Lessons from a career in law, service and community: Fireside Chat with The Hon Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, Australia
Advance in Hong Kong was pleased to meet with The Hon. Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria on two occasions during her recent visit. Governor Dessau lived in Hong Kong during the 1990’s, working as Senior Crown Counsel and was visiting Hong Kong in December as part of Business of Design Week, showcasing the city of Melbourne. Advance Global Board Member Michelle Garnaut AO met with Governor Dessau and Hong Kong S.A.R. Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, over lunch with Australian Consul General Micheala Browning. In addition, Advance Intern Shirley Wang attended a Fireside Chat event hosted by AustCham Hong Kong. Shirley shared with Advance insights from one of Australia’s leading female jurists, advocates for children, charitable, and sporting organisations.
Governor Dessau described the similarities and differences between Hong Kong in the 1990’s and today. Short work breaks and fast energy of Hong Kong seems to have stayed the same. “I think faster, I work faster, and I do everything faster in HK. I know it’s can be exhausting, but it’s also exhilarating. It suits me perfectly”, she said about the city known for it’s frenetic pace of life.
A hallmark of Governor Dessau’s career has been a strong sense of civic responsibility. She shared that she was influenced by her family, especially her father who came to Australia from Europe. That experience, she said, “encoded in me, it’s all about from the early stage, we were grow up in Australia, in Melbourne, in a country or a place where we have a rule, a democracy, the freedoms, the safety, and the opportunities. So it’s not hard with that the background also have encoded in you that you give back to the community.” She shared that she saw this civic responsibility reflected in the daily work of community leaders she meets in her current role as Governor.
In talking about her career, Governor Dessau identified the importance of mentors – both men and women – who helped her along the way. “Help often comes from people younger rather than people ahead, so I think if you just keep your eye open. There are times I found people are far more experienced and wise than me”, she shared. In addition, Governor Dessau acknowledged the support of her husband and their parallel careers as part of her professional success [Mr Anthony Howard QC who with the Governor, also served in the Hong Kong Attorney-General’s Chambers from 1982 to 1985].
In addition to her work with in the law, Governor Dessau is a Commissioner of the Australian Football League, a code she loves watching and being part of her life. “I love what football can do and does do. It’s so much more than a game. I love the fact that it encourages young people to be healthy and fit, I love the fact that it is multicultural”, she said.
Given the public and ambassadorial nature of her role, networking and the art of small talk were subjects the Governor touched on. She shared her personal view that this part of her role is “incredibly easy if you genuinely curious and you genuinely like people”, and that she delighted in the opportunity to hear the stories of people she meets. However, one area as a Governor she does not stray into is politics and policies. Governor Dessau shared her interest in contributing to the public discourse on matters of significance in communities and the role the media and other influencers can play in creating better public debate.
Serving for 18 years as a judge on the Family Court meant Governor Dessau was in the centre of issues like domestic violence and significant family breakdowns. She emphasised the positive impact of survivors like Rosie Batty [family violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year] in leading a nation-wide movement to highlight and prevent domestic violence. Governor Dessau praised the work of the Royal Commission into Domestic Violence in Victoria and the progress made in recent years implementing recommendations of the Commission.
Advance thanks AustCham Hong Kong and the Governor of Victoria for sharing insights on Governor Dessau’s incredible career.