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Barbara McGregor

Headshot of Barbara McGregor

Bachelor of Arts 2002

Where are you from?

TasmaniaI was born in Launceston but moved between Hobart and Launceston a number of times growing up, so I call both home.

What did you study and why? 

I studied Journalism and Public Policy.  I had always wanted to be a journalist and volunteered my efforts at the local paper regularly from around the age of 15. At first, I was keen to be a sports journalist, given how much sport was a part of my life growing up, however, after undertaking legal studies in Year 12 and enjoying being part of the school’s debating team, I was keen to look at other options. I took a gap year overseas and worked in marketing and PR for 12 months, before coming home when the University opened up journalism as a degree pathway for the first time.

What memories do you have of studying?

I studied full time and worked two jobs - a PR job with a not for profit organisation and in hospitality some nights.

Living away from home with two friends meant paying my own way through university. I have great memories of this time. It was a time to learn, a time to make mistakes and a time to grow. I think the most rewarding memory is graduating and knowing you’ve succeeded in a major life milestone – not just securing a degree, but really evolving as a person through the process.

Tell me about your role now?

I’ve recently joined the office of the Premier of Tasmania as Director Strategic Communication. It’s an exciting opportunity to support the effective communication process related to some fantastic initiatives and programs being implemented by the Tasmanian Government.  It’s a busy role, but over the past 10 years I’ve had a number of executive roles in different industries, so I feel that’s a helpful lens to have when looking at a variety of different initiatives.

What has been your career path?

I turn 40 this year, and if I look back at my first pay check at 15 and every role I’ve had since then, I’ve worked in 22 different jobs. The week after I got my degree I decided to look in the papers for a journalist position. The only one available was at The Advertiser in regional Victoria. A tri-weekly paper. I had no idea where its home town of Maryborough was, but I got a one-way ticket and went to Melbourne, caught a bus to Maryborough, walked into the office and asked for the job. I believe the Editor was so amused I’d made the desperate journey he gave me the role. It was probably the best thing I ever did. A small paper, yet a good readership base and I had to do everything, from court reporting to human interest to sport reporting.

After moving back to Tasmania, I worked in public relations at Aurora Energy. I started the safety in schools program and worked in media and corporate partnerships, before taking on my first communication management position. It was during this process I understood the criticality of internal and external engagement cultures and programs to influence positive outcomes.

From Aurora I went to Tasports, leading corporate communications and during this time I had two small children at home. Later, I had the opportunity to work for Nyrstar managing communications in Tasmania, before being invited to be on the metals processing leadership team in Zurich. I regularly travelled to Zurich and Miami looking after an integrated strategy across Europe, America and Australia.

This was an amazing experience and one I’m very grateful for. I did however turn my attention back to a Tasmanian centric role and joined the executive team at Tassal with a focus on implementing communication programs, community and corporate partnership programs and stakeholder engagement.

I’ve been with the Premier’s office since May and I’m welcoming the new challenge and opportunity very much.

Communications is a broad and very much a changing job, what has been the biggest change you’ve seen? Where do you think the world of communications is heading, and why will it need to?

In one of my first university lectures we had a presentation on the information superhighway – which all seemed a bit fantastical at the time. When I started as a journalist we were forbidden to use any information from the web – it couldn’t be trusted!

What we have seen is the rise of the 24/7 world with time and content competing for relevance. I would like to think with communication we need a focus on quality. This is not just quality content but quality engagement. I believe there will be more conversation about the power of communication to truly engage audiences and ensuring the tools we are using are making this happen.  

Do you still have a relationship with the University of Tasmania?

Very much so. The University has remained such an important stakeholder to me across all my roles. I’ve always been an advocate to see a ‘university culture’ in our state. It’s a social fusion of the town and it just brings a vibrancy people want to be part of. I love the fact it lures visitors but equally creates an effervescence people bubble around, and so from an education perspective it inspires the younger generations and is a part of their community culture every day.

What has been the highlight of your career?

It’s definitely the times I feel I’ve been able to make a positive difference.

What or who inspires you?

Places and people inspire me. I love to learn and see how things can be done better, or in a different way. I’m fortunate to have been mentored by amazing people in my career who have encouraged me to think differently or to have the confidence to take on a new role or new opportunity. Most of all my mum inspires me. She moved to Scotland from Queensland to work in an outward bound school, then here to Tasmania with my dad in the early 70s where they set up an outward bound school for Tasmanian students to visit. Her courage and energy is second to none. I don’t think the word “I can’t” is in her vocabulary. I’m still inspired today.

What best career or personal advice?

Be comfortable with uncomfortable and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. I believe it’s the only way we truly learn.

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