Style Chat Interview

From Courier Mail

This is an interview from the Style Chat section and it is about getting to know Dr Paula Barrett a little bit more.

What do you do? Professor of Education, University of Queensland; director, Pathways Health and Research Centre, West End. We develop and research programs to promote life-skills, resilience and social and emotional skills for children and families.

Was 2007 what you expected? It turned out to be very challenging! We learnt a lot.

Highlights? Receiving an Achievement Award from the Lord Mayor for our outstanding services; being a keynote speaker at the World Health Organisation conference in Barcelona; and being a finalist for the Queensland Australian of the Year award.

Lowlights? The hard work and deadlines.

Any big surprises? The wide uptake of our programs by government departments overseas. My daughter turned 24, and five days later was officially admitted to the Supreme Court of Queensland, followed by her surprise wedding to her long-term partner. My son finished Grade 12 and received his school’s Academic Excellence Award. To top it all off I just got two puppies – adorable!

Plans for 2008? Ensuring our new family centre is a success; raising awareness that children don’t need to have a problem to learn social skills. As Dr James Heckman (Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2005) said: “We too often have a bias toward believing that only cognitive skills are of fundamental importance to success in life”.

What will you do differently? To spend more time fundraising and help children in drought-affected and remote areas who don’t have access to the programs.

What do you hope to keep up? Running, bike riding; going to Stradbroke Island.

To give up? Getting discouraged about the lack of awareness of our work here while countries overseas take up our programs.

How do you stay motivated? I read a lot, take on new challenges, meet new families, talk to new schools. It’s very rewarding to hear clients say we made a positive difference.

Secrets for recharging your batteries? Going to the gym, running, swimming, walking my dogs and going to North Stradbroke Island (I breathe differently when I’m there).

What’s hot in 2008? Our new centre near the Mater Hospital, our non-profit trust, and how both projects can make a difference!

Predictions for world events in 2008? If more people take on our programs we’ll have much happier people.

For Australia? Growing emphasis on the importance of our environment; increased use of water tanks and solar power; bike riding and walking more and driving less; a focus on strengthening local communities.

For Brisbane? More emphasis on the importance of education of young children – not just learning to read and write but also resilience, social and emotional skills. I will not give up until this message is widespread. ”

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