International business woman, Ms Thérèse Rein, was awarded a Doctor of the University by Chancellor Ms Leneen Forde AC at the Griffith graduation ceremony held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday 13 December.
Ms Rein, wife of former Prime Ministe Mr Kevin Rudd, is the founder and Managing Director of Ingeus, an international employment services provider, and CEO of Assure Programs, an Australian-based business psychology services company.
Vice Chancellor and President Professor Ian O’Connor introduced Ms Rein as the most successful female entrepreneur in Australia’s history. After reeling off a lengthy list of her achievements and accolades, the Vice Chancellor summed up by saying the award was for distinguished services to the community and the University. He then invited Ms Thérèse Rein to present the Occasional Address at the Brisbane graduation ceremony.
You can read Ms Rein’s inspirational address here:
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we celebrate achievement tonight.
Many years of hard work, dedication and dreaming from the people in front of me and behind me, resulting in a massive accomplishment.
Well, I always wanted to be a Doctor. As a child I wanted to be first of all a doctor of medicine, but I decided that would be a bit gory.
Then I decided to be a doctor for animals because I always loved animals.
Then I wanted to be a Doctor of Laws. Then I found out you can be a Doctor of Literature perhaps, and that really appealed and then maybe a Doctor of Psychology.
But I had never thought of being a Doctor of the University and it’s a major honour.
So thank you, so much.
What did I major in…?
Well firstly I think I majored in an inadequate sense of the impossible.
With our team, many of whom are sitting to my right, we took a core competency of positive psychology and rehabilitation counselling and adapted that to working with people who were long-term unemployed.
We worked with injured workers, we worked with people who were long-term unemployed for all sorts of reasons.
We did what you’d call a side step and twist.
We took something that was applied in one area and took it to work with people to help them dream again.
To help them believe in themselves again. To help them have confidence that they had a future. To help them think that tomorrow could be better than today and to see how.
We then took that core competency, that we started in a little attic office in South Brisbane and we took that to scale in Australia.
We then took it to Britain, then to France, then to Germany and Sweden, to Switzerland and Poland, to South Korea and most recently to Saudi Arabia – where we helped women into decent long-lasting jobs.
If you had asked me, when I first started the company in 1989 in this attic office in South Brisbane, right where the Mater Children’s hospital is now being built… could this ever be something that you were doing on the other side of the world in so many different languages, in so many different cultures, I probably wouldn’t have thought that was possible.
I think what happened along the way though was, we would work and achieve and get to a certain point and think, ‘Oh, that’s good’.
And then we would look up and see another vista and another sense of the possible and on we’d go.
Secondly then, other than majoring in an inadequate sense of the impossible, I think I majored in being a Bower bird.
A collector of strange and apparently unconnected points of excellence and ideas; new thinking. And I think I’ve majored in connecting those to solve problems that haven’t otherwise been solved.
I’ve loved doing that. I think I’ve driven my colleagues slightly crazy from time to time as we’ve done that, but I think we’ve done some things that are really exciting.
Sometimes we’re helping people to see themselves differently, to think differently about their strengths, their fascination, what energises them in the morning, what difference they want to make in the world. How they want to serve.
So sometimes we’re helping them to put things together differently for themselves and then creating a different future.
Finally though, I think I’ve majored in gratitude.
I’m deeply grateful to my teachers at school for instilling a love of learning and insisting on excellence.
I’m deeply grateful to my father who told me repeatedly not to tell myself I couldn’t and always to tell myself, yes I could.
I’m deeply grateful to my university which taught me how to learn and question and reason and to play the guitar.
I’m deeply grateful to my husband who at the beginning of the business when I had just resigned on a principle from another company, said, “I think you’d be good at this.”
You see, I’ve started this business with $13,000 and today its revenue is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
I didn’t have a background in business although I loved maths, but I know Kevin, when I went home and said:
“I’ve resigned by the way today. And I thought I might start a company. And I thought we might help people who are injured get back to work, so that they experience less damage in their lives.”
And he said, “I think you’d be good at this.”
I am deeply grateful for that, Kevin.
I’m deeply grateful to my children, who put up on the journey with lots of burnt pots as I read them stories or wrote down ideas and lots of takeaways.
I’m deeply grateful to my wonderful colleagues who are more than colleagues, who are friends. Who urge and challenge, and speak the truth, and coax and believe, and trust and support and make everything possible.
I’m deeply grateful to my friends who keep me very grounded and make me laugh.
I’m deeply grateful to this University for granting me the honour of being Doctor of the University.
And I’m deeply grateful to my wonderful Mum, who is here tonight at the age of 86.
She has taught me that in the midst of challenge and adversity it is possible to read stories, and to push past bigotry and superficial prejudice, and to practically problem solve, and to laugh, and to sing, and to dance in the sunshine, and to see the ridiculous and to have a twinkle in her eye, and to have a go, and to be adventurous, and to follow my dreams.
And she taught me to believe in something bigger than I am.
And to have the courage to commit my whole and best self to doing something about that.
So it is to you Mum, that I dedicate this Doctor of the University. A Doctor in thinking outside the square, in believing in the power of being connected to the people I love, and who love me, and to daring to dream.
And I wish that for all of you.