Through a maintained belief that the mark of a community is how it looks after its more vulnerable members, identical twins Ian (69-72) and Alan (69-72) Carter have built legacies around the pursuit of social justice.
For over two decades, Ian has been the Chief Executive Officer of Anglicare WA. He has harnessed his passion for community and social justice to great effect through creating and governing community organisations at local, national and international levels.
Alan is the founding Co-Chair of Reconciliation WA, an organisation that works closely with the government, corporate and community sectors to promote reconciliation activities that support programs to overcome disadvantage in our Indigenous community. Alan also works as a business consultant, providing organisations with expertise in relation to the development and implementation of reconciliation strategies at corporate, government and community organisations.
What was it like growing up as an identical twin?
Alan Carter (AC): There’s obviously been different phases of our lives. When we were younger we just did things together. When we moved into adolescence there was a real attempt to make sure we were seen as two different people. You didn’t want to be seen as ‘the twinnies’. You see family photos of us and we were often the bookends, it was always the way.
Ian Carter (IC): There was very much an effort to differentiate, if Alan had shorts and a white t-shirt on, I’d probably go put jeans and a coloured shirt on. I’m the eldest by 12 minutes, older and taller.
AC: He got the head start and I’ve never caught up!
People must’ve mistaken you for one another all the time?
AC: I recall one day when we were both playing 1st XI hockey together for Wesley, and at the end of the game they had to award the best player. The opposition coach was talking to our coach, and he pointed over at Ian and said, ‘That kid was everywhere today, it’s as if there were two of him!’ And Bob had to admit that there were in fact two of us out there. Ian was on top of the list so he got the votes.
IC: There was a similar incident during the 4x100m relay at the Inter-House Athletics Carnival. Our father, Don Carter (42–46), the carnival referee, was standing at the finish line with Frank Woods Senior. Alan ran the first leg and then handed the baton over to me at the first change. Immediately George ‘Gus’ Ferguson lifted the red flag. Dad went over there to see what had happened and Gus Ferguson said to our dad ‘the same boy ran the first two legs for Hardey House; they need to be disqualified’. Dad said, ‘they’re my twin sons!’ and walked away.
AC: We’ve also been hugged and kissed by a whole swag of people we’ve never met before but they are friends with our twin!
What do you remember from your time at Wesley?
IC: I remember my time at Wesley with great fondness and joy. I’ve kept up with many of my classmates and many are still good friends. Sport was very important to both of us as we played hockey together for the 1st XI and competed in athletics, Alan was always faster than me.
AC: The other good thing about Wesley, was the very strong community which included parents and Old Collegians. The Old Collegians have always had a reputation for being close knit and very much a part of the school. We benefitted from that. We’d often play hockey for Wesley in the morning then the Old Wesley Hockey Club in the afternoon. We were being mentored by guys five to ten years older than us who were close friends. That sense of community was really strong.
As people in leadership positions, what traits do you think a good leader needs?
IC: The capacity to bring everyone who is part of your team together on the same journey and keep them on that journey so that you know where you’re going. Your job is to tell the story both externally and with your own staff. A sense of compassion has to be at the absolute heart of what you’re doing, I think at the end of the day the concept of servant leadership is important too.
AC: Lao Tzu said ‘a leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves’. It’s about empowering people to take on leadership themselves, to give them ownership and a sense of value.
Social justice is obviously a passion for both of you, what or who has influenced this?
AC: Our mother came from a working-class family and was into Labor-type issues and socially progressive causes. She did her post-graduate study in women’s issues, so there was a lot of discussion around the family table and that had a big influence on us. We still regularly have lengthy political conversations with mum, she turns 90 this year and is still very across what is happening!
IC: Some of those frameworks were definitely pre-set by mum but the Wesley For Others’ Fund has certainly played a role. Clive Hamer’s progressive views influenced us quite strongly.
What qualities do you think a person needs to succeed?
AC: Tenacity is obviously one, and I suppose for me the question is, what does success mean? What do you measure success by? I’ve never measured success by money or material gain. To me success is about achieving social change and doing things that improve the lives of lots of people, I think everybody has a responsibility to do that. In that sense, success is measured by your ability to engage with people. It comes with an element of humility and a preparedness not to be the one who is up there in lights all the time, but making sure that others get that spotlight.
IC: Passion and tenacity, and a focus on being clear about what you are trying to achieve. Then you need to develop partnerships and relationships to make it all happen both within your team and with other partners. Build a strong network of trusted people around you and the journey becomes a lot easier. You can’t do things alone.
What advice do you have for current students on following their passion?
AC: After leaving university I worked in the corporate world and became a manager at an international insurance broking firm, but ultimately I knew in my heart that my passion lay with causes around the environment and social justice. I was working with major corporates and things were not as socially responsible as they are now, so there were some things going on that I was aware of and felt really uncomfortable with.
In my university days I’d been regularly campaigning for environmental causes. That was my passion, and I was suddenly sitting there thinking ‘these two don’t line up’. So, I was compelled to do something. I’m not sure if I ever thought about it in these terms, but the values instilled in me from my time at Wesley taught me to say, ‘I need to do something better for the community and my place is elsewhere’. It put me in many cases as an outsider, which was a challenge, but t’s never deterred me from pursuing those causes because I’m committed to them.
Follow your passion and do what you’re passionate about and what you feel will contribute to making the world a better place. That’s what I would be saying to people, it’s the richness in the life that is important, not the richness in the bank.
IC: I’ve always felt that you follow your passion—what excites you, and that can be in a career or in voluntary and sporting roles. I loved playing hockey and I loved working with others to make social change and the latter developed in me over the years. You also need to continually read, converse and reflect and never feel that you have all of the answers.