Tell us about your work.

I’m a licensed customs broker currently working for APA Olsen, which is a customs broker and freight forwarder. It’s based in Melbourne, but we work around Australia and with agents overseas. My job is to clear goods through customs quarantine and all other regulators across the border to make sure everyone who imports gets their goods in as cheaply as possible, while at the same time being compliant.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen from your position?

Over the last 30 years I’ve seen how much easier it has become, from an imports and exports perspective, to get things in and out of the country. On the other hand, it has become more difficult with regulators and red tape. In the past, you used to be able to walk up to a regulator and talk to them, but everything is behind the IT brick wall now, and if it’s not done by email, it’s not done. It’s only in the last five to seven years that it’s dramatically changed. It’s not Covid-related, but Covid has probably sped up that process.

What was your most interesting job?

Over the years I’ve worked for both small and large customs brokers and freight forwarders. During that time, I worked for DHL on the global forwarding side. One of the roles I had there was as a national customs and compliance manager. That role encompassed travelling around the world to represent the Australian market for DHL on the global forum. At one point, DHL was building a new global computer system, and I was the Australian representative of that project, as far as customs was concerned.

How did you first end up working in the industry?

I’ve been working in the industry for 34 years, but my father worked in the industry before me, so from a small child I was exposed to this lovely industry we call international cargo. My dad was a truck driver for one of the freight forwarders. My earliest memory is of sitting in the truck with him and going out to deliver cargo to the end customers.

What did that teach you about freight forwarding?

When you’re delivering goods to end customers, you’re basically being the face of the company for that customer. A lot of people look at truck drivers and think, “they’re just a truck driver”. What they don’t realise is they’re representing the company and the brand, and if that person does something wrong, it reflects on the brand itself. But if that driver was to knock on the door, hand you your package, wish you a good day and walk away with a smile, that would leave you with a smile, too.

Where in the world did your work with DHL take you?

I got to travel to countries like America, Germany, Malaysia and lots of other places. That was probably one of the most enjoyable sides of the job. It was tiring though, because I was always on an airplane. Germany is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been to. The countryside and the history of the area is magnificent. And when I was in America, I spent most of my time in Arizona. The people there are very welcoming and open to sharing their city.

What is your most memorable airport experience?

I’d just flown from Germany to Abu Dhabi on my way to Melbourne. It was an absolute shocker of a flight from Frankfurt. I got to Abu Dhabi, went to the airline lounge, was sitting there doing some work, and fell asleep. They called my flight when I was sound asleep in the chair. I didn’t hear the call, but luckily one of the people in the lounge read the tag on my carry-on luggage and realised they were paging me. They woke me up and literally ran me down to the aircraft, which I had delayed by 30 minutes. I got a round of applause from the staff and passengers as I walked to my seat.

What do you get up to on your weekends?

If its winter I’ll be going to an AFL game, without any shadow of a doubt. But I don’t go to the full-on AFL games; I go to the local games. I’m a big supporter of the local competitions and the grassroots teams. That’s where the big teams like Carlton and Collingwood get all their players from, and without them, the bigger competitions wouldn’t exist. I’ve been known to umpire a few local games as well, especially the women’s competitions, because my daughter used to play.

What music are you listening to?

My playlist can start with John Denver and go all the way through to Motörhead and Metallica. I have different genres side by side, and my kids tell me my playlist is horrible because it’s got all this old stuff. There’s Billy Joel, Cold Chisel, The Eagles, and then there’s Rogers and Hammerstein. And the part everybody hates is that I listen to old-time radio shows at night.

This article appeared in the March 2023 edition of DCN Magazine