Learning through life experiences

On Wednesday morning, to a sold-out crowd of 160 women and men, lawyer and Order of Australia recipient Roberta (Bobbie) Brazil inspired guests at the first Professional Women’s Network event for the year.

Bobbie quickly captured the room’s attention, saying she believed she’d had a fortunate life.

“I was born poor and plain but I’ve always known that if it was to be, it was up to me,” she laughed, setting the tone for her speech which, underpinned with humour, was filled with lessons learnt through her professional experiences.

Born and bred in the Brigalow patch of Jambin near Biloela, Bobbie attributed her early rural upbringing to appreciating the value of being an involved and supportive community activist.  

This seemed to become a common theme for her long and distinguished career as a solicitor, a community activist and at the helm of several local and national organisations.

Throughout her working life, Bobbie was chairman of Land and Water Australia (2001 – 2009), chairman of Australian Landcare Council (2005 – 2009), director of Heritage Building Society and director of Condamine Catchment Management Association, as well as a member of 12 other various organisations. She also served as an adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister in her role on the Regional Women’s Advisory Council.

More recently (2006 – 2014), Bobbie served as Chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland and Deputy Chancellor prior to that appointment (1995 – 2001).

“Change is the only constant,” Bobbie told guests. “If we want things to stay the same, things will have to change.”

Quoting English naturalist, geologist and biologist Charles Darwin, Bobbie said: “It’s not the strongest of the species who survive nor the most intelligent, but those most adaptive to change.”

For the business professionals and educators in the room, the notion of adaptability no doubt reinforced a very important home truth. For the St Margaret’s students intently listening to Bobbie, she couldn’t have offered more poignant advice.

It is this notion of adaptability Bobbie highlighted that has become an essential trait in the workforce today and will become even more critical in the workforces of the future.

“Believe in yourself. It is so important to know who you are, then be the person you are or the best you can be,” she said.

“Have some ideas – preferably good ones – and hard work beats just about everything else. Our best chance of success in life is to work hard and work smart. Communication is key and nothing is more attractive than energy.”

Bobbie also advocated using failures as a learning opportunity.

“It is your failures that best assist you to forge a stronger, better, more self-aware, less egotistical self. We all fall on our face at some stage, but it’s best to allow ourselves some time to recover, to do a deep and honest analysis of why this should happen to me and then get up and have another go. Rise phoenix like from the ashes bearing in mind you’ve only got your pride, your self-respect, your dignity and the honour of your family name to lose – and try not to take it too seriously,” she advised, with her characteristic humour.

Thanks to our sponsors who help to make these events possible: Torrens University Australia/ Laureate Universities (Major); Pitcher Partners and McCullough Robertson (Associate), Programmed Property Services (Special Table Sponsor) and Gardior (Supporting Partner).

For a gallery of images from the event, visit the St Margaret’s Facebook page.

The next Professional Women’s Network breakfast will be held on Thursday 17 May, with guest speaker Wendy King, President, Australian East – Conoco Phillips. Further information and tickets available here.