Carolyn Walsh

Chair | National Transport Commission

  • Change agent
  • Driving reform
  • Safety champion
Based in: NSW
Modes: Road Rail Freight/logistics
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"Diversity is fundamental to good decision making and solving wicked problems in creative and innovative ways. With diverse teams you get much richer input and less likely to go down a particular preconceived tunnel."

Current positions

  • Chair, National Transport Commission
  • Board Member, NSW Environment Protection Authority
  • Chair, NSW Non-Government Schools Not for Profit Advisory Committee
  • Independent Chair, NSW Asbestos Coordination Committee
  • Consultant, Strategy and Risk
  • Member of Audit and Risk Committees: City of Sydney (Chair), Health Professional Councils Authority (Chair)

Previous positions

  • Chief Executive, Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator
  • Executive Director Strategy, Office of the Coordinator General of Rail
  • Policy Manager, Economic Development Branch, The Cabinet Office NSW
  • Commissioner, Australian Transport Safety Bureau
  • Assessor, Statutory and Other Officers Remuneration Tribunal NSW
  • Non-Executive Director, WorkCover Authority Board
  • Non-Executive Director, Sydney Metro Authority Board
  • Chair, Transport Minister’s School Bus Safety Community Advisory Committee
  • Member of Audit and Risk Committees NSW Scheme: Ministry of Health (Chair), Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (Chair), State Transit Authority (Chair), Western Sydney Local Health District (Chair), Public Service Commission (Member)

Career snapshot

Carolyn Walsh has 35 years’ experience in the Commonwealth and NSW public services, focused on industry, science, and transport issues.

In the wake of the 2003 rail tragedy at Waterfall, Carolyn was asked by the NSW Transport Minister to lead a project team to establish the Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator (ITSRR) and became its Chief Executive for 2004 until 2009. In 2006-07 Carolyn chaired the National Transport Commission’s Steering Committee that developed the National Rail Safety Model Bill and Regulations, laying the foundation for further regulatory reforms in rail and other transport modes, leading to the creation of the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator in 2013.

Currently Carolyn is the Chair of the National Transport Commission helping to drive a new strategic direction for the agency. Carolyn is a member of the Board of the NSW Environment Protection Authority and served as acting Chair (2019-2020). 

Carolyn is also Chair of the NSW Non-Government Schools Not For Profit Advisory Committee, Independent Chair of the NSW Asbestos Coordination Committee, and provides consultancy services in safety and risk management for public and private sector organisations.

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In her own words

It is critical for people creating teams to question if their hiring criteria truly aligns with what is needed to do the job. 


In one organisation where I have a board role we absolutely shifted from saying ‘to be a credible employee in this organisation you need to have 25 years’ experience as a rail engineer’ to saying ‘the real skills we need are analytical problem solving, stakeholder management, report writing’ and while we absolutely need access to a certain number of people who have good technical skills, not everyone in the organisation has to have this experience.  Within a very short period of time you could see the organisation’s profile changing, particularly by gender and age. 

Leading the change

Creating a modern, diverse and inclusive transport industry will demand leadership of senior people in transport, both men and women. The National Women in Transport initiative is important because it supports and connects our women. We need to break down stereotypical perceptions of what a person in transport looks like. We need to profile role models which weren’t around when I entered the industry.

Another fact I like to highlight is because transport has traditionally been a male dominated sector it is better paid and that presents a real opportunity for women. 

The safety dividend

I believe diversity leads to better safety outcomes because good safety management is about good risk management and good risk management is about being very aware of not just technical and operational risk but also human risk. Human risk is about human factors; it’s about people. So if you have a very narrow view because you don’t have a diverse or inclusive workforce then you are not going to have a clear view about the human factors involved in safety and what leads people to behave in certain ways. I firmly believe in the link between diversity and safety, as well as all the evidence that shows those organisations with diverse Boards outperform those with non-diverse leadership. 

My vision for the next five years is…

…no-one needs to point out you are the only woman in the room because that will not be unusual. When we achieve that we will be in a good space. 

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