Jan Dowland – a one woman think tank


IHC’s newest Life Member, Jan Dowland, has turned the smallest office in IHC into a personal think tank.

Jan, a former IHC Chief Executive, was named a New Zealand Life Member at the recent IHC Workability International Conference in Auckland. The announcement came with warm personal tributes from Chief Executive Ralph Jones and former President Barbara Rocco, who worked closely with Jan when the two women led IHC in the 1990s.

“She works out of the smallest office in the building, an internal one with no window, yet the amount and quality of work that pours out of it is staggering,” Barbara told conference delegates.

Jan Dowland became CEO in 1998 after JB Munro retired. She had spent the previous four years working as General Manager of the Central Region.

“JB had been in charge for 20 years. He was a visionary, a risk-taker and passionately determined to see people with intellectual disabilities take their place in the New Zealand community. For many of us it was hard to imagine what life in IHC would be like without him.

“So along came Jan. As she herself has said, ‘The threads of my life were now neatly pulled together to fully prepare me to run a care-giving charity in a business-like way’.

“Jan, though she had the same vision and passion as JB, brought her sense of order and systems to IHC. We established a Board of Governance rather than trying to govern via a New Zealand Council of 52 branch presidents,” Barbara said.

“At the same time she was prepared to take risks – we set up Timata Hou because she saw a gap – the need for a service for those who come through the justice system. Jan’s commitment to those people was unwavering.”

Jan has worked as an accountant and in a variety of roles in the health and disability sector. She was part of a small team commissioned in 1980 by Director General of Mental Health Dr Basil James to examine life in New Zealand’s large psychiatric institutions. That experience set in train a lifelong commitment to including people with an intellectual disability and experience of mental illness as valued members of their communities.

Jan obtained a first class honours degree in psychology and later an accountancy qualification from Victoria University of Wellington, and began work at accountancy firm Ernst & Young. She worked for IHC for nine years, five of those as its Chief Executive. Following that Jan was appointed Chair of the Mental Health Commission.

“Jan is now back at IHC as a consultant and has turned her hand to plenty of ‘the hard stuff’. From a governance perspective the fact that we have a Member Council and a more robust appointment system for the Board is thanks to her work on constitutional changes last year,” Barbara said.

“Jan loves this organisation, its history and its values, and she has tremendous affection and respect for the people in it. We in turn love her – she is truly our taonga. And she is now a New Zealand Life Member. She’s ours forever.”