Enable WA CEO Rob Holmes says goodbye after 14 years

After 14 years in Bunbury as CEO of Enable WA, Rob Holmes is leaving the company and the city, having brought colour to many lives in the South West. Picture by David Bailey
After 14 years in Bunbury as CEO of Enable WA, Rob Holmes is leaving the company and the city, having brought colour to many lives in the South West. Picture by David Bailey

Walking into Rob Holmes's office last week was like walking into the eye of a storm; despite being in the last days of his job, his workload seemed overwhelming.

He motioned me to sit down as he fielded telephone calls and answered emails with the dexterity of a concert pianist.

'I would not have it any other way," Mr Holmes said, who left the post of Chief Executive Officer with Enable WA last Friday, after more than 14 years.

Mr Holmes originally came to WA from Auckland in his native New Zealand, attracted by a wave of excitement generated by the America's Cup held in Fremantle in 1987.

The former kiwi teacher got his first job in West Australia as an educator in Northam, completing his country posting before moving to Perth and rising through the ranks in the WA Education Department, who was recognised as a future star.

Indeed, they supported him in the following years as the teacher returned to the books gaining several degrees, including business management.

Mr Holmes then worked for the education department in charge of sections that worked with students who have disabilities.

Opportunities that change lives happen every day

Retiring Enable CEO Rob Holmes

Following success in Perth, he returned to his native land across the ditch, where he tried his hand in several business opportunities.

Despite success in those ventures in his homeland Mr Holmes decided the sunny climes of WA were more to his liking and returned to Perth.

While attending a dinner party one evening, a guest who knew of Mr Holmes abilities and experience told him about a job opportunity in Bunbury, at Enable.

"I envisaged I would be in a role in the company for a year or so and look for a business while I was down here," he said.

Not only was Mr Holmes successful at restructuring the company, but its development in the years following his appointment is the stuff of legend.

Under his tutelage, the company became one of the most dynamic and progressive companies in the not-for-profit sector in the state, with a staggering rate of growth.

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"When I started, we had 50 clients and four coordinators with a small workforce, managed from our office in Bunbury," he said with more than a hint of pride in his voice.

"Today we have over 1000 clients and upward of 800 staff with offices in Manjimup, Busselton, Bunbury, Australind, two in Mandurah, and two in Perth.

"We were the first of our organisations to move from being a country based organisation to providing services in Perth.

"It is usually the other way round."

Although leaving Enable and Bunbury, Mr Holmes will still be visiting the South West as a board member of Alliance Housing and is hoping to work as a consultant to local businesses.

But before embarking on the next chapter from his working life that has been less than ordinary, Mr Holmes plans to travel Australia in the next year with his partner of 34 years Michael.

Reflecting on his time in the South West working in the disability sector, he seemingly reverted to the teacher as he explained the value of community giving a final lesson from his office desk.

"The staff is fantastic; we have worked together," Mr Holmes said.

"I see clients who are growing, their lives enriched.

"Opportunities that change lives happen every day."

Then he adds, with more than a trace of emotion in his voice, "I am so lucky.

"I have got an awful lot back. Infinitely more than I have given to the organisation."