1. Ray, you have been the CEO of Alkira for over 20 years, that is quite the milestone! How did you get end up working for Alkira, was it an industry that had a special connection for you?

Following on from an accountancy role with International Harvester; Human Resources, Production Planning and Marketing Services positions within a family Pet Food and Soap manufacturing company in Melbourne and Shepparton, I entered the Disability field in 1985 in Shepparton as the General Manager of the Goulburn Valley Centre for the Intellectually Handicapped. I then moved back to Melbourne with my family to join Alkira Centre – Box Hill in 1995 and 21 years later I am still here!

The attraction to this industry is THE PEOPLE – not only the dedicated and talented staff that are part of Alkira and are responsible for delivering the quality services, support and opportunities for the adults with intellectual disabilities that are involved in our services, but especially the people who we provide services for – their uniqueness, friendliness, joy for life and achievements are the reason why I come to work each day and have done so for so long. Like John who almost every day takes the time to come and say hello, ask about my family and “how are you today” or the big smile on Bernie’s face as she struts the catwalk in a ‘Wearable Arts’ event

2. According to your website ‘Alkira’ means a ‘happy place in the sun’. Can you tell us a bit more about how and why this name was chosen and how Alkira is different to other disability support providers?

From “A Short History of Alkira” (2000):

“And so it was that on 18th June 1955, the training centre at Thurston Street Box Hill was officially opened. One of the guests at this opening was Mr. Crosbie Morrison, who had been asked to provide a name for the training centre.  After seeing the centre he stated it to be a bright and sunny place, and chose the aboriginal name “Alkira”.

The word “Alkira” comes from an Aboriginal language meaning “bright

and sunny”. For many it has come to signify “a happy place in the sun”.


3. What do you love most about your job or (this industry)?

Again, THE PEOPLE! People with disabilities, work colleagues, family members, industry colleagues, Board Members – all are generally dedicated to the cause and align with both my and Alkira’s values.


4. What would you struggle with the most in your job or in this industry?

Time – trying to balance the vastness, complexities and breadth of the role alongside the personal lifestyle and family commitments. The role is complex because it crosses over many aspects of management – from financial oversight to capacity building and development projects, property maintenance, transport logistics, keeping up to date with industry and funding changes, dealing with a range of external people and organisations and internal people management. It also has a high focus on monitoring service delivery performance to ensure Alkira is delivering what people tell us they need and want, within financial and staffing capabilities.


5. Tell us about a rewarding moment for you in the business and your involvement in it?

The closure of a 30-bed hostel and relocation of people into houses in the community. This involved gaining the commitment of the Alkira Board, convincing family members of residents at the time and the residents themselves of the potential massive benefits to their future lifestyle.

The most rewarding moments was seeing the changes in people – residents have expressed that they are now much happier, can cook their own meals, take pride in their own rooms and enjoy the homely atmosphere of where they live. Family members have also commented very positively on the changes and progress in their sons and daughters and that were also healthier now they are part of a smaller houses in which they participate in a homelike environment and have their ‘own space’ to enjoy.


6. There must be many interesting and funny incidents you would have experienced while at Alkira, can you tell us about one or two?

Staff Christmas parties, where staff members relaxed and ‘performed’ and where we saw aspects of character that were not normally exhibited in a normal work day. The classic was the handing out of staff Christmas gifts by our own in house personalities ’Kylie Mole’ and ‘Uncle Arthur’.


7. Tell me about a memorable client you have gotten to know while working at Alkira?

Vincent Pederson is an Aboriginal client who always says hello, has a unique and special handshake that he insisted I learnt and also has a collection of different caps that must require a separate wardrobe to house.


8. If you had to sum up your time with Alkira using 5 words, what would they be and why?

  • Long (but seemed short)
  • Ever-changing
  • Stimulating
  • Engaging
  • Rewarding

9. What do you do when you are not working or to relax?

Bike riding, social tennis, family time, travel, camping, beach time.


We would like to thank Ray Cranwell, CEO, for his time and for sharing his insights into this great organisation, thank you.


You can read more about Akira by visiting their website.