12 December 2023
Catherine Sayer (1985) was a foundation scholar of Pembroke School, starting in Year 1 in 1974. After leaving school she completed and then worked in the corporate world in Adelaide and Melbourne. She then established her own consulting business and started sitting on a number of boards, particularly in the seafood and agribusiness sector. She was appointed as the CEO of Family Business Association in August 2023 and prior to this, she was the Chief Executive Officer of Food South Australia Inc. Catherine is currently Deputy Chair of Seafood Industry Australia, Chair of the Tropical Tuna Management Advisory Committee (a Commonwealth Fishery) and a member of the Camp Quality Board.
What is your biggest career highlight?
I have two. The first one was when I was given the opportunity to establish Food South Australia – the peak food and beverage industry association in South Australia. It is still the only state-based organisation of its type, and I loved my 13.5 years there. I have recently taken up the role as CEO of Family Business Association, based in Melbourne, covering all of Australia and New Zealand. It’s a great opportunity to lead a national organisation and work with family businesses, small, medium and large that make up 70% of our economy.
Who was your favourite teacher at Pembroke and why?
I started at Pembroke the year it was formed – 1974. Mrs Hutchinson was my Grade 1 teacher and was such a caring and nurturing teacher. There were great teachers at Pembroke. In the Junior School, Miss McLaughlin and Mrs Black come to mind. Mr Oatey ad Mr Inverarity were supportive mentors and in my senior years, Mr Walton and Mrs McCall were fantastic teachers. Mrs Medlin was the Principal the whole time I was at Pembroke. She was a visionary, way ahead of her time and an amazing leader.
My favourite thing to do in Adelaide is...
Go to all the fantastic restaurants and bars!
Name three places on your bucket list.
I think I have more than three. I love travelling both within Australia and overseas. I think every trip, no matter where it is can be an adventure and always a life experience.
What inspires you?
My career has largely been with associations. It is a huge responsibility to represent members. Making connections and advocating effectively on behalf of a big group of businesses requires you to be constantly thinking about how to do things well, earn respect and sell a message so you are considered by all stakeholders as the voice of the industry and the ‘go to’.
What is a talent you wish you had?
Singing and dancing. I was in the school choir, but think I just scraped in!
What has been your favourite holiday?
A few years ago, my two boys and I went on a holiday to Noosa. We all agreed it was the best family holiday we had ever had. Noosa is one of my favourite destinations.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Seize every opportunity and say yes to everything! Be adventurous and don’t have regrets.
How do you start your day?
Either going for a walk or going to the gym.
That’s an impossible question given I worked in the food and beverage industry for 20 years – I love all food.