It took ‘social chameleon’ Stuart Thomson four degrees to find his passion in overseas and development work. Now, he’s striving to make the world a better place.
Interview with Stuart Thomson
Can you tell us about your time at Deakin? Is there anything you especially remember?
I made life-long friendships of which I hold dearly today.
What has been your journey since finishing your course? Briefly outline your career path prior to your current role.
After nursing I travelled overseas (Sweden first) and then onto work in developing countries as an aid worker in Guatemala, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. After years working overseas I moved back to Australia and helped establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I then became the CEO for East Timor Hearts Fund.
What has been the biggest influence on your career?
My family. I wouldn’t be where I am at present without having strong support from my parents and my Grandmother. I live out the values today that they instilled in me then.
Have you always wanted to pursue the kind of career you have embarked on? If so, when and how did you realise?
No, not at all. I did another three University degrees (at three separate Universities) after finishing Nursing at Deakin. I only really stumbled upon overseas aid and development work, and I then found my true calling in this work. In many ways when I look back the path I followed is reasonably clear but whilst I was on it I often felt I was lost.
What advice would you give graduates wanting to pursue a similar profession?
Follow your heart and don’t waver. Now there are degrees, internships that you can study, but what will put you above is your passion and commitment for your work. It is what I look for when recruiting people. It felt like I was volunteering for years but then once I broke through I have had great employment opportunities ever since. Don’t give up!
What do you believe Deakin University has shown you/given you as a person?
I studied at Deakin University between 1992 and 1995. It was like being in a big family. I met friends that I am still in contact with today, and have become as we have moved through our careers and have enhance each other. Deakin was as great for socialising as is was for the academic experience for a boy from the bush. I enjoyed it immensely!
What are your passions outside your work?
My family. I have three little children, aged seven, four and six months. It completes me to know that my wife and I are doing what we can in the world to create a better place, both outside and within our family.
How would someone describe you?
A social chameleon. My learning disability as a child equipped me with fearless communication skills (I can talk to anyone) and being able to read people. I didn’t have academic skills early on so I had to rely on relationships to help me get through school and life.
Is there any advice you would give to a person who is starting out in your career?
Get as much experience across the sector as you can, from fundraising to working in the field and everything in between. If you can work in many areas of International Development you will be a more effective development professional and more sought after for work and career progression.
What is something that amazes you?
That with all the resources we have in the world we cannot solve abject poverty overnight. We have the knowledge and resources so what is stopping us?!