By Narelle Coulter
Singer, songwriter and radio host Clare Bowditch ditched her shoes and settled in for a chat at the annual Casey Cardinia Women’s Lunch.
“You don’t have to be one thing, but you have to start with something.”
As those words faded, and the last notes fell from the strings of Clare Bowditch’s guitar, the audience at the Casey Cardinia region women’s lunch broke into applause.
“Maybe today is that little start for you,” Bowditch told her audience.
The singer, songwriter, actor and radio presenter was guest speaker at this year’s Casey Cardinia Women’s Lunch held on Friday 4 August.
Bowditch, mother of three and founder of Big Hearted Business, spoke about her own journey from shy teenager to Aria winning songwriter.
“We are in this room as apparent business people from all different areas, all different walks of life but in actual fact, we’re here to build relationships,” she said, animatedly walking around the stage in a long black dress and cream crochet cardigan.
As she settled into her presentation, Bowditch kicked off her flat black shoes leaving them in the middle of the stage and padding about in bare feet, her toe nails a pale shade of pink.
“The most useful thing that I can do for any of you – besides talk about my fabulous life – which is how it sounds on paper, I can tell you the reality is quite different – but the most helpful things I can do is help you connect to each other.”
She cajoled the audience into connecting with each other by urging them to reveal their childhood dreams to someone they didn’t know saying “in that childhood dream of who you wanted to be is a clue about what you’re good at”.
“What were you good at as a child? What came easily to you? Because in that kernel is the answer to your success as a business person and the answer to your success in your career and the answer to your desire to be happy for God’s sake.
“Many of us are paralysed by the question ‘what is the meaning of my life, what is the purpose?’ It’s a big question to ask, I get it. I’ve been asking it since I was three, four and five years old.”
Bowditch said she knew even as a child that she “wanted to do something that made a difference in the world”.
To achieve that she set her sights on becoming Miss World 1979.
Hospitals were the landscape of Bowditch’s childhood, as she and her family spent years comforting older sister Rowena who died of a rare condition aged seven.
“I knew that I wanted to save her and I thought that if I became Miss World, I would have power and influence. I only worked that out in the last decade. For a long time I judged my childhood dream, I thought; what a shallow bitch.
“But really, in that childhood dream was a desire to do more. I didn’t get to save my sister but I did get that gift that she left me which is, carry on, do the best that you can. You can be powerful in a small tiny little way – she was.”
Bowditch said she always had burning desire to “do something that mattered”.
After finishing school, she stumbled along a path, which included a PR course and call centre work, until anger drove her to pursue her real love – singing/songwriting.
“I thought, I’m angry, why aren’t there people like me out there making music? Why do you have to take your clothes off to be popular in a film clip. So whatever it is that’s burning in you, itching in you, what’s on fire in you, the thing that pisses you off the most is perhaps yet another clue in what your journey is supposed to be in this life. What is the problem that you are yearning to solve?”
Her awakening about her own destiny co-incided with a powerful influence entering her life in the form of prominent Melbourne businesswoman Fabian Dattner.
“I was planning to be a musician at that point. I had no idea why I would need the language of leadership or business, I was just planning to have a hit single, get rich and retire,” she said, laughing.
“But Fabian taught me what it means to understand the different parts of ourselves. She taught me something very important early on, we’re just people. There is no work you and you, you that is not interconnected.“
Ms Bowditch said being a mother “informs everything I know about trying to make a business work”.
She urged the largely female audience to “work out what you need to stay sane” explaining she works four afternoons a week on ABC radio so she can devote another day to writing and singing.
In response to a question about what is on the horizon for her in the next 10 years, Bowditch said she was determined to keep “doing something meaningful” and “survive” her twin sons’ teenage years.
She revealed she was writing a memoir in the hope that her story would inspire other women put aside self-doubt and follow their passions.
“I don’t know if politics is for me, or Miss World, but a girl can dream,” she said, smiling.
“In a nut shell I want to be useful and survive.”
Many of the working mothers in audience said a silent “Amen to that”.