Helping ‘grow and develop’ Bowel Cancer Australia to it now being recognised as ‘The Voice’ in Australia in respect of bowel cancer, was identified by Penny Morris AM FAICD FAIA as one of the most rewarding aspects of being on the Bowel Cancer Australia Board.
She also highlighted the joy that comes from working with such a passionate and dedicated group of Directors who are genuinely committed to the charity’s vision and mission.
Throughout her career, Penny has used her commercial acumen and enquiring mind to make an impact and make a difference.
Growing up on the land in South Gippsland, Victoria, Penny said she and her two brothers learned many valuable life skills, including how “to make practical decisions, solve problems, fix things, kill snakes, and drive machinery as soon as your feet could touch the pedals”.
During her studies at Melbourne University in Bachelor of Architecture (Honours), Penny won a Cadetship with the Commonwealth Government which launched a 30+ year career in Executive Management and Executive and Non-Executive corporate governance-across many organisations in the public, private and charitable sectors.
In June 2002, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia ‘for service to the property and construction industries through a range of government organisations, industry associations and major corporations.’
Penny has also served as a Non-Executive Director on over 30 boards of publicly listed companies, government and private sector organisations, and not-for-profits.
In 2006, she was treated for bowel disease which her specialist suspected was stress related.
“Why are you doing all this board work?” he asked her.
“It’s just adding to your stress.”
“I work long hours,” Penny said, “but I love my work.”
Based on her skillset, passion and response, Penny’s specialist asked if she would consider joining another board, guiding a growing charity dedicated to beating bowel cancer.
Although she didn’t see how joining another board would help reduce her stress, Penny enjoyed giving back through charity board work and was open to the opportunity.
“He arranged for me to meet Richard Penn, who was Bowel Cancer Australia’s Chairman at the time, and the rest is history!”
Fifteen years later, Penny continues to bring her vast skills and experience to her role as a Director to all boards she is involved in, which now also includes the Bowel Cancer Research Foundation. She became an inaugural Director of the research board in 2013.
Penny’s commitment to beating bowel cancer has been evidenced not just through her board contributions, but also through financial contributions. She has donated more than $70,000 to Bowel Cancer Australia, and in 2020 The Penelope Morris Foundation established a $195,000 scholarship to support bowel cancer research.
The highly coveted scholarship has been awarded to medical oncologist Dr Mudy De Silva, who will focus his studies on the molecular analysis of early onset bowel cancer under the supervision of Lawrence Penn Chair Professor Mark Molloy. Dr De Silva will also be exploring immunogenic cell death and how to enhance it.
Penny’s big goal remains finding a cure for bowel cancer, which she hopes one day Bowel Cancer Australia and the Bowel Cancer Research Foundation will be a part of. With the achievement of a dedicated Chair in Bowel Cancer Research and the appointment of Professor Molloy, the charities are one step closer.