The founder of OzHarvest discovered her calling at 52, when she started the food rescue charity. Here’s what she’s learnt about life along the way.
1. TRUST IN MY GUT INSTINCT IMPLICITLY
It’s guided me well throughout my life. In fact, OzHarvest was born out of it. I was working in the hospitality industry and seeing thousands of kilos of good food go to waste. It was a gut instinct to say, “What if I could take that food and feed it to hungry people?”
2. IT’S OUR DUTY TO ADD VALUE TO SOCIETY
The seeds of this idea were sown while I was growing up in apartheid-era South Africa, where the values I was hearing in my home were not embodied in my country. It was that notion of, “What could I do?” I only put my big duty into action many years later with OzHarvest. We’ve now delivered more than 165 million meals to people in need across Australia. That impact is enormous.
3. MY BIOLOGICAL AGE HAS NO BEARING ON HOW I LIVE, ACT AND FEEL. It’s the age I feel between my ears that counts… and I still think I’m a teenager!
4. MY CHILDREN AND EXTENDED FAMILY ARE THE LIFEBLOOD that used to be the only thing that motivated me. And then, as my circle and my relationships extended, and as I got deeper into the community I serve, those deeper relationships fired me up, too. They’re the reason I do what I do.
5. I TACKLE CHALLENGES HEAD ON and try to understand how to overcome them. They don’t daunt me. They test me.
6. LEADERSHIP, TO ME, IS ABOUT BEING REAL
It's about living and acting rather than talking and preaching. It's about putting yourself in other people's shoes. Jacinda Ardern, to me, exemplifies great leadership.
7. KEEPING PHYSICALLY ACTIVE IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME
I feel that when the energy flows within my body through walking, swimming or yoga, it allows me to think better. That’s my best meditation time; it’s when ideas come. It’s because everything’s flowing.
8. WHEN YOU’RE FULLY ALIGNED WITH YOUR VALUES, it becomes impossible not to stand up and use your voice for what you believe in. I learnt this [as a child in South Africa] from my neighbours Jules and Selma Browde. They were activists [working to change apartheid]. They were wonderful role models.
9. EVERY DAY I LEARN SO MUCH FROM THOSE AROUND ME, from my children, grandchildren, colleagues, staff and friends. The more curious I get, the more I learn.
10. FOR MY MENTAL HEALTH, IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE A PURPOSE BIGGER THAN MYSELF. It keeps me feeling buoyant, positive and healthy.
Ronni’s interview appears in the February/March issue of Prevention. Her new book, A Repurposed Life (Murdoch Books, $32.99), is out now.