Monica Barone

2021 Alumni Award for Professional Excellence

Monica Barone is a visionary and transformative leader, dedicating her considerable expertise and passion to advancing communities, arts and culture, and climate action.

Monica honed her natural artistic talent and innate understanding of the human drive for a connected, purposeful life during her UOW graduate studies in creative arts, theatre and performance. She spent 14 years as a practising artist, arts consultant, cultural activist and theatre worker. Together with fellow alumnus Boris Kelly, she co-founded Canberra-based performing arts company People Next Door and developed an extensive, successful international program of contemporary performing arts and cultural consulting projects.

Her transition to local government in 1996 as Cultural Planner for Warringah Council marked the beginnings of an extraordinary career at the forefront of public policy and service. Rapidly establishing herself as an exceptional community-centred leader in environmental, social, cultural economic and infrastructure planning, Monica was appointed Community Living Director for South Sydney City Council in 2002 and then, following amalgamations in 2006, CEO of City of Sydney Council.

Under her visionary and strategic guidance, City of Sydney has navigated considerable change to become one of Australia’s most innovative local government bodies. Monica has overseen world-leading, vital work to reshape Council’s operations and the future of Sydney and beyond, including the trailblazing Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy which describes how the city will achieve climate action and social justice as the city grows and changes. She led the establishment of seminal design and public art advisory panels to energise urban renewal, community engagement and the celebration of Sydney’s rich creative life. The City of Sydney was the first government in Australia to achieve carbon neutral accreditation under the federal scheme. These are but a few of the many hallmarks of her stewardship, which today represents around 2000 staff, an annual budget of $880 million and $1.6 billion in assets.

Monica’s comprehensive strategy to advance women in leadership and promote full participation and pay equity has transformed City of Sydney into a high-performing employer of choice with a thriving culture of equity and engagement at all levels. The City of Sydney boasts a gender pay gap of 7% in favour of women. Beyond the organisation, she champions many women in leadership initiatives including Chief Executive Woman, the C40 Women4Climate Mentorship program and the Springboard Australia Accelerator Program for women-led startups.

Sought out for her thought leadership, Monica shares her expertise widely as a board and committee member, expert speaker and mentor. She has garnered numerous awards in recognition of her impact, was named among the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence in 2014 and received the coveted Champion of Change Award at the NSW 2020 Minister’s Awards for Women in Local Government. She chairs the Resilient Sydney steering committee and sits on the international Global Resilient Cities board.

Chancellor, Monica Barone is an outstanding leader and an inspiring driver for positive change for the environment, communities, culture and equity. Her commitment to using her career to shape a stronger, more fulfilling and connected world is an inspiration to all.

It is a privilege to present Monica Barone for the Alumni Award for Professional Excellence.