Where are they now? Andrea Christie-David (1997)

Where are they now? Andrea Christie-David (1997)

I began my time at Pymble as a bright-eyed Year 7 student, having come from a small Catholic primary school in Castle Hill. The vast grounds, the new faces, and the fact that the school catered for all ages, was more than a little overwhelming. It didn’t take long, however, for me to establish some lovely friendships, whose companionship remains with me to this date.

My favourite subjects at school revolved around languages. I enjoyed English, Drama (including extra-curricular Speech & Drama), Italian and French. I maintained my interest in languages during my first university degree where I continued my Italian studies and picked up Indonesian at Macquarie University. My second degree was in law at the University of Technology, Sydney, where I studied in the evening whilst working full time as a paralegal at Clayton Utz. I was fortunate to be mentored by an impressive senior litigator who took me under his wing and gave me exposure to High Court cases and interesting tribunal matters, and he remains a mentor of mine to this day. During uni breaks I also volunteered at the Redfern and Inner City Legal Centres, where I provided advice to individuals who could not afford legal representation. This was my first taste of using my skills to contribute to the community and improve equality, access and justice.

Upon being admitted as a solicitor, I moved into in-house legal roles, which gave me exposure to a variety of corporate dealings, such as contract negotiation, privacy disputes, property and advertising. Although this commercial work was interesting, my deep passion for social justice was not going away, and I decided to return to university to study a Master of International Law, which gave me the chance to go to the United Nations in New York to complete an internship during the General Assembly. This was one of the most memorable experiences of my career, where I worked with international heads of state, wrote reports for the Secretary General, and advocated for employees of the UN in front of a NSW Supreme Court judge at the UN Disputes Tribunal, all while being able to use my diverse language skills.

Once I returned to Australia, I took up roles in academia, teaching law at Macquarie, Griffith, and ANU. But again my passion for working directly with individuals who were in vulnerable or complex circumstances remained and I returned to the community legal sector as the principal solicitor of a Community Legal Centre and then joined a startup social enterprise within The Salvation Army. The social enterprise was the first of its kind in the world, with a commercial law firm that funded a pro- bono law firm, and I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to run the pro-bono firm, which operated across three states and delivered legal advice to hundreds of people each week. We also took on cases for those who couldn’t afford a lawyer in the areas of migration law, child protection, family law, domestic violence, homelessness, and other areas of humanitarian and human rights law.

During my time at The Salvation Army, I had three children (under the age of three), which then gave me a business idea. I saw a gap in the early childhood sector and wanted to give families like mine the chance of accessing quality early learning in the comfort of their own home. The model then became popular with children who had complex needs and we became an NDIS provider and a Certified B Corporation. We operated on remote cattle stations, supported children with rare genetic disorders, and families experiencing serious medical conditions. Just three years after establishing the business I was approached by the largest ASX listed provider to acquire the business, and was then appointed to their executive team, where I brought a lens of inclusion and child-led decision making to the leadership team. I then expanded the business to offer therapy to children in their homes, early learning centres, and primary schools, which enabled children and their families to access early intervention when they really needed it.

I found myself identifying areas of inequality and injustice in this new sector, and I used my legal skills to advocate to government for policy that benefitted some of the most marginalised members of our community. I was invited to appear at government inquiries, I wrote submissions to all levels of government, and I am now called upon to share my expertise in inclusive practices in the social sector.

Having now moved on from the business I established, I remain engaged on various boards, including as a director of Relationships Australia NSW, the OpenField Arts Festival, and the Illawarra Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre; I mentor startup founders; and I work with private equity and venture capital firms to support the growth and success of their investments.

I am carefully considering which direction I want the next stage of my career to go, but I am grateful to have been given various opportunities to bring my passions, my commercial skills, and my strength in advocacy together to benefit society as a whole and achieve positive impact across diverse industries. In the meantime I am enjoying life on the South Coast of NSW, taking in the fresh ocean breeze and the rolling mountain ranges, with my beautiful husband Brendan and our three girls.