Contact spoke to UQ alumnus, business leader and philanthropist Bobbie Brazil AO (Bachelor of Arts ’66, Bachelor of Laws ’87, Master of Business ’98) to hear how ideals forged during her farming childhood informed the focus of her life’s work.
Bobbie Brazil is no stranger to hard work. Growing up on a dairy farm near the small Queensland town of Jambin, her childhood was characterised by walks to the milking sheds in the twilight hours of the morning.
Her commitment to rising before dawn each day to work taught her the value of earning a position in life.
Now, sitting at the kitchen table of her Darling Downs home, having swapped milking machines for mechanisms of governance and industry, she reflects on her life.
Bobbie Brazil at her home in the Darling Downs, Queensland. Image: Anjanette Webb
Bobbie pauses, staring out at the sorghum and cotton that stretches from horizon to horizon outside her window, before providing her insights on success.
“You have to stick with whatever you are doing, and find the reasons that others should join you,” she said.
“You don’t have to trample on people to be successful; you achieve what you want with consistency, diligence, and knowing what is important to you.
“It’s a matter of knowing what you want to be in the world, sticking at it and making things happen.”
It is the duality of Bobbie’s position – her current good fortune earned through grit and sacrifice – that has driven her to contribute to positive social change and enhance Australia’s growth.
A former solicitor, she has assisted local, state and federal governments in multiple capacities including as adviser to Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson while serving on the Regional Women’s Advisory Council and has held appointments on various boards.
In addition to ruling an empire of large-scale mixed farming businesses with her husband Lyn, and becoming a founding investor in online booking service Wotif, Bobbie was also a leader in higher education for more than 17 years.
She served as Deputy Chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland prior to being appointed Chancellor and serving eight years in this position, one of few women in Australia who have held this office.
Her hard work and financial acuity naturally brought with them a degree of prosperity – yet she and her husband, Lyn, have worked diligently to give away what they have earnt.
Through the Brazil Family Foundation, the Brazils have supported initiatives throughout Queensland from potentially lifesaving medical research to women’s shelters and scholarships.
Lyn said his family were committed to empowering talented researchers and decision-makers to find solutions for pressing issues.
“It’s a matter of looking for unmet needs – we approach organisations we feel need help, we ask them what they need to move forward,” he said.
“We then do our best to provide them with funding so they can get on and do their job.”
It is this community-focused vision that has driven the foundation’s support of medical research projects developed in Queensland, allowing the benefit of these projects to remain in the region. One such example is their support of research at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at UQ.
After recognising one of Australia’s biggest killers, stroke, had only slim treatment options and no cure, the Brazils chose to establish a clinical arm at QBI to advance research into stroke and motor neurone disease (MND).
This extraordinary gift, one of the largest received by QBI to date, will help clinicians and researchers work side-by-side with patients on evolving treatment options and cures.
The Brazils also joined the community of donors and government partners who have supported a potential treatment for dementia developed at QBI through its pre-clinical phases.
The potential treatment, which uses ultrasound technology, has restored memory and reversed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in animals – it is thanks to the generosity of donors like the Brazils that human safety trials for this new treatment will start in late 2019.
Be a ChangeMaker
Wednesday 23 October is UQ’s Giving Day. You can be a ChangeMaker by supporting talented students overcome financial hardship and achieve their dreams by donating to the ChangeMaker Fund.
Visit the UQ Giving Day website to find out how you can support a cause that motivates you.