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Different Lives Luncheons Much More than Coffee and Cocktails

By Madeleine Gray on October 5, 2016 in News

Photo: Lachlan Hinds

Photo: Lachlan Hinds

Things have changed a lot since Dolly Parton wrote ‘9 to 5’ back in 1980, but some things have stayed exactly the same: a work-life balance is still hard to achieve, especially if you’re tied to a job that requires long hours spent in an office.

For many years, Eastern Suburbs based real estate agent Mary Howell felt the effects of this conundrum. Instead of simply shaking it off, she decided to do something about it.

In 2005, Ms Howell launched an Eastern Beaches based luncheon series for women attendees called ‘Different Lives’. At each luncheon, a guest speaker gives a talk on whatever it is that their heart desires.

“It’s usually someone who has reached heights or excelled in their field or inspired and overcome great challenges,” Ms Howell explained.

The one criterion given by Ms Howell is that the speaker “must not be someone who just wants to sell something. They simply have to want to part with an experience, or knowledge, or their own take on what is important to them, or how they got to where they did.”

Ms Howell says she was motivated to start the luncheon series when clients and friends would want to catch up, and she realised that a lunch in which everyone could learn something new would be a better alternative to the standard coffee or work cocktail party.

“I don’t want to be one-dimensional and be referred to as ‘that real estate woman’ – I would like to have other strings to my bow,” Ms Howell explained.

Past speakers have included Peter Garrett (who knows all about ‘burning the midnight oil’), journalist and television presenter Mary Moody, and academic and leading feminist cultural commentator Professor Katharine Lumby.

The next speaker will be not-for-profit CEO Lucy Perry. Ms Perry’s resume is intimidatingly full – she is currently the CEO of Sunrise Cambodia, a not-for-profit organisation that gives much-needed help to at-risk kids, struggling families and poor communities in Cambodia.

Ms Perry recently attended a Different Lives luncheon at which Kitty Chiller, the 2016 Chef de Mission for the Australian Olympic team, spoke and she knew immediately that it would be a platform that she could also contribute to.

“What an inspiring story,” she said. “Women need to hear from other strong, successful women to see that it is possible to get the top job and to learn from their experiences.”

Ms Perry will be giving her talk at a luncheon at Bronte Surf Club on October 7, from 12:30pm to 2:30pm.

“I will take guests on a roller coaster ride of fascinating experiences and business learnings from my 20-year career as a master communicator, world changer and trailblazer,” she said.

“Attendees will be able to discover how to do business differently, why fun should be a factor in your strategic plan, and how ordinary people achieve the extraordinary.”

To sign up to the Different Lives mailing list, or to reserve a seat at the next luncheon (tickets for which are $50), email Ms Howell at