THRIVHER INTERVIEW: JEAN HAY AM

Updated: May 21, 2018


Thrivher Achievements:

  • Served as an Australian local government politician.

  • Mayor of Manly Council from 1999 to 2004

  • Was the last mayor of Manly from 8 September 2008 to 12 May 2016



Thrivher Dive

  • Can’t start the day without: Listening to the 5:00 a.m. news followed shortly by a cup of tea

  • Best read for growth: I'm a fan of Tom Keneally’s books and I particularly like Napoleon’s Last Island. It’s about when Napoleon was banished and sent off to St. Helena's.

  • Most effective productivity tool: When I was working in council I had an excellent E.A. who really helped me.

  • Non-negotiable: Probably one of my failings is I can’t say no. I’ve always put my duty to the community ahead of myself and probably to the detriment of my family. I’ve always felt that when you take on a job you have to do it well.

  • Top music track of all time: Anything by Rod Stewart.

  • Mindful habits: Not really any but three times a week I try to go to Curves ladies gym.

  • I’m most afraid of: Back in 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I think once you have been down that path and had all the treatments, you’re just so grateful that you’re still around to see your grandchildren grow up.

  • Go-to for fun: Watching the Sea Eagles play – I’m a mad supporter.

  • I’m originally from: Sydney, Australia, and now live in: Sydney, Australia





THRIVHER MOVES:


How did your career start?

I left school when I was 15 years old. I went to Cremorne Girls High which was a selective school, but unfortunately in those days, the same store wasn’t put on girls furthering their education. My education only really began after school.


I was married at 18, and very soon afterwards my husband began his career in local politics. At 19, I became the Deputy Mayoress at Manly (Sydney, Australia). Further down the track my husband became Mayor and then he went into State politics and was Minister for Local Government and Planning. It was at this point that many people approached me to suggest I stand for Council because I had been so involved with the community. That’s how it all started.



Had you always had an interest in politics before you met your husband?

Honestly, no! My husband wasn’t particularly interested either at the time. When he ran for Council he was only 25 and I was 18, it was actually his father who convinced him to do it. The Mayor at the time was a friend of my husband’s father, and he suggested the idea. So I suppose really we fell into politics. Of course, my husband then became very interested and went on to become Mayor. Through association I became Mayoress, which was a significant role in the community in those days which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was through my work in that role that led me to running for Mayor myself.



How did your career progress once you became a Councilor?

My main passion or driving force was my love for Manly. It’s a wonderful place to live and I’ve had the fortune of living here all my life. I think because it’s such a wonderful place and I feel so lucky to live here, I just wanted to give back as much as I could.


I think because it’s such a wonderful place and I feel so lucky to live here, I just wanted to give back as much as I could.


The catalyst that finally pushed me to run for Mayor in 1999 was the fact that the previous Mayor had opposed the Children’s Hospice and so many people felt that I had done such a great job getting that through, that I should run for Mayor myself – so I did. I’ve ended up being Manly’s longest serving Councilor and Mayor.



What were the biggest challenges you were faced with?

When you are in politics, unfortunately there's always other people playing politics. Quite often you can come up with a fantastic idea, but if there are people set against you, they won’t support the idea purely because it’s yours. Nevertheless, I’m very proud of all the things I did achieve.


Ultimately, if you think what you’re doing is right and you know it’s going to be the biggest benefit for the community, you just have to keep your nerve and stick to your guns.


Ultimately, if you think what you’re doing is right and you know it’s going to be the biggest benefit for the community, you just have to keep your nerve and stick to your guns.



Were there any aspects to your role as Mayor that you didn’t like?

I suppose the only thing (and most people who are involved in politics would probably say the same thing) is that there's a lot of backstabbing and it can get quite nasty. I didn’t like that aspect of the job.



How do you learn to deal with that sort of behaviour?

It’s best to try to ignore it. Unfortunately, that’s what politics is like at all levels – local, state and federal. People are always trying to pull the rug out from under each other. It’s particularly sad to see it in local government, because you’re there for your community and everybody should just be doing whatever’s best for them.


I think over the years you develop a thick skin and in politics, it’s important to not let things get you down. If I had, I would have quit politics twenty years ago! You just have to rise above it and remember the bigger picture.


I think over the years you develop a thick skin and in politics, it’s important to not let things get you down.


Who have been your biggest supporters of your career?

Looking back to when I first became Deputy Mayoress at just 19, I can assure you that I didn’t have a clue. The Mayoress at the time was a top businesswoman and she really took me under her wing. Anything that she did, she always included me in. She nurtured my interest in working for the community and gave me the know-how to do it. I was very lucky to have her as my mentor, she was a very intelligent, on-the-go woman.


Also my husband, it really helped that politics was something we were able to share together, because of the long hours involved could have put a real strain on our marriage. But instead it was a real partnership.


I've been very fortunate that I've had some wonderful friends who always supported me and we’re still friends now. We recently celebrated our 60th Wedding anniversary and they were all there to celebrate with us.


The long hours involved could have put a real strain on our marriage. But instead it was a real partnership.


What has been the biggest highlight of your career?

When I see what Bear Cottage gives to those children and their families, I feel certain that the best thing I ever did was to go out and be a champion for it and making sure it was built in Manly. Bear Cottage is the first and only hospice for children with life-limiting illnesses in the State. It’s a very special place and a cause very close to my heart.


When I see what Bear Cottage gives to those children and their families, I feel certain that the best thing I ever did was to go out and be a champion for it.


In 1998, I was awarded an Order of Australia for the work that I have done in particular for Children’s Health Projects and that felt wonderful for the work I truly valued to be recognised. (I was involved with 3 major health projects on the Northern Beaches; Bear Cottage, Life Education and Sunnyfield.)





THRIVING AND KICKING:


What are the three personality traits that you think have enabled you to live out a purposeful life?

I’m a people person. I also like honesty and I can’t stand hypocrites. I’ve got a very determined personality and I would never ever want people to think that I shirk my responsibilities.


I had a little something that I stood by - I used to say "get up, dress up, and show up" That probably describes me well. Even when I had cancer and I was going through all the treatment and having chemotherapy, some days I felt like death warmed up, but I never ever missed going to a meeting or an event over that whole two year period.


Get up, dress up, and show up.


If you could go back to your twenties and give yourself one piece of career advice that you have learned over the years, what would it be?

Politics is a tough game to be in. I would say you’ve just got to learn to rise above it and as long as you believe you are doing the right thing, that’s all you really can do. Above all, what I learnt on the job, was that I had to be resilient.


Above all, what I learnt on the job, was that I had to be resilient.


For women reading this interview, who want much more from their career, what advice would you give them?

I can’t imagine there is anything worse than getting up every day and performing a job that you hate. Gone are the days when a person would get into a job and simply remain there until retirement. Go out and try different careers, regardless of what you may have studied at university. Broaden your horizons and expand your mind!


So, I would encourage women, perhaps if they are a little bit nervous about taking a new role or leadership position, to take a course to help assist with that. It's no good just sitting on your laurels, you’ve got to get out and work for it!





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