Women In Media: Charmaine Moldrich, CEO, Outdoor Media Association

Women In Media: Charmaine Moldrich, CEO, Outdoor Media Association
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In our latest instalment of great Women In Media, today B&T talks to none other than OMA boss, the infallible outdoor stalwart, Charmaine Moldrich. Here, Moldrich talks her hippie roots, being a mum at 19 and the very real possibility she has Tourette’s Syndrome…

 I left Sri Lanka at 13 when Colombo was really happening…
It was the 70s and all of the hippies and the travellers were just starting to make it there. It was very crowded and cosmopolitan. We had a carefree and comfortable life in Colombo but arrived in Perth dirt poor. Our standard of living really changed and it felt like a backwater. I didn’t fit in. At school they asked things like how come I spoke English so well – English was my first language in Sri Lanka! And ‘was I betrothed to be married?’ I remember sitting in the class and watching a film on India and going, ‘oh, that’s what they’re being taught.’ Once, I did that and knew why they were asking me those dumb questions, rather than coming home to my mum and going, ‘they’re the barbarians, they don’t know anything,’ I kind of went, ‘oh, you’re asking me this question because that’s what you have been taught in your social studies classes.’

I was accepted to university but threw it all away to run away to far north Queensland with some hippie dude that I met hitchhiking…
Living on the edge of the desert in Perth didn’t suit me – I yearned for the tropics so we ran away to Queensland, north of Daintree, and lived on a subsistence farm, growing our own food and kind of doing the hippie thing. It was hard but also a period of my life that I always go back to in my head. It was life-affirming and changing. I became a mum at 19 and moved to South Australia because it was the only state where you could have a legal home-birth. My family, horrified at my unmarried status, thought I was very out there. I think I still am a little bit. I don’t think I’ve lost those qualities of risk-taking. I’m really happy to live on the edge. I think the best thing that happened to me personally was having my daughter. She kind of made me, and in a way, we grew up together.

When opportunity knocks, I grab it…
In retrospect I wonder whether this somewhat lackadaisical attitude shows a lack of planning but I’m happy where it has lead me. I think when people have said, ‘oh, I think you’ll be really good for this job,’ I’ve gone, ‘yeah, I’ll give it a go.’ Off I go, and then that leads to the next thing. Sometimes I feel as if, when you look at my CV, you go, ‘wow. What was your career path?’ I admire people with planned and un-chaotic lives because mine is not like that.

If I wasn’t doing this job, what I’d like to be doing is working for the UN…
I’ve always wanted to work for the UN and run a business development program that works in areas of empowering people to make better lives, rather than charity; to use the people’s own resources to build great businesses. I suppose I’ve always been really interested in that fair trade model. I really believe passionately that if you educate women, you get a better world. If I made better decisions when I was younger, I would probably be working more in the charity, not-for-profit sector, than in media. I’m interested in a fairer, more equal world really. It’s always been something that’s driven me. Having grown in Sri Lanka, where we had privilege, I grew up in a very, very diverse culture.

I’m incredibly unguarded, to the point where I think that I’ve got verbal Tourette’s…
Sometimes I just, it all just comes out, and then I go, ‘uh oh, I should have held a little bit of that back.’

I’m not sycophantic…
I don’t want, necessarily, to surround myself with people who are yes people. I really like people questioning me. Sometimes I’m not very good at that, my initial reaction is always quite defensive, but I realize at the moment that I’m defensive that I’m about to learn something. The moment I have tunnel vision I realise I am wrong.

I put in 110 per cent when I have something in front of me…
But the moment I don’t, I can really easily wear a sarong, lie around and read novels and do nothing. I have the propensity to be incredibly slothful and lazy, and if I’m indulged, can revel in it.

My favourite recent marketing campaign is the GAYTMs…
It was a real shift at a time when there was a big debate on gay marriage. I don’t understand why we’re having the debate. It was pretty bloody brave of the bank to come out and say, ‘well we sponsor the Mardi Gras and now we’re going to embrace it’. I was actually in Cannes the year they won. There were all of these people there, young, kind of hipsters and me. When they won, I spontaneously was whooping. I was up punching the air, and I never do stuff like that. I was so proud and so many people that I spoke to in Cannes really wanted to know more about that campaign. When the mainstream embraces something that is seen as being a minority cause, it really makes a huge difference. I think, again in my social justice vein, it was a…I had to applaud the bank for doing that, and I bank with them. It felt great and now I don’t have to go and take my money out.

And make sure you enter our Women in Media Awards, or nominate a colleague, here!

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