Introducing ACO Council President Sophie Koh

27 July 2022

Sophie Koh has been appointed as the ACO Council President, taking over the leadership role last month. Sophie brings with her diverse experience having worked in both public and corporate clinical settings across Australia, as well as in non-clinical settings as the national advisor for Optometry Australia. She is passionate about empowering the profession to improve their knowledge so they can play a wider role in improving the health and wellbeing of our underprivileged communities locally and overseas. We caught up with Sophie to speak to her about the ACO and her new role.

How long have you served on the ACO Council and what inspired you to do so?

4 years. ACO has a special place in my heart, and I wanted to see it realise its full potential and modernise. I had no previous experience with sitting on a Board, was nervous at my first meetings, but I knew deep down that I offer a point of difference and have a good gut vibe about things.  The first few years I did a lot of watching and learning and became passionate about leadership concepts. In 2021 I put myself through a Certificate in Governance, read a lot of governance books and in 2022, I knew it was time to step up and give it a red hot go!

Sophie Koh, 2022
Sophie Koh, 2022

What makes ACO’s work in the community important and what does it mean for you to be the ACO Council President?

ACO occupies a unique collaborative space where we offer world-class and accessible eyecare to our disadvantaged and beyond. ACO’s staff community is a special bunch too, who collectively share a special set of values in our sector. ACO has been the cultural community for clinical optometry for nearly 100 years. I have been passionate about impacting change within vulnerable communities all my career, the core reason why I studied optometry so the opportunity to impact broader change from a strategic position as the President is exciting.

What are some of the strengths that the current Council brings to the ACO?

The current Council is modern, nimble and strategy focused. It’s arguably the most diverse it’s ever been, the average age is probably the youngest, and with the most number of females in ACO’s history. We are getting closer to representing our societies. Demographic and psychographic diversity is key to good governance e.g., recent research shows that organisations with a minimum of three female board members perform better overall than those without. The current Council is able to have robust, considerate discussions and then reach a collective view. A strong recipe to steer an organisation.


What motivated you to accept the position of the ACO Council President and what is it that you are most looking forward as the new President?

I felt it was time to challenge myself. I believe that a board director shouldn’t stay more than 6-8 years as a matter of good governance, so I thought it’s either time to step up or leave. I certainly had doubts though, thoughts like “am I capable enough, am I too young” and “do I have time to volunteer?” (President role is not remunerated.) I was motivated not just to participate in change but lead it, and with a refreshed Council and new CEO Pete Haydon, I felt it was a great team who will support me and do good work. I’m most looking forward to ‘setting the tone from the top’ and leading the development of ACO’s new strategic plan.


It is an exciting time as the ACO Council will commence the development a new strategic plan over the next few months. What are some of the key goals you hope for the ACO to achieve in the next few years?

Put our people at the heart of what we do, at the centre of our vision and values. And take a bolder approach to balancing business risks and opportunities.  We have a fresh chance to shape how the ACO will look and feel in the future. We need to have a greater focus on ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues.


In your opinion what are some of the barriers the organisation faces?

ACO has had much historical success and it’s time we think outside the box. We can reach more communities, as well as more diverse supporters and funders, to create long-term value. We need to continue to explore how we recruit, retain and inspire our staff. Invest in human-beings. Organisational culture and employee well-being is at the core of whether we can achieve our goals.


And is there anything in the way we apply our governance that is holding us back from success?

We need to review our Constitution. This blueprint document sets the rules and compliance on how we work, and how we behave. We need to examine if there are aspects within it that is holding us back from being the most contemporary organisation we can.


What is your vision for the ACO in the near future?

ACO is the cultural home for eye care, where the best work and best research is done by the best people so we can provide better care for the vulnerable people in our communities and beyond. Change, progress, innovate.

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