Bernice Hookey on speaking up and delivering change

Bernice Hookey on speaking up and delivering change

Bernice Hookey
Bernice Hookey is making change happen.

Right now, she’s working with a neuroscience brain specialist to develop empowerment programs for girls and women that have endured or are currently experiencing domestic or lateral violence, suicide and depression.

As a domestic violence and suicide survivor herself, Bernice draws on her personal experience to empower others.

“The programs I’ve been developing have been influenced by my lived experiences and now with having a brain specialist be part of the journey, it’s even more growth towards supporting and guiding those impacted,” she tells Women’s Agenda.

She especially works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women through her organisation BLAQ Diamonds.

Last month, Bernice was invited to a round table event with the federal Minster for Women, Marise Payne, to discuss family and sexual violence. For Bernice, it’s important diverse voices with lived experiences are heard.

Bernice is one of our finalists for the 2019 Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards, in the Emerging Changemaker of the year category.

Our finalists are sharing some awesome career wisdom in these Q&As, as well as more on their back story and how they have emerged as a leader. See our growing hub for this content here

Has your career in this field been planned or has it happened by chance?

Yes, going into this field of business was planned. It pulled me towards the empowerment journey because of my own experiences of enduring mental, physical, sexual and emotional violence.

I had this quote by Steve Jobs on my wall and it would be the first thing I’d see every morning when I wake “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

What put you on this path today?

I believed in myself and having experience working in a family business for 13 plus years and also an opportunity to run my own business for 2.5 years. I’ve also had a professional career in the mining industry of more than 18 years. All of this experience  lead to the thought, how can I empower others?

In a space of 4 years, I graduated 3 times. I attained accreditation for financial literacy, cultural competency for suicide prevention symptoms checklist for adult & youth, MURRA Indigenous Business Masterclass Program via the Melbourne Business School, and an e-Leader Leadership Course via the National Rural Women’s Coalition

These all helped my own growth to empower others and be an exemplary role model in a personal & professional way.

What are you working on right now that’s got you really excited?

Four years ago I was extremely suicidal and was in such an extremely dark space. Depression is a silent killer.

Right now I am currently working on developing personal & professional development ’empowerment’ programs in partnership with a neuroscience brain specialist for women/girls that have endured or are currently going through domestic and lateral violence, suicide & depression, especially grief.

The programs I’ve been developing have been influenced by my lived experiences and now with having a brain specialist be part of the journey, it’s even more growth towards supporting and guiding those impacted.

Last month, I got an email with an invitation to the round table meeting to meet with the Hon. Marise Payne, the Minister for Women, to discuss domestic, family & sexual violence, along with other representatives from other areas in and around Metropolitan area of Brisbane for the Fourth Action Plan.

This was a moment that I was excited to be involved in and to be a voice in the conversation. It’s important to include women that have made a difference and to have an opportunity to share their journey.

What’s a key issue facing women in your profession or line of work right now?

The impact that mental health can affect your personal & professional environment and not getting the right support to target the right areas of what is the cause of problem and not to be shame to speak up about any form of violence.

The best tip you’ve been given in your career?

Failure is a learning experience, failure is not about giving up!

How have mentors, sponsors or some other kind of support system aided your career, if at all?

I am still connected with mentors in my professional career and my personal life from over 15 years ago that have helped immensely with my growth on a personal & professional level. Also both my parents -sadly my dad passed last year- but they both played a big role in doing good for themselves and their family. I’ve always been inspired by their grit, determination and self-determination to have respect. They believed if you work hard, you will be rewarded, and that it’s important to have trust.

As well as your career, what other priorities do you juggle?

I am a full time Independent mother to 2 sons, employed full time as a Business Development Officer, a member of the National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC) Communications Reference Group Team, and an active community member as part of an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women’s Yarning Circle in the Townsville area.

How do you manage your wellbeing and stay at the top of your game?

Time spent with my children is important. We go for a walk in the afternoon alternative to doing 2 days a week at a team boot camp, eat healthy, drink lots of water, give gratitude and compliment complete strangers and to not allow for negativity to consume my energy. It’s not worth it to dwell on things that no longer serves a purpose to my wellbeing, or my environment around me.

I focus on taking care of number one – me, myself and I, so that I can stay on top not only for myself for my family and my business.

Where do you currently get news and info regarding your industry and career?

I subscribed about 2.5 years ago to Women’s Agenda and love reading all the up to date news on women’s issues around the world. I am connected to women’s groups in mainstream and the local community. Facebook and LinkedIn keeps me up to date as well.

Got a business or career book or podcast you’d recommend?

A book I recommend is Women Kind by Dr Kirstin Ferguson and Catherine Fox. I first picked up the book when I attended the Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium in Brisbane this year.  The piece in this book that stood out is Kindness is Contagious and so it should be! We should all be much kinder to each other.

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