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Slattery, now in her early 40s, and the mother of two small children, was born in Melbourne - the oldest of six children. Her father started his own business – he’s a quantity surveyor – when Slattery was seven, while her mother had returned to high school teaching two years earlier.

A catholic girls’ high school proved limiting in terms of access to strong science teachers and mentors, something Slattery still regrets, but did hone a love of literature and the arts. (She is married to Adrian Collette, head of Opera Australia who she first met while working in publishing).

Asked to nominate a role model, it’s Slattery’s paternal grandmother who has just turned 90 who makes the grade. She had eight children and started her career at 48, when she established neighbourhood centres in Victoria that brought migrant Vietnamese women and local women together.

“It was in an area where the Vietnamese influx was at its height – there were these massive looms;  the Vietnamese women would teach the Anglo women how to weave and they would teach them English – it was about keeping people’s skills and respect up.” And making those all-important connections.

Despite the challenges of juggling new parenthood and a business, Slattery confesses to still being fascinated by technology, often favouring the big hard areas of technology such as robotics over the often frothier consumer sector. She’s the only person I know who wanted to throw an SKA party when Australia won the right to host part of the Square Kilometre Array radio-telescope project.

“I’ve always been attracted to the ugly tech side. I think it’s cleverer – and that’s where I find the challenge – I’m happy to deal with companies getting their $50,000 or $100 grand or $1 million – but how do you get the $10million to do something that’s really fundamental?

“The SKA – that’s so exciting – when you get techies, they have such amazing capacity to make something clever – but there’s the gap to the real world. I would love to get more involved in that – the commercialisation side interests me. There should be more incentives for people to be risk takers – should be more incentives for more of our super money to go towards more of the things Australia can do.

“I don’t understand how we can have a Future Fund that doesn’t invest in risky stuff – even one tiny percent of a percent could make such a difference.”


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Beverley Head

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Beverley Head is a Sydney-based freelance writer who specialises in exploring how and why technology changes everything - society, business, government, education, health. Beverley started writing about the business of technology in London in 1983 before moving to Australia in 1986. She was the technology editor of the Financial Review for almost a decade, and then became the newspaper's features editor before embarking on a freelance career, during which time she has written on a broad array of technology related topics for the Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Boss, BRW, Banking Day, Campus Review, Education Review, Insite and Government Technology Review. Beverley holds a degree in Metallurgy and the Science of Materials from Oxford University and a deep affection for things which are shaken not stirred.