In Conversation with Bruce Esplin

Current position and job title?

Self employed – Chair, Regional Arts Victoria, Deputy Chair, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra – working more and more on my sculpture and photography.

100/ 150-word bio on yourself...

I am Chair of Regional Arts Victoria, and Deputy Chair of Melbourne Chamber Orchestra.

I was previously the Victorian Emergency Services Commissioner for 10 years, and have held senior positions in emergency management for over 20 years.

It was my privilege to be awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001 for Public Service in the Emergency Management sector. I was also appointed as a member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day Honours list in 2013 for significant service to the Emergency Management sector.

I am an occasional presenter on radio, as well as a frequent speaker giving talks on leadership, resilience and community engagement.

My real passion now is my photography and my sculpture. I am a passionate advocate and frequent speaker on how art can play a role in assisting both individuals and communities rebuild their lives after trauma, and the relationship of art and creativity to healthy, strong and prosperous communities.

Who (or what) inspires you?

I am inspired by two things:

Firstly, artists/makers and creators – people who have taken a conscious decision to live their lives around their art. Especially those who are consistently pushing themselves to grow, develop their skills, to be better and to take risks.

Secondly, young people in their 20’s and early 30’s. They provide the optimism that is so badly needed in a world that is increasingly lacking political leadership and is so bleak and depressing. They are so much more open, less judgmental and seem to have a more developed social conscience and desire to give back.

How did you get your first break?

I suspect it happened without really thinking about it, just being open to change and challenges, as well as willing to grab opportunities instead of letting them sail past!

Tell us what you are currently working on?

Two things:

I am currently working on a number of pieces for an exhibition of my sculpture. I am also working on some photography projects of my own and the occasional work for others.

I am also undertaking a number of courses to further develop my skills in both sculpture and photography and of course, learning from the university of YouTube!

Any advice for someone wanting to change their career path as you did?

Absolutely, the really impressive people I have encountered in my life – including outstanding leaders – always found time for their other interests. So even if it has to ‘go on the back burner’, never let your interests die – you will need them later!

In a radio interview, I was asked what I was going to do next, and I answered that I felt I was walking into a darkened room and shutting the door behind me – didn’t know where the light switch was – let alone what was in the room! Despite this I was excited by the challenge and the uncertainty. A talk back caller then rang in and extended my analogy, suggesting that I would find that I was in a corridor with many doors and many opportunities – and she was right!

My advice is don’t be afraid of change, listen to your intuition, but do plan and prepare and most importantly, be honest with yourself about what is important to you in life.

I guess I don’t want to slip away with the ‘why didn’t I do this’ question as my last thought – I don’t want to die wondering!

Photography by Roz Esplin.

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