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Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Damien Tudehope, on what makes a successful life

“What makes for a successful life?”’ was the question that Damien Tudehope, the Liberal Member for the seat of Epping, posed to the Warrane boys at the Wednesday Formal Dinner on 1 March 2017. Would it be earning a lot of money; achieving great status; having a good circle of friends? These could all be part of it, he suggested, but certainly not all of it.

“You’re probably at an age where you don’t even think about whether your life has been successful,” said Tudehope to the boys. “When in university, you’d mark success by short-term goals. When you get to my age, you look back and sort of say, what have you done or achieved in life? If someone was assessing my life now, would they say it’s a successful life? There are always things in life where you can look back and say you could have done better… but in the balance, your successes are more than your failures.”

Damien entered parliament at 63 years old – a far cry from the path of a career politician who might make their debut in their late twenties or early thirties. But by all means, his life is a successful one – a good education, an interesting and varied career, a lasting marriage and nine children.

“I happen to think that I have had an extremely fortunate life,” said Tudehope. “I have had a life that is unremarkable, and yet if I look back on the worthwhile things that have occurred, I would think that I have been very fortunate. And the fortunate part of life starts with good parents. I had excellent parents and was one of nine children, and we lived in a small country town…”

The third child in the family, he started boarding school at age five – considered by his parents the best educational tool on the market at the time. High school was at a good country school, and after a gap year he was off to study Arts/Law at Sydney University. Here, he met a number of people who went on to have very successful roles – including Malcolm Turnbull, who was already planning on being the Australian Prime Minister.

Post tertiary studies, Tudehope got a job at a suburban practice, where he was involved in a number of impressive cases and eventually became a partner.

“Don’t only go for jobs that pay big bucks,” Tudehope advised the boys. “Some big companies will exploit new graduates and turn you against your passion… Go for the job that offers you the best opportunities. Whether that means starting low, it gives you the opportunity to pursue the passion you have for the career you’ve chosen.”

After a 32-year legal career, Greg Smith became the Attorney General of NSW and asked Tudehope to be his Chief of Staff – and three years later, Tudehope was pre-selected for his seat.

“I think the mark of a successful life,” finished Tudehope, “is if you enjoy getting up every morning; and I can’t think of a day in my life where I didn’t enjoy getting up and going to work. So I’m grateful for all of that.”

[Warrane College offers more than just accommodation to students at UNSW: details of other guest speakers are available here]