The value of giving back
Growing up in a working class family and changing towns and schools a number of times, businessman Rob Coombe saw first-hand the impact of disadvantage on the young people around him:
I saw how much a lack of money, opportunity and support holds people back and how easy it is to fall behind in that environment.
The experience instilled in him both a drive to succeed and a strong desire to 'make a difference'.
Studying law was always part of this plan but when he finished school in Wollongong almost 40 years ago, he couldn’t afford to move to Sydney and study full-time.
He knew he needed to work to support his studies so he chose the only available part-time option – what was then the relatively new UTS Law degree, housed in a ramshackle city building:
I initially started in the Anthony Hordens building on George street which was demolished not long after I started - and rightfully so - the building was a labyrinth of rooms and stair cases and quite probably a fire trap.
Studying part-time meant Rob could put his emerging legal skills to practical use in his day jobs in financial services and trust companies.
As a young graduate, he practised as an in-house legal counsel before moving away from the legal world and into the banking and business sector.
He’s now had decades of corporate experience in both Australia and Asia, including extensive experience on the boards of both listed and private companies.
Even though he doesn’t practise as a lawyer, Rob says his law degree has been invaluable not just in equipping him with skills and knowledge in commercial and equity law but also as a disciplined way of thinking:
It gave me the skills to mount a structured, logical and coherent argument. In business, you are always “selling” something; being an idea, product or proposal and the law helps me put these types of things together in a very logical and compelling manner.
His drive to ‘make a difference’ remains strong.
In 2008, he became a involved in the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) as a founding director.
The AIEF provides financial support for young Indigenous Australians who don’t have the means to access the best education and Rob says it’s an ongoing success story:
What really impresses me is that AIEF is obsessed about outcomes. As a result, it is incredibly focussed and never complacent about the work it does. Needless to say, the benefits continue to be amazing - truly nation changing.
Rob is a recipient of both the UTS Chancellor's Award for Excellence and the Law Award in recognition of his achievements in the business community and social sector.
He has been a member of the UTS Law Advisory board and is still involved and ‘making a difference’ as a keen supporter of the Law Equity Scholarship programme.
In fact, Rob’s generosity has made it possible to establish the scholarship fund in perpetuity.
He says staying connected is extremely important:
I always look for opportunities to “give back” and help less fortunate individuals access the opportunity to learn and grow by studying at UTS - I’m a supporter of the UTS Law Equity Scholarship program because it offers the financial opportunity to study for a law degree and hopefully utilise that as a platform to build a better life.