What was your first job?
I graduated with a degree in psychology and education and I became an english and history teacher. I asked for a posting in western NSW at the time, which was easy to get because no one wanted to go out there, and I ended up in Cobar.
Why did you want to head west?
I was really interested in how people learn. My specialty was teaching people how to read and write, particularly those that had missed the boat. I was mainly teaching adolescents or teenagers who couldn’t do either and getting them back on track. It was a difficult and frustrating thing to do in the confines of the Department of Education – one of the best ways was to go into these little communities where there was real deprivation and try to do something.
There was a great sense of achievement out of it – there were many aboriginal kids who had missed the boat, and there was a lot of rural poverty as well. Many had grown up on hundreds of thousands of acre properties miles from anywhere. I spent five years out there then taught in other mainstream high schools across the coast, but found it dull.
Where did you go from there?
I got a job working in Newcastle Workers Club. It was the seventh largest club in NSW at that time. I was the secretary/manager for seven years and took the club from being an old-school, typical workers club in the early 1980s, to an entertainment centre. It was a trade union board there and they were terrific, intelligent people. How they came to terms with running a capitalist club with their socialist backgrounds was fascinating to watch. A lot of the good business we did was based on marketing. It’s very similar to running a good distribution business – you build a great business and you work with people to get them on-side and passionate about what they do, then you tell people about it and they come and buy from you.
I ran some clubs in Sydney then started my own marketing business called Dogstar Design. We had several clients – the biggest was the Organic Cotton Industry, who we marketed into Japan. We had five or six trade missions into Japan, which is a fascinating service-based culture to be involved in, and I loved it.