Linda Apelt: Queensland’s Agent-General of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in London
Linda Apelt is Queensland’s new Agent-General of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We talked about London, careers and how women can benefit from emerging trade and investment links.
I asked Linda to tell me about her upbringing and how it prepared her for a successful international career.
"I grew up in a small rural town in Far North Queensland, Ravenshoe, and moved to Brisbane at the end of high school to study teaching. The Australian government had a system of commonwealth scholarships and I was lucky enough to be the recipient of one of those scholarships. I recall that was a really tough period of my life - moving from a small country town to what seemed to me then to be a really big unfriendly city. That experience built a lot of resilience and that resilience has enabled me to take risks and do things that might otherwise be pretty scary.”
“Since this time, my career has traversed public and private sectors, including experience as a State Government Director-General of a range of portfolios and independent Company Directorships spanning superannuation, urban planning and research, housing and homelessness, education, health and welfare, children’s and disability services, the Screen industry and State library services. In a private capacity, I have been deeply involved in the provision of philanthropic services for people living with disability and disadvantage.”
Linda moved from teaching to succeed in a number of different industries and sectors. I asked what advice she had for women wanting to step outof their comfort zone.
“For me it was coming to a realisation that it is important not to always just play it safe. I could have just continued along the administrative rungs of teaching and education but a deep curiosity enabled me to drop in the deep end into various worlds that were extremely challenging.”
“I made a number of mistakes, but they were some of my most valuable learning experiences. I know I had a couple of roles that I was not as prepared for as I might have been, but I made sure that I worked really hard to become well-prepared and adept at what I was doing. Once again, building resilience helps you problem-solve your way out of what can sometimes be a very uncomfortable situation.”
In terms of gender equality, it's a wonderful - if not belated - achievement that Linda is the first woman to hold the post of Agent-General of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I asked Linda what her new position involved.
"The Queensland Agent-General for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is governed by the Agent-General for Queensland Act 1975. Under the Act, the Agent-General is the representative of the Queensland Government in the United Kingdom.”
“In addition, I have the dual role of Trade and Investment Commissioner for the United Kingdom, Sub-Sahara and Europe. Key responsibilities include promoting and fostering significant investment and export relations between the State of Queensland, the United Kingdom and Europe.”
“Maintaining strong Commonwealth relations, through liaison with the Palace and the range of Commonwealth bodies, is also an important part of my role. Supporting a successful April 2018 Commonwealth Games is an example of a high priority for the Commonwealth.”
Obviously, Brexit is at the forefront of everyone's mind. I asked Linda what excited her about helping to build stronger links between the UK and Queensland as we enter those discussions.
"Trade relations within the context of Brexit policy discussions presents a complex environment which must be monitored closely, so opportunities for Queensland commercial business can be identified and harnessed.”
“It is too early to be definitive about implications for Queensland investment and export opportunities. The United Kingdom is the second largest source of total foreign investment in Australia, which provides fertile ground for commercial activity between trading partners."
I asked Linda for her advice to women on how they can contribute to, and benefit from, new and emerging trade and investment links.
“Readers might be interested to know the Agent-General’s office is working with the Female Founders Mission, which will be in London during November 2017, to put together a program of activities targeted at women in business.”
“Other organisations which readers might be interested to know about include, The Melting Pot, which has pioneered quality co-working since 2007; Entrepreneurial Spark, the world’s largest free business accelerator offering business support to start-up companies; QUT Alumni in London; and The Founders Factory which has a mission to run accelerator and incubator programs for start-up companies.”
“I encourage women who are interested in taking advantage of new and emerging trade and investment opportunities to be part of the relevant established business bodies set up to support trade and investment, including the London Trade and Investment in Queensland (TIQ) Office.”
The Female Founders Mission involves regional women coming to London and networking with start-up communities here. I asked Linda what Australian women would take away from such an event.
“What stands out for me when you come to this region of the world is the power of international networks. Women will get really good exposure to the economies of scale in this corner of the world, which enable more risk-taking which then leads to more learning and development."
“You come to this part of the world and within a small geographical area you just see really large scale businesses taking huge risks and they are able to invest more liberally in research and development.”
Linda is keen to promote young entrepreneurs across the creative arts and commercial sectors. I asked for an example of a young Queensland woman whose work has really impressed her.
“I have come across examples of young entrepreneurs who have been very successful in establishing themselves on the world stage. One example is a QUT Alumnus, Laura Saperstein, founder of Boxxerworld.”
(Readers may wish to read an extract from an interview with Laura here, which is reprinted courtesy of Linda.)
Australian women will know that Queensland is a key player in the global film industry. I asked Linda about her vision for Screen Queensland in terms of the UK and trade.
“Queensland is fast becoming a premier location for screen production in Australia. In the last year Screen Queensland attracted over $200 million worth of screen production expenditure to the Queensland economy and more is in the pipeline. Much of this investment has come from attracting blockbuster film production from the United States.”
“Queensland has proven it can support major investment in film with key studio infrastructure on the Gold Coast, Brisbane and regional locations, and a pipeline of local talent which can be tapped for productions. I encourage UK and European screen production companies to consider Queensland as a film-friendly location for investment and production.”
Finally, I asked Linda about how she was experiencing London.
“It’s fascinating to meet the diversity of people here in London. Every weekend there is something amazing on that anybody can participate in. For example, I went along to the Frieze art and cultural event on the weekend which was absolutely amazing and I know next weekend there will be something else.”
“The arts and cultural side of this part of the world holds extreme interest for me. We have got the British Film Festival on at the moment and there are a whole range of art fairs happening here just in London. I love it.”
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