Whether shaping inquiring minds as Griffith Business School’s Portfolio Director (Engagement) in the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics or working tirelessly to raise funds for breast cancer research, Dr Robyn Cameron is always putting other people first.
As an organiser of the annual Pink Ribbon Cup Raceday (held in September) and committee member for Women in Super’s yearly Mother’s Day Classic fun run, Dr Cameron — a two-time breast cancer survivor herself — is well-known and well-regarded by people from myriad walks of life, routinely exemplifying Griffith’s value of positive community involvement and influence.
It’s precisely that concern for others that led the distinguished academic and lauded social activist to be nominated, and selected, as a Queen’s Baton bearer ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, an honour that Dr Cameron says caught her off-guard when she found out she’d been named early last year.
“I received an email saying I’d been nominated — I had to read it five times!” she recalls.
“Your jaw actually drops; you’re reading it with your mouth open, going, ‘Oh, my god, someone’s nominated me?’”
Multiple someone(s), as it turns out; in fact, Dr Cameron’s breadth of charitable activity meant that she was nominated more than once.
After the initial shock of the news had worn off, the reality set in — bringing with it a whole host of pre-event rules (“You weren’t allowed to wear your uniform before the day, and you weren’t to wash it before the day,” Dr Cameron reveals) and embargoes, disallowing the bearers from telling anyone they’d been selected.
“I didn’t even tell my family, because my daughter, you don’t tell her a secret unless you want it to be known,” Dr Cameron laughs. “So I had a few days where I told no one.
“But there were a couple of people — one I know at the Council, who works on the Comm Games area, and one that works on the Comm Games — and on the day that Comm Games announced it, they put it in the paper, who all the baton bearers and whatnot were, so I got text messages from them both saying congratulations.
“When I messaged back, I said, ‘I’ve known for a couple of days but couldn’t say anything,’ and they said, ‘We knew too, but couldn’t say anything!’ It was really funny.”
As for the moment itself, Dr Cameron says her time carrying a symbol as iconic as the Queen’s baton was nothing shy of “an amazing experience”.
“I’d watched bits of it on TV so I could see, most people, they’re not world-renowned athletes, they’re just everyday people like me, so I think that took away a lot of the nerves,” she admits.
“As we were driving down the circuit where we were going to go, you could see people coming out, and there were stacks of people; it was amazing! They really embraced it, so that made it really exciting.
“I don’t know that any of us were nervous; we were all kind of excited. There were a few young kids on the bus, but the mature ones were the noisiest of the pack, believe me.
“When I got out of the bus, people were there and everyone was just so happy, and I was gobsmacked at the people that’d come to support me. Some people had said they were coming, but there were others that turned up and it was like, ‘Oh, my god!’ — neighbours that moved out of the neighbourhood years ago were there, and parents from my kids’ school; it was just amazing that people wanted to come along and support it.
“I actually thought, who would have ever thought — because my family, when I was young, used to call me Little Robyn-Ann, or Robyn-Ann — who would have thought that Little Robyn-Ann would one day be carrying a Queen’s Baton?”
Dr Robyn Cameron is a breast cancer survivor, a passionate fundraiser and senior lecturer at Griffith University. Robyn is the 103rd batonbearer. Watch the Queen’s Baton Relay live: https://t.co/JhHmRjDi5p #7CommGames #7News pic.twitter.com/nq8SQZBMEX
– 7 News Gold Coast (@7NewsGoldCoast) April 2, 2018
While carrying the baton, Dr Cameron says she was struck by how much the local community around her circuit area of Ashmore, Bundall and Evandale had embraced the spirit of the Games by turning out to support the bearers in their moment, regardless of their background.
“A number of people have said, in terms of the baton relay, what they’ve liked about it is that it is ordinary people in the community that are doing stuff out in the community that are getting to carry the baton, and not just all famous people,” she explains.
“I’ve actually had a couple of people say that, and that’s why they came. That could be why so many came out for the baton relays, because it’s people that they actually know.
“Of course, we had Dawn Fraser on our team, so she had a stack of people — she was swarmed!”
Aside from the personal satisfaction that came from the experience, Dr Cameron says the wider Games experience is a boon for the Gold Coast, not least because of the fresh hotels and other infrastructural benefits yielded for the city.
“One of our main industries is that of tourism, so hopefully there will be that added value when the Games are over, that people that have come to visit, whether they’ve come from overseas or just from other states, they’ll see what we’ve got here to offer, and they’ll come back,” she posits.
Either way, as time moves on, and Dr Cameron’s attention turns back to her inspiring work as an academic and community activist, her moment in the spotlight is not one that will ever lose its shine.
“This is one of those experiences I’ll never forget,” she says. “If I look at a photo or anything, it instantly brings a smile to my face when I think about how amazing and how much fun it was.
“It was a real honour. It was great; I’d recommend it to anybody [laughs].”