It has been 13 years since Terry Bracks AM founded Western Chances in 2004. As a former teacher, and wife of the Premier of Victoria at the time, Terry wanted to use her position of influence to make a difference in her own community. Her enthusiasm and passion for working with young people grew from a series of circumstances and opportunities.
“I think that like many people my age I just sort of ‘fell into’ teaching,” she explains “it was a golden time when teaching studentships gave you an income whilst studying and tertiary education was free. Saying that, I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a teacher and loved working with young people.”
Terry took that love of working with young people and ran with it. After discovering the program Chances for Children in Mildura, that provides financial support and mentoring for young people, Terry saw the need for a similar program in Melbourne’s west. 13 years on, she feels that Western Chances is needed now, more than ever.
“The west has grown, and continues to grow enormously since the launch of Western Chances.”
While the west has grown considerably, Western Chances has also evolved under Terry’s strong leadership.
“Western Chances has grown from a small organisation relying heavily on its volunteer board to run it to a very professionally run organisation with a team of very dedicated, passionate staff led by one of the best CEO’s in the not for profit area in Melbourne.”
Outside of Western Chances, Terry is an accomplished woman with an impressive list of credentials.
As well as being the current Chair of Western Chances, she also spends much of her time in arts governance, on the board of the Melbourne Theatre Company and as a patron of the Heide Museum and Art Gallery and the Williamstown Literary Festival.
When asked why the arts plays such a significant role in her professional life, Terry responds:
“The arts help to capture and often explain the essence of the world around us, and also provides a medium to lose yourself in.”
As well as her voluntary roles, Terry is also committed to improving communities abroad and is currently serving as the Executive Officer of Balibo House Trust. The organisation was founded in honour of the Balibo Five – five Australian journalists who were murdered in Balibo by Indonesian soldiers at the height of the Indonesian invasion of Timor Leste over 40 years ago. It is dedicated to improving the lives of people in Balibo and its work includes a dental clinic, museum and of course – support for education.
“My partner Steve has had a long association with Timor Leste and through this I have visited Timor and Balibo many times. When a part time position came up working for the Balibo House Trust I was fortunate to be appointed to that role.”
Despite her many and varied roles, her big dream for the future is firmly rooted in Western Chances.
“My Big Dream, which happens to be Western chances related, is that in the future we have a vibrant and active alumni supporting each other and supporting future scholarship recipients and that a future Chair and possibly CEO are former Western Chances scholarship recipients.”
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