Hugh Chalmers and Deborah Evans

Leading Lights mentoring

Entrepreneur finds that age and experience does matter

A training enterprise and consultancy in the justice sector is growing quickly and confidently with the help of mentoring support from Leading Lights mentor, Hugh Chalmers.

One of the most difficult parts of mentoring is finding the right person or ‘perfect match’.

Hugh Chalmers is a partner in the Corporate and Commercial Law Group of Meyer Vandenberg and heads the Employment and Workplace Relations practice.  With over 30 years’ commercial experience in Sydney, overseas and Canberra, Hugh provides advice and representation on corporate, employment and governance matters to private, public sector and not for profit organisations at all stages of their development.

Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre suggested a mentorship match with Deborah Evans, a Djaru/Gidja woman from the Kimberley region and survivor of the Stolen Generation practices embarking on a new journey to establish her own business for the first time.  

Deb said, “Through mentorship from Hugh, I am confident about the important decisions I need to make to develop Tjilari Justice.”

“I am not sure that I would have started a business if I knew how much work it would be to develop the business structure and systems.”

 “Having worked in legal areas, I have been able to have productive conversations with Hugh around discussions of company structures and contractual agreements.”

Tjilari Justice was founded by Ms Evans in 2013. She is an active participant of the Brilliant Idea program and recipient of an ACT Microcredit loan to help start her business. Ms Evans brought significant experience working in correctional education settings and community legal services to her business idea.

“Being prepared to take risks, getting out there and being seen are important in growing a business.  If I hadn’t taken a risk to fund my first community workshop, the work I am now doing would never have eventuated.” Deb said.

“Becoming an entrepreneur continues to be a steep learning curve for me. It certainly is very different to working in an organisation where things are provided for you,” Deb said. “When you start off as a sole trader, you are alone.  Being able to talk with others about progress and growth is so important. “Having a mentor can provide the opportunity to affirm that you are doing things right and heading in the right direction.”

Hugh said “Deb has broad and unique experience in many areas and a deep understanding of Aboriginal issues which can be of benefit to whole community.  Her decision to start Tjillari Justice as a business already is achieving significant results.  Deb is knowledgeable and committed but is also prepared to seek, listen and act on advice and suggestions.”

A good business mentor is someone who can listen, empathise and provide assistance where appropriate to keep the business moving in the right direction.  Their role is to encourage an entrepreneur to improve their skills and build a successful business.

“Mentors should listen and not preach.”

“One of the most rewarding aspects of being a mentor is how much you can learn, particularly in areas you are not familiar with. There is also great satisfaction for a mentor to see a business grow and adapt to achieve its objectives as Tjillari is doing.”