Toni Moate

“Being a working mum is always a compromise – but one that I’m happy to manage.” – Toni Moate

Here’s the next instalment in our series about mums at CSIRO in the lead up to Mother’s Day. Meet Toni Moate, Executive Director of the Future Research Vessel Project.

Tell us about a typical day for you.

In the front of the computer, dealing with a lot of emails and attending meetings. I get very excited when I visit the shipyard and see the RV Investigator under construction. Never thought I would be so excited to wear overalls and steel-capped boots.

Why did you get into science in the first place?

I am an accountant working in a science organisation. I love working for CSIRO as science makes such an important contribution to Australia and its future. I am passionate about the need for professional support staff to contribute to the delivery of science.

Has being a mum changed how you work? If so, in what way?

Definitely. It has made me more conscious of how generous CSIRO is in its work/life balance opportunities, and to make me even more vocal in discussions about how we make sure CSIRO isn’t a ‘black box’ that parents disappear into during the day. I think it has made me more efficient in delivery of work – but I’m writing my profile while on a plane so I probably still have a way to go on that one!

A blast from the past: Toni and her two daughters when they were younger.

A blast from the past: Toni and her two daughters when they were younger.

Tell us about your children.

I have two daughters, Isabel (11) and Samantha (9). Both love sport and reading, and spending time with me at the shops! Isabel is a gentle personality and nearly as tall as me (which is not difficult) and Samantha is a barrel of laughs and nearly as indomitable (which is much harder)! I hope they are not defined by it – but they both have anaphylaxis – Isabel to nuts, and Samantha to a whole range of foods. As a family we are committed to not letting this stop us taking up opportunities – but when I see the school phone number on my mobile I don’t relax until I know that one of the girls has only had a fall in the playground (or some other innocuous event). I have been in our Chief Executive’s presence when she has stepped out to take a call from one of her children – and it’s a really positive message that the importance of family is recognised at the top.

How do you think your daughters would describe what you do for a job?

I asked them recently – they have no idea although they talk confidently about the people I work with. It’s much better now that I’m involved in building the Investigator – it is much more tangible than managing budgets.

What do you wish other people understood more about being a working mum?

That it is always a compromise – but one that I’m happy to manage.

Toni has shiploads of fun working on the RV Investigator!

Toni has shiploads of fun working on the RV Investigator!

What’s the best day you’ve had at work?

The day of the Investigator ‘strike steel’ ceremony. So much effort was put into writing plans, and reports, and commenting on drawings and contractual issues. It was great to be in overalls to push the button to start the physical construction of the ship – even if my overalls were ill-fitting (made for men!) and my helmet on a jaunty angle.

What one invention would you like CSIRO to work on that would make a mother’s life easier?

It would be easy to say ‘cloning’ but it does bring to mind Dolly the sheep. I think a device that detected lack of motion in the morning when I’m trying to get the girls to school – with a voice activated command “Are you two ready for school yet?”


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Learn more about the Investigator project.