The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page - WORDS// ROZ PUL­LEY PIC­TURES // BLUE CLICK PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

She had no idea at the time, but a teenage An­drea Tunjic was al­ready pre­par­ing for her fu­ture role while still in the school­yard. A stu­dent at Melbourne’s Kil­breda Col­lege — a Catholic school for girls — oth­ers of­ten turned to her with their prob­lems.

“It might be a boy prob­lem, a fam­ily prob­lem,” says the 47-year-old au­thor, busi­ness men­tor and 2015 Cairns Small Busi­ness Woman of the Year.

“I got a bit of a rep­u­ta­tion for mak­ing peo­ple feel good about them­selves. I just helped them look at their sit­u­a­tion in a dif­fer­ent way. I’d em­power them. It was fun for me. It still is.”

The en­ter­pris­ing au­thor of Peo­ple Power and founder of busi­ness con­sul­tancy Peo­ple Strong be­lieves her fam­ily back­ground helped her iden­tify is­sues and come up with so­lu­tions.

“We had a lot of chal­lenges at home and I had to learn to be re­source­ful. When I knew some­thing worked for me, I could share it with some­one else and that made me feel good. It’s re­ally im­por­tant for me to feel happy. It’s No 1.

“I’ll go to any sem­i­nar, read ev­ery book I can so I can in­flu­ence my own hap­pi­ness.”

An­drea’s par­ents ar­rived in Aus­tralia as refugees from Yu­goslavia, meet­ing at English classes in Melbourne’s St Kilda.

“My mum was only 17. She es­caped from a labour camp into Ger­many. She had quite a har­row­ing jour­ney. Half of her fam­ily ended up in Canada and half in Aus­tralia. They were not sure who was go­ing to make it.

“As­sim­i­la­tion was tough. My dad had some failed busi­ness ven­tures that he took hard and my mum lost a hand in a fac­tory ac­ci­dent at 19. She had one child and was preg­nant at the time. She brought up five kids with one hand. It’s re­mark­able stuff.”

An­drea says that tenac­ity rubbed off on the chil­dren — all born in Aus­tralia and brought up bal­anc­ing the best of both cul­tures.

“Our par­ents love Aus­tralia. We were given Aus­tralian names. We didn’t speak a dif­fer­ent lan­guage at home.

“We were re­ally en­cour­aged to be Aus­tralians.

“I had no sense they were strug­gling as much as they were. They did ev­ery­thing they could to sup­port us. We were the only ‘wogs’ in the sub­urb and it was all part of their view, they had made the de­ci­sion to be Aus­tralian.”

While ed­u­ca­tion was im­por­tant, gen­der was a non-is­sue, An­drea says.

“My dad had four girls and one boy, so we were en­cour­aged to be strong women and the best that we could be.”

Mar­ket­ing stud­ies at Swin­burne Univer­sity in Melbourne failed to ex­cite An­drea, who joined her sis­ter in Dar­win, re-en­rolled at uni and im­mersed her­self in po­lit­i­cal stud­ies and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

“I loved it. I be­came stu­dent union pres­i­dent and did some fan­tas­tic stuff in In­done­sia on be­half of the univer­sity.

“We were try­ing to cre­ate an in­for­ma­tion ex­change be­tween our univer­sity and five pro­vin­cial uni­ver­si­ties in In­done­sia — to get more books into their li­braries, help them think about hav­ing stu­dent unions, more fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tives and a sport­ing ex­change,” she says.

It was An­drea’s first in­volve­ment with the union move­ment.

“My par­ents had noth­ing to do with unions. I didn’t know what they were,” she says.

Back in Melbourne, she was snapped up by the Fi­nance Sec­tor Union, and af­ter mov­ing to Bris­bane, the Na­tional Union of Work­ers.

“That was great. I loved it. That’s where I met my part­ner. He was sec­re­tary. We’ve got a lot of com­mon val­ues.”

Switch­ing to the other side of the ta­ble af­ter seven years, An­drea joined the cor­po­rate sec­tor. “I’d al­ways been on the em­ployee side of the fence and wanted to be a con­sul­tant, but re­alised I didn’t have enough un­der­stand­ing of what it meant to be a man­ager or boss, so I went into hu­man re­sources.

Later head­hunted by some­one she used to ne­go­ti­ate against, she worked in in­dus­trial re­la­tions at the Civil Avi­a­tion Safety Author­ity. “I quickly de­cided I wanted to be do­ing more lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment and im­prov­ing the abil­ity of lead­ers to bring out the best in their staff,” she says.

“Be­cause I knew what was go­ing on in the minds of staff and also knew what was go­ing on in the minds of man­agers, I could tell man­agers what they could do to bring out the best in their peo­ple or what they were do­ing that didn’t work. They just couldn’t see it.”

Mov­ing to Cairns in 2009, An­drea has been able to ap­ply that knowl­edge di­rectly to her own busi­nesses, Pizza Ca­pers Brins­mead and con­sul­tancy firm Peo­ple Strong.

“I went out on my own and started my own con­sul­tancy. I thought, ‘I’m ready’. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I know how to make a dif­fer­ence.”

That in turn led to her first book, Peo­ple Power: How to ac­ti­vate, en­er­gise and in­spire the most valu­able as­set in your busi­ness. “It’s all about how to bring out the best in your staff.”

There are other irons in the fire, in­clud­ing a new web­site to help bosses and em­ploy­ees cre­ate a bet­ter, hap­pier work en­vi­ron­ment. “On re­flec­tion, I was do­ing this as a girl. “There’s such a strong pull within me to help peo­ple feel good, but in an em­pow­ered way that leads to or­gan­i­sa­tions be­ing more suc­cess­ful.”

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