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Staff spotlight

Sapere welcomes Jeremy Thorpe

The Australian Financial Review featured an article about Jeremy Thorpe, our new Director at Sapere. As our inaugural staff spotlight feature, Jeremy generously shared insights into his career and background, answering a series of probing questions.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
Go with the flow. There will always be challenges in any work project or personal journey, and so it’s critical not to get bogged down by apparent barriers. Step back, reposition, and move forward.

Can you tell me about a project you’re particularly proud of?
I have discussed my work regarding students with disabilities elsewhere.

I was the key expert witness in a case to establish the value of music played in nightclubs in Australia. It was a ground-breaking process because for the first time the Australian Copyright Tribunal considered economic evidence and a choice modelling survey that I led which valued the various attributes that make up a nightclub. This decision led to a significant increase in the license fees paid to recording artists and reshaped the way in which subsequent licensing matters were addressed before the Tribunal.

What’s the most interesting or unexpected skill you’ve acquired?
Making assumptions. For a long time, I worked in a firm dominated by accountants. Accountants are used to working in an environment where everything is absolutely correct and reconciles. It took me some time, but I realised that my superpower was working with uncertainty and the willingness and ability to develop plausible assumptions to help address issues in uncertain contexts. Perfect information is not always available, and the ability to develop plausible assumptions opens up broader perspectives when considering the way forward.

What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had?
Maybe not the job, so much as the location and environment. After high school and before university, I went to Wilcannia in outback NSW as a kitchenhand at the petrol station where the Adelaide-Sydney bus stopped for meals. With a population of fewer than 1000 people it was one of the most socially disadvantaged areas of New South Wales and was riddled with racial conflict – there was the ‘black’ pub and the ‘white’ golf course club, police cars had chicken wire over their windows to minimise the damage when bottles were thrown at them, and buildings were regularly set on fire. It was an eye-opening experience and a contrast to my apparently sheltered upbringing in Adelaide.

What’s something you’re passionate about and why?
Two things, one fun and one more serious …
I am a proud foundation member of the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants team in the AFL. Having moved from Adelaide (via Canberra) I could never bring myself to support the Sydney Swans. So, the establishment of the Giants provided an opportunity to participate in a club from day one, enjoying the initial years of struggle (in the first few seasons if we lost by less than 100 points it felt like a victory!) and the exhilaration of more recent successes (let’s not talk about the 2019 Grand Final!).

Mental health is one of the major challenges facing our society, with one in five Australians aged 16-85 having experienced a mental disorder. For almost 10 years I have been proud to serve on the board of Flourish Australia. Flourish supports around 10,000 people on their mental health recovery journey, providing support under the National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS), supported accommodation and a range of other services.

What’s the most interesting thing about your family history or cultural background?
I was born in what was then called Western Samoa, now just Samoa. My father went as high school principal and my mother as a teacher under the Australian Volunteers Abroad programme. In returning to Australia I had an adopted Samoan sister 18 years my senior!

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Hire people smarter than you.

If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would it be and why?
Putting aside the ‘big’ historical names, it would be the still well and truly alive Richard Posner. A lateral thinker, an eclectic writer and ‘intellectual’, Richard is at least one of the fathers of the modern ‘law and economics’ movement. The ability to think differently and challenge orthodoxy has been an aspiration for me professionally and academically. Give me a call Richard.

Have you ever travelled to a place that changed your perspective on life?
See Wilcannia above.

Can you tell me about a memorable adventure or trip you’ve been on?
Don’t judge me … I am a big fan of the Disney Cruise Line. They know their customers and how to make every journey special for all the family. Cruising is like a buffet where you get to sample lots of little experiences to determine what to come back to later. Some particular cruise memories include the excitement of watching (and feeling the soundwave of) the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral while leaving Port Canaveral, and seeing the white cliffs of Dover and the Swedish archipelago.

Authors who contributed to this article

Jeremy Thorpe