Home' InDaily : January 12th 2012 Contents 22
"That is why Scolarest are obliged to give me funds every
year as a sponsor, to support people who are travelling to do
Talk to current and former residents and it is clear that Helen
Fletcher is both a persuasive and inspirational role model.
Kimberly Mackenzie, who comes to Flinders from India via
Dubai, has lived in University Hall and now shares a five-
bedroom unit in the Village with students from Germany,
Sweden, the Netherlands and India.
She is completing a PhD in neuroscience and, as a Residential
Coordinator, provides pastoral care and practical support for 42
fellow residents. The blood charity drive was her idea but she
credits the continuous altruistic spirit of the residents for its
"Helen spearheads that kind of community development and
inspires the residents to take up ideas," Ms Mackenzie said.
"She has a great compassion for such issues," she said.
Patrick Witcombe, from Mildura in Victoria, is about to enter the
fifth year of a combined law/international studies degree.
He lived in University Hall for three years, including stints as
Residential and Senior Residential Tutor. A visit by Geraldine Cox,
operator of the Sunrise Villages for children in Cambodia, to the
Hall was his impetus to volunteer there.
"On my trip to Cambodia in 2009, Scolarest donated $500
towards musical instruments for the children. Those kids
recently got invited to perform at a music festival in Vienna," Mr
"We have this nice partnership with Cambodia now. Two of
Geraldine's children are now students here and we hope to set
up a program where we can take future leaders from the Hall
and Village to give them a life-changing experience," he said.
His years in the Hall, he said, have left their mark.
"It's just a wonderful place. Having moved out, I miss it. It's nice
to see life on the other side but I only enjoy life on the other side
because of this experience. And because I had three wonderful
years here, building friendships, discovering who I was as a
person and working out what I was passionate about," he said.
The sentiments are echoed by Kimberly Mackenzie.
"It kind of moulds you as an individual. You're not sure what
you want to be or even who you want to be when you move
away from home. But this place gives you a lot of opportunities
to discover who you are and what you're passionate about,"
Students are not known for being flush with cash and so it
may not come as much of a surprise to learn that residents of
University Hall and Deirdre Jordan Village, the University's on-
campus accommodation, chose to give what they could -- blood
or plasma -- as part of a recent Flinders Living charity drive.
Their efforts, a total of 65 donations, won them the Australian
Red Cross Blood Service's Residential College Challenge, for the
second year running.
But, as it turns out, the "Hallies" and "Villagers" also tip in
whatever cash they can spare and give in myriad other ways --
packing birthing kits, taking part in Shave for a Cause, running a
World's Biggest Morning Tea -- at the 26 or more charity events
held in-house over the year.
This year, the staff and residents raised $7000 to enable Hall/
Village resident Liam Buckley to attend the International
Bowls for the Disabled World
Championships in Pretoria, South
It is an indication of the ethos of
giving and community-mindedness
that seems to suffuse the place.
Dean of Flinders Living, Helen
Fletcher, has a very matter-of-fact
attitude to the good deeds of
residents and staff.
"We do a ton of fundraising. It's one
of the big themes here: that we are
all very privileged and we have an
absolute obligation to give back to
the community," Ms Fletcher said.
"Part of my philosophy is that
every resident should walk out of
here feeling that they are a global citizen and that they have an
obligation to act as one in the most positive sense," she said.
The high take-up rate to volunteer and to donate, she says,
comes down to relationships between the residents, staff,
tutors and coordinators.
But it also extends, for example, to Flinders Living's relationship
with Scolarest, the Hall's caterer, which won the 2012 national
Restaurant and Catering Award in the Industrial/Institutional
Caterer category -- the first time ever that a university hall of
residence or a university college -- has won such an award,
Ms Fletcher said.
"Everything we do is about relationships and respect and
valuing and celebrating," she said.
Patrick Witcombe and
Flinders Living Lantern Festival
Nick Pontt graduated from Flinders
BA/LLB in 2001 and then worked at
Adelaide firm Norman Waterhouse
within the Dispute Resolution Team
on commercial disputes in the finance/
insolvency and commercial technology
He had a plan to travel the world, taking his career with him.
Whilst studying he had managed a local pub and took from that
experience a rough ambition to work within business at some
future stage. In 2004 he left for London.
Hoping to transition to business within five years of graduation
he found in London it was really tough. Refusing to take no
for an answer he got a private practice, fee-earning role within
a few months. Mr Pontt's advice to anyone wanting to come
straight from Adelaide is if they just want a few months' work
and some experience, fine, but if you genuinely wish to have an
international career, it is amazing how much quicker doors open
if you have eastern states experience on the CV.
Mr Pontt has worked on the high-profile High Court Formula 1
dispute, and at Herbert Smith, one of the world's largest
litigation firms, on the BSkyB v EDS litigation. More recently, he
has been at Manches, as a Senior Associate specialising in City
and cross-border commercial litigation and arbitration, again in
the fields of technology, intellectual property, pharmaceuticals
and financial ser vices.
His experience included working as lead Senior Associate in
an international team in a successful complex international
arbitration under the auspices of the Netherlands Arbitration
Institute against a major global pharmaceutical company for
breach of a licence agreement relating to the development of a
drug (with the amount in dispute in the order of US$2 billion).
"From a personal perspective, living in a fast-paced, forward-
thinking, at times equal parts glamorous, nostalgic, infuriating,
depressing and inspirational City and society which is the
gateway to Europe -- which I see as (currently) the 'world's
cultural hub in terms of fashion, art, literature and politics -- has
also been such a fulfilling experience," Mr Pontt told Encounter.
"I feel that I have learned so much and that taking the first baby
steps to pursue a law degree was the start of this good fortune,"
At 33, Mr Pontt decided not to leverage his experience and
push for a partnership at Manches, but rather to take a shot at
what he had always dreamed of, studying at "Oxbridge". Mr
Pontt sees a "limitless potential of personal and professional
connections offered by a good MBA".
"There are other ways, but for me, the lure of study at Oxford
or Cambridge promises serious academic rigour, exchange of
international views, and learning from and contributing to a
diverse student body of myriad backgrounds and ambitions,
and a connection to a network in Europe which would be
otherwise unavailable," Mr Pontt said.
Doing all the necessary admissions things, he was offered a
place at both but chose Oxford, swayed by the Said Business
School's newly appointed, ex Harvard Dean, the school's profile
in banking, finance, sector-driven business and private equity,
and a scholarship.
"Some people see my step as an unnecessary risk, or potentially
a waste of the work I've put in as a lawyer, but I think there can
only be gain in continued learning, and the MBA is a logical
continuation of and addition to my development as a business
Following the path he has chosen Mr Pontt sees an opportunity
to be realised based on skill, ambition and planning. Whilst
there are risks, these are outweighed by the challenge and the
"The European economy and, in particular London, have
struggled in recent years, and the competitive advantage of
living here and earning the local currency have turned almost
full circle in Australia's favour. If you are adventurous and
seeking to carve out a professional and personal experience in
such a stimulating, cosmopolitan city as London, there simply is
nothing negative about coming over to work and live."
"I'm not alone in looking elsewhere than the law, but in looking
elsewhere, the law and the experience of practising it, is a
superb platform for many other walks of life."
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