Last day in port for Mission CEO

Last day in port for Mission CEO
Rhonda Dredge

Good female managers have an active home life as well a career in the office and sometimes you just need a bit of R&R.

Sue Dight, CEO at the Mission to Seafarers, lives in a converted handkerchief factory in Oakleigh.

One section is a café, another houses vintage cars and she and her husband live in the rest.

The enterprising CEO is leaving her job at the Mission for a month’s holiday at home then she’ll consider what her next move will be.

“I might be a barista,” she told Docklands News.

After guiding the Mission for seven years, building it up as a venue and a community centre, plus providing an intelligent commentary on the global issues affecting crew on ships, she is due for a change of course.

On her last day, April 29, there was a noisy corporate event on downstairs and there were still things on her to-do list for successor Philip Cornish but her heart was out there with the seafarers.

She was getting ready for an historic occasion, to meet the first lot of seamen allowed shore leave in more than two years, since the first lockdown was declared in March 2020.


“We’ve been campaigning hard for shore leave,” she said. “It’s been really difficult for them. I’m wholeheartedly in favour of them leaving ships so they can rest away from work – a bit of R&R.”


The port opened three weeks ago but shipping companies have been reluctant to risk COVID among crew.

“The captains have the final say. When you have a workforce of 22 only, there are no understudies. Because you have a hierarchical workforce it’s difficult to step up and down if someone gets sick.”

She has a map on her laptop that shows the thousands of cargo ships, tankers, fishing fleets and pleasure craft on the world’s oceans at any one time.

During COVID they all kept operating except for the cruise ships, with some crew spending up to 15 months on board.

“Crew changeover was very difficult. When a contract finishes crew members disembark then fly home. During COVID there weren’t any flights in and out and they had to spend two weeks in quarantine here.”

The Mission has been helping them out by doing shopping and delivering it to ships.

Sue got a call on her last day that one of the Stolt tankers would travel to Geelong before arriving in Melbourne. Their shopping was already waiting for them in a room behind the bar.

She is proud of her record, raising money so the Mission can support seafarers. Probus, Rotary, a local book club, offshore shipping specialists, the Melbourne Bushwalkers Club and the Naval Association are some of the organisations that now meet in the historic hall.

She has only one regret, that the weathervane on top of the building was stolen on her watch. That was two months ago and there have been no new leads.

“It was sold for its copper,” she said, shaking her head. “The thieves left part of it behind.”

Her last job was to take a picture of the first men to brave the port, happily stepping onto terra firma from the Mission bus and then she was off on her own new voyage.

Docklands News thanks Sue for her valuable contribution to the Mission to Seafarers and to the Docklands community •


Caption: CEO Sue Dight before sailing off into the night.

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