Sue O’Rourke - Venue Manager, Figtree Conference Centre

Sue is the consummate professional at the centre of Flourish Australia’s social enterprise success story – Figtree Conference Centre

As Venue Manager of Figtree Conference Centre, Sue O’Rourke is the cornerstone of Flourish Australia’s successful social enterprise venture.  The role is a demanding one, which entails supporting individual staff and maintaining the financial viability of the venue.  So personable yet extremely efficient Sue balances the needs of the people she employs with the need to deliver a level of professionalism expected of a state-of-the-art event facility.

The conference centre is first and foremost a professional event facility and must be competitive to stay in business but it is also a workplace where there is a greater investment to be made in staff members. Sue sees her role as being to not only deliver beyond expectation for the clients that entrust their events to her team but to create opportunities with each event for her staff to develop skills and confidence in themselves as they work toward open employment.  She strives to give businesses every incentive to make a real social impact by making a carefully considered choice to book Figtree’s facilities. The responsibility rests with her to convert enquiries to bookings and ensure client satisfaction to secure return business.

For the people who work there, Figtree Conference Centre is a gateway to gaining open employment and participating in the community and Sue sees first-hand the profound difference that having meaningful employment makes to their lives.  In her recruitment process, she gives equal consideration to the difference that working as part of a team will make to the individual as she does to what they can contribute to Figtree. She finds social enterprise exciting and feels privileged to be part of a workplace that gives people an authentic experience of social inclusion.

Early in her career life, Sue’s career choices revolved around her most important calling; that of being a mother. She worked as a Production Manager for an inner-city clothing manufacturer before making a tree change to Bega with her partner where for 25 years, she ran the family’s agri-business of beef cattle, vineyard and winery while putting in part time hours with admin support for RichmondPRA and book keeping for another business. All this while raising three active children at home. So many commitments meant that it took Sue ten years to attain her Bachelor of Science degree and she still feels a real sense of achievement for having persisted with pursuing that goal for herself.

Sue’s professional aspirations changed once her children became independent and she jumped at the opportunity to trade four jobs for a full-time position in the mental health sector with RichmondPRA, back in 2014. 

Now, as Flourish Australia’s Venue Manager, she still thrives on the buzz of being busy, organising events and applying her meticulous attention to detail to keeping the conference centre looking immaculate and operating like clockwork. A massive amount of coordination goes into reconciling the needs of individual employees; such as making allowances for important appointments, while ensuring that all aspects of event preparation have been attended to.  Glowing client testimonials are a tribute to Sue and the team’s ability to bring it all together. 

With the support provided to employees comes quite high expectations, which is all part of preparing them for the demands of future employment. Sue herself is well regarded for remaining open to constructive criticism in the interests of continually improving the service offering and staff capabilities.  The challenge of keeping so many balls in the air has taught her that when things go wrong, appointing blame to yourself or anyone else achieves nothing.  Instead, she calmly and critically reviews the contributing factors and invests her energy into coming up with solutions that will bring about better outcomes in the future.

Sue considers her current role to be the reward of many years of hard earned experience.  At Figtree Conference Centre, she draws upon everything she has learned in the course of a varied career path - the book keeping skills; the resilience she developed as a small business owner and the understanding she acquired working in Mental Health.

Working on new projects each day and meeting professionals from so many different fields keeps Sue inspired and she holds great admiration for the Figtree Conference Centre team who consistently mange to dig deep and achieve great results for the events they run. Among the many rewarding moments of her work day is hearing team members say they can’t wait to get to work and be welcomed by their peers.  It’s the very foundation of what Peer Work at Flourish Australia is all about and Sue sees the ripple effect as her staff support each other through their mental health issues, share their stories during break times and cheer one another on when they kick a life goal.

It’s work that brings such a sense of purpose for Sue as she shares a part of each person’s journey with them.  She encourages anyone struggling with an important life decision to reflect and remind themselves of how far they’ve travelled already and take stock of how much they’ve achieved, to help keep the consequences of any decision they might make in perspective.

“One of my life learnings has been to really give people my time and let them know that they are important to me, that I am interested in them and that they are really valued,” Sue reflects.  She sees a need for society as a whole to do the same by working together toward genuine inclusion.   

“Think globally, act locally” has become Sue’s mantra and she commends Flourish Australia’s commitment to modelling and advocating for non-discriminatory practices in their own workplace and the communities they serve.

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