In 2022, we’re offering a big welcome to Margie Gillespie as the new President of the Union of the Fleur-de-Lys, which represents our alumni community. Here, Margie tells us why Saturday morning shifts were a challenge in her first job, her advice to new students, and why she knows so much about billiards tables, despite never playing.
For those who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I came to Trinity as a fresher in 1978 while I was studying Arts/Law at Melbourne Uni. I grew up in a close family in suburban Melbourne where my father gave us all a great love of the bush and nature. After I finished my degrees, I became a lawyer and spent three years working in New York in the finance sector, then completed a Master of International Law, including environmental law, at the University of London.
I am a very practical lawyer and love the law as a tool to be used to solve problems. I have been happiest working in-house in both the private sector and, more recently, state government. While my three kids were small, I worked part-time and also did some volunteering and was very involved in ‘Save Albert Park’, including running the police liaison at protests when I was eight months pregnant with my first child!
So, it seemed natural when I joined Parks Victoria as Chief Legal Counsel. Parks Victoria has been a rollercoaster ride of royal commissions, big litigation (bushfire class actions and removal of feral horses) as well as the more mundane matters involved in running a business of 1600 staff and managing some of the most beautiful parts of Victoria.
I am currently leading our response to the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission and feel so lucky to bear witness to what, I am hoping, will be a seismic shift in the way we all relate to our Aboriginal fellow citizens.
I love walking and have climbed Mont Blanc and more recently hiked the 200-kilometre Kerry Way in Ireland, and am looking forward to walking the new Grampians Peaks Trail. I also discovered open-water swimming during lockdown and swam all through last winter with the Port Melbourne Icebergs, even when it got down to eight degrees!
What is your connection to Trinity?
I was a residential student from 1978 to 1980 and 1982 while I studied Arts/Law at Melbourne Uni. While at Trinity I played lots of sports (baseball, rowing and hockey) and was Indoor Rep on the TCAC. I undertook the refurbishment of the billiard room as my project. I learned more than I thought possible about billiard tables. I had the room refurbished and I found a bunch of old photos of sports teams in the Bishop’s tower and had them restored and framed. It was a fun project even though I have no interest in billiards!
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A dog trainer. I still love dogs but have no great talent with them.
What was your first job?
At university, I worked at Discurio/Fine Music on Saturday mornings. It was in a renovated warehouse in McKillop Street (one of the beginnings of the Melbourne laneways) and was a really fun place to work, although, after a big Friday night, first at Naughtons (closed at 10pm) followed by the Royal Oak (late licence), I was probably not a great asset to the sales assistant team.
What’s your favourite movie, book or TV show, and why?
I often think about the novel Tree of Man by Patrick White – his imagery of a life being buffeted and bending like a tree in a gale, a gale that waxes and wanes. I have found it a useful metaphor to put the stresses of life and work into perspective. I am also a big fan of Deborah Mailman in the TV series ‘Total Control’.
How would you describe the function of the Union of the Fleur-de-Lys?
The role of the Fleur-de-Lys is to represent the alumni of Trinity. We receive regular updates from the Warden about how the College is faring, and we are there as a resource to support the Warden and his team.
My main role as president is to chair the committee meetings, but also support the Warden and College as needed.
What do you hope to achieve in this role in 2022?
The celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the College is the highlight of 2022 and I hope the committee can help make this a great success.
What would you say to a new student that’s joining Trinity in 2022?
I loved my time at Trinity. I learned how to learn and made some wonderful friendships. I highly value both my education as well as my Trinity friends, we have now enjoyed each other’s company for over 40 years and have such a deep bond.
So, my advice to those coming to Trinity this year is to participate in as many activities as you can, particularly those that you haven’t tried before, and to spend time developing friendships. They will last you a lifetime!