One of the first recipients of the inaugural Crown Princess Mary Scholarship was Danielle Conlan (BCom-LLB Hons), whose world changed when she took up the opportunity to study in Denmark.
“Studying abroad indelibly changes you,” Danielle said. “I left for Denmark a shy, young girl with a limited understanding of the world outside The Apple Isle … After 5 months of studying in Copenhagen – immersing myself in a melting pot of students from more than 20 countries – I felt like I could finally see the world in all its magnificent shades.”
Danielle says she was privileged to receive the Scholarship, gifted to the Danish royal couple by the University of Copenhagen to commemorate their wedding. A reciprocal scholarship is offered to Danish students who are attending the University of Tasmania. The scholarships were coordinated by Wayne Goninon (BA 1981), who sadly passed away this year. Wayne’s dedication, across many years, to ensuring the scholarships’ success will be greatly missed.
Like Crown Princess Mary, Danielle studied Law and Commerce at the University of Tasmania. Danielle reflects on what drove her determination to go to university.
“Meeting Her Royal Highness was a phenomenal experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life … I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach during the hour leading up to our meeting! But, as countless others will concur, from the moment I met her, she greeted me with such warmth and grace that I felt instantly at ease,” Danielle said.
“I grew up understanding the importance of getting ‘that piece of paper’, which was promised to be the ticket to a life free of the suffering my parents (and their parents before them) had endured without formal education. So, I made it my mission to achieve the best piece of paper I could.
“I dedicated my life to studying law and commerce, choosing to specialise in corporate governance and ethics. I didn’t know it then, but I was a social entrepreneur from the start. I just didn’t have the terminology (or roadmap) go to with it.
“Back in 2006, it was all about ‘corporate social responsibility’, which Her Royal Highness and I discussed in brief during my audience with her.”
Danielle met the Crown Princess just before ANZAC Day and, during an informal conversation, asked her her preference for the "perfect" ANZAC biscuit. The answer: “chewy”. It was a conversation the Danish tabloid press retold in a two-page article on – the two Tassie girls who shared brown hair and a love of chewy biscuits!
So how has Danielle’s career evolved since completing her legal degree?
“All I knew at the time was that I wanted to pursue a career that would enable my family (and my future children) to escape the financial hardship my family had experienced,” Danielle said.
After working for some years in legal practice, Danielle turned her attention to the world of entrepreneurship, something she now lectures in at the University.
“It took losing my brother and father in sudden, traumatic circumstances for me to truly wake up and find my calling,” she explained.
“My lived experience (and a little naivety thrown in for good measure) gave me the gumption to start a social enterprise in an incredibly male-dominated, shareholder-led industry in aged care and funeral services.
“It’s taken me almost four decades, but I have finally realised that you can be feminine and empathetic and still change the world. Being true to yourself is your greatest strength.
And if Danielle could end with one sentiment?
“It would be simply this: don’t wait,” she said. “Do it today. Ask that question, launch that idea, leave that environment, and become the best version you can be. Life is not easy, and it appears it’s about to get harder. But, there is beauty to be found in every nook and cranny. We just have to summon the courage to look.”
Written by Katherine Johnson for Alumni Magazine Issue 53, 2022.
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Listen to Crown Princess Mary scholarship recipient Danielle Conlan BCom-LLB(Hons) 2006 talk about the six amazing months she spent on exchange at the University of Copenhagen.