Williamstown’s Rachael Robertson led an Antarctic expedition in 2005 and wrote a best seller called Leading on the Edge about her experience. She is also an ambassador for Australia Day and R U OK. She speaks with Goya Dmytryshchak.
What’s your connection to Hobsons Bay?
When I returned from Antarctica I became the chief ranger of Port Phillip Bay with Parks Victoria based in Nelson Place. It was an amazing place to work and a great introduction to Hobsons Bay and its people. When I got married and had my son we were looking for somewhere to live that had a strong community spirit, lots of open space, and a great primary school. Williamstown ticked all the boxes.
Tell me a bit about your work in Antarctica.
I led a year-long expedition based at Davis Station. I had 120 people working on the station throughout summer, then they returned home in February and 18 of us remained behind to maintain the site until November. With no way in or out it’s a challenging place to live. The environment is harsh – minus 35 degrees, months of darkness, constant blizzards – but that’s not a patch on living with 17 other people, around the clock, for an entire year. My job as station leader was to bring together a very diverse group of individuals and get them working as a team. Our golden rule was ‘respect trumps harmony’, that is, we won’t always see eye to eye and that’s fine, but we will always treat each other with respect.
What are you passionate about and why?
I’m passionate about broadening our conversations around diversity. We often think of diversity as gender or culture but there are so many other factors including age, religion, sexuality, educational background, stage-of-life, even thinking preferences. People are all different, and that’s wonderful, and we need to respect those differences. I’m also passionate about ‘No triangles’, which is the practice of only having direct conversations, not moaning to a third party. It’s such a simple rule for any team and it builds trust, which was critical for my team in Antarctica – as it is for all teams.
What do you love about Williamstown?
I love the open space and the gentle, friendly pace. It’s not frenetic like some places and there is a real sense of community. People genuinely take the time to get to know other people here. Also, after living in Antarctica for a year I’m pleased to live somewhere with a milder winter.
What would you change about it?
Nothing at all. It’s not perfect for everyone, but for my family and I it’s pretty close to it.
What’s your favourite local cafe/eatery?
The Kiosk d’Asporto on the beach. I could camp out there all day if I didn’t have to work.