If you had the chance to enjoy a chat over a leisurely cup of tea with anyone in the world, whom would you pick?

 

High on our wish list at DC would be Dame Quentin Bryce – best known as Australia’s first female Governor-General, but also a former academic, lawyer, and human rights advocate, to name just a few of her esteemed roles.

Recently, we were lucky enough to fulfil this wish: we met Dame Quentin over tea at a Business Chicks function in Brisbane. And she not only lived up to our high expectations, but also exceeded them.

We walked away with a far greater appreciation for the brave and extraordinary life Dame Quentin has lived as a world leader. But what truly captured our hearts was her authenticity, humour and trailblazing attitude.

 

She taught us five valuable lessons:

  1. The most important tool you have is your voice. Using her voice Dame Quentin helped to herald in modern Australian society by working to improve women’s rights. Today, she continues to advocate for leadership by women.

  2. Resiliency is born out of challenge. Dame Quentin’s role models were drawn not from the famous or powerful, but rather from people she encountered in “everyday life” who found strength and acquired resiliency in the face of calamity. She shared stories of people she’d met during her term as Governor-General who’d survived natural disasters or lived through war times, and inspired her to adopt their “she’ll be right” attitude.

  3. It’s all about balance. Dame Quentin admitted she tried to be superwoman – and found it ridiculously impossible. Instead, she learned to invest in self-care, and work/home/life balance.  Negotiate you time, she says, and allow yourself to be mindful and reflective.

  4. Learn the fine art of writing. From letters to journaling and more, Dame Quentin finds it therapeutic to document her thoughts and experiences. And maybe one day you’ll even want to publish your memoirs!

  5. Be generous. Dame Quentin recently published her collection of letters, which she handwrote and received during her six-year term, in a book called Dear Quentin. These letters are a testament to a gift she gave others: her time and her ears. Even better, all royalties from Dear Quentin will go to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.  

 

Of the many notes we scribbled during her remarks, we came away with one favourite, on the topic of role models.

Don’t be shy to reach out, Dame Quentin told us, and ask someone to be your role model. Or, as she put it, “Get in there!”

We walked away from our tea with the motivation to do just that: to “get in there”, and to work to change the world as this genuine, witty and truly remarkable woman leader has done.


— By Kate Agnew
— Edited by Laura Byrne