. Mind you most police are great, but I’d already done the law enforcement [stint] of my career. Before that I spent 26 years in the tax office.

I looked at the position and went through an analytical process on whether I would bring the right skills to the job. I made the deci-sion that it would be a good fit and I thought about where I want to be for the next five years of my career. I never want to be a person going through the motions – I like challenges.

As a member of the public I was also interested in what was happening in the greyhound industry. I thought the industry deserved the opportunity to display to the broader community that it could reform into an industry which is palatable to the public and is a good industry for participants and the animals themselves.

Q: Did you have any exposure to greyhound racing before applying for the job?

A: My only exposure to greyhound racing was as a very young girl in Canberra – I would have been 10 or 11 – and I got pocket money walking some greyhounds for one of the local trainers. I am also a proud aunty to my sister’s two GAP greyhounds down in Ballarat, so I have had a bit to do with Bomber and Burnie as pets. That’s the extent of my involvement in the industry other than looking up occasionally at the pub and watching the greyhounds race on the tele.

Q: Do you think coming into the role with no personal connections to the industry is important?

A: I think it is. Particularly so in the context of concerns regarding the integrity of the regulators within the industry. I absolutely come with a clean slate in terms of being arms length away from everything and every one. I completely understand that there will be people who will see that as a negative. But I am not a stupid person, I want to engage with everyone who has an opinion and I will be sorting the wheat from the chaff in terms of what I am being told and where it all fits in the grand scheme of reforms.

Q: What is one of the main challenges facing the industry?

A: I don’t think the engagement or consultation with the industry has been particularly good [over the years] on anything. Coming back from be experience in the Tax Office, if you are rolling out major pieces of Tax reform then it is fundamental to inform and educate those who are obliged to comply with the rules with what is required of them.

Q: There has always been a participants vs. authorities’ mentality in greyhound racing. How do we break down this barrier?

A: There is a huge trust building process which has to occur. The Commission has to be fair, respected and trusted and internally it needs to be exemplary in its own processes and practices. It has to be arms length.

I have had people tell me that they have not been happy with the attitudes of inspectors in terms of bullying and intimidating behaviour. That will not be on in my Commission. Yes, we have hard enforcement levers which we have to use appropriately, but just because you are enforcing something doesn’t mean that you don’t have to follow due process and interact with people in a fair and respectful manner.

Q: Do you see your role including the public perception of the greyhound industry?

A: The facts and the behaviour have to speak for themselves. Yes, absolutely we have to put the right tools and education in the hands of the industry participants – they are the ones feeding the dogs, training the dogs and looking after them.

Our first objective is to protect and promote the welfare of greyhounds, our second is to safeguard the integrity of greyhound racing and betting and the third is to maintain public confidence in the greyhound racing industry.

You can’t achieve public confidence without meeting your welfare and integrity objectives – so they all go hand in hand.

Q: Do you think greyhound racing has a future in NSW?

A: I’m here for the long haul. I’ve heard people saying they are going to be over-regulated to shut the industry down by stealth. But I am here to put together a high integrity, ethical, competent and highly effective commission. My role is also to engage with the industry participants and it has to be a joint effort moving forward. Provided we can make sure people understand what best practice is and show them the way, then hopefully the industry participants can get on board.

I think people are going to find there will be some very small changes which will add up to a huge impact in terms of the overall welfare of their animals and the public confidence in the industry. One example could be socialising the pups early on – that can then assist when it comes to re-homing at the end of their racing careers. I am not an expert, but as an animal owner myself that doesn’t appear to be a huge task.

Q: When will we see some information on what is happening and when?

A: Our first foray into direct engagement will be a roadshow in April – by then we will have a high level of understanding on the timing of the reform agenda. There’s issues such as the code of practice, bonds, licensing – each of those policy reforms will have their own time frame.

We will be sending the message that we will be giving participants sufficient time to understand and meet the obligations. We won’t be implementing something on day one and then coming down on people on day two – that’s not the implementation model we have planned.

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