Sunday 18th Nov, 2018

THE GRILL: Claudia Brumme-Smith

Photo: Port of Townsville
Photo: Port of Townsville

What is your job and what does it entail?
I am the acting chief executive officer at the Port of Townsville, Northern Australia’s largest General Cargo port and Australia’s largest zinc, copper, lead and sugar export facility. Over six billion dollars’ worth of products pass over our wharfs every year to find their way to the Asian economies.  I am privileged to lead an organisation that provides critical infrastructure and significant value to North Queensland communities and the broader Australian economy. Essentially my job is to provide a vision for the organisation that helps to create a high-performance culture, identifies external and internal growth opportunities and assists the strategic and financial optimisation of the Port of Townsville. 

What do you like about it?
I very much enjoy the diversity of trades and customers that utilise our Port. There are over 30 different commodities handled on our eight berths – every day is different and there is never a dull moment that is for sure. We are dealing with complex supply chains and a large stakeholder group all meeting here at the Port. Lots of challenges and opportunities every single day. I have a fantastic team at the Port of Townsville that continue to amaze me how innovative they can be to optimise our operations and provide good customer service.

How long have you lived in Townsville and what brought you there?
I have lived in Townsville for almost 10 years now. I met my husband Phillip, a local Townsvillian, while I was studying in Australia. We worked overseas until our late 20s in large global organisations before coming to Townsville for family reasons.

What do you enjoy most about living in the tropics?
Definitely the weather. Being originally from rainy and often grey Germany, I love the fact that it is always summer in north Queensland. Winter for us up here is a sunny 25 degrees… you can’t beat that! My Family and I enjoy an outdoorsy lifestyle, so having 360 days of sunshine is fantastic.  

Have you lived in other parts of Australia? Whereabouts and any special memories?
Unfortunately, I haven’t. My husband is Townsville born and bred and when we returned from working overseas, we move to Townsville to be close to his family. I am blessed however that in my job I get to travel around Australia a lot and I like what I see. Australia is a great and young country and there are so many opportunities here.

Understand you are from Europe. Do you miss white Christmases and the German Christmas markets?
I do miss Europe’s cultural aspects, the history, the different languages and of course my family and friends.  I think Christmas is a very special time in Germany – especially when it snows. It has that cosy feeling to it that is hard to describe. I love the Christmas markets and going skiing, ice skating etc.

My family have developed a nice routine though… Christmas Eve we ramp up the air conditioning and drop the temperature down to 17 degrees, put on a jumper, a crackling fireplace image running on TV and drink hot mould wine. Christmas Day we celebrate “Australian-style”, eating prawns, drinking chilled wine and swim in the pool. You can have it (almost) all.

Outside of work, how do you relax?
I like to go sailing around Magnetic Island and the Whitsunday Islands with my family, take a good book to read and taste some of the delicious fruit we have up here in the Tropics. Perfect day out.  I also enjoy fishing and crabbing and I am very competitive when it comes to the size of fish I am taking home. 

What’s your favourite movie?
In general, I like historical and biographical movies. All-time favourites are Pride and Prejudice and the “The Young Victoria”.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Sadly no, I was always more the sporty type. I was a successful high jumper in my teens and trained four hours every day, there was sadly no time for learning an instrument as well. I regret that I didn’t see the value in learning a musical instrument because I believe it fosters great mental development. Sports are great for the body’s development and it is natural to follow some kind of sporting endeavour that suits us as individuals. Learning a musical instrument is not something that really comes naturally for most people but when they challenge themselves and they find they excel it is I think something that sets them up for future challenges that life may throw at them. Therefore I have made it my mission to encourage our son to learn to play the piano, so he can play for me… I think that’s only fair… hahaha! 

Where would you like to retire?
I never really thought about it because I still have a few years to go… I think Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays could work for me because of the opportunities to sail and relax in a beautiful tropical setting. However, I have been told when people get older that they will be drawn back to their roots – so I might end up back in Europe. Wherever it happens, I hope that I will look back on a diverse and successful working life.

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