20 years of fostering leadership in rural Victoria

11 March 2016

In 1894 Sir Robert MeBell familynzies, Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, was born in Jeparit, a small country town in far Western Victoria.

A century later the Menzies Centenary Prize, currently valued at $10,000, was created with the support of the Menzies Foundation and its Alumni to honour the legacy of Sir Robert and to support the dux of Dimboola Memorial Secondary College (the closest high school to Jeparit) to attend university.

Since its creation over 20 outstanding students have been awarded the prize including Jordan (2005) and Chloe (2006) Bell. They’re currently the only siblings to have been awarded the prize.

Ten years on, Jordan is a consultant Engineer working in Perth and Chloe is a Pharmacist at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

What did you do after you finished Year 12?

Jordan:

I spent the year working and traveling around Australia. I ended up staying five months in Darwin playing Aussie Rules with some of the team that spent time in Dimboola when I was in year 12. The last part of that year I was back in Dimboola doing casual work and saving for university.

Chloe:

I knew I wanted to go to university, but I also wanted to take a year off before I started. I enrolled in and deferred pharmacy courses in a few states because I didn’t know where I wanted to study yet. Then I started travelling and getting work experience wherever I could with doctors, chiropractors and in pharmacies.

I ended up in Darwin for a bit too, it was an amazing experience.

You went on to study at University. What did you study and why?

Jordan:

I was always ok at maths and science and spent a lot of time fiddling about building or fixing things on the farm with dad. I liked the idea of doing something practical so ended up enrolling in Engineering at Monash University.

I was lucky enough to be able to stay on-campus in FarrerHall which made a huge difference for me, ultimately I finished the degree with a major in civil and structural engineering and graduated with 1st class honours.

Chloe:

My friends and family thought I was never going to come back to Melbourne, but I ended up enrolling in a six-year Bachelor of Pharmacy and Commerce degree at Monash University.

I did well throughout but had to work hard for it. Particularly with chemistry – my most challenging subject in high school.

One of the best things about the course was the placements. One of them was a rural placement, and given that I was from Dimboola I decided to go as remote as possible which meant I ended up working in Broken Hill in far western New South Wales.

I also went to Iowa in the United States to work for a month. That was an incredibly different experience. I worked in an enormous two-lane drive-through pharmacy where medications were sent to the customers through suction pipes. At one point I remember somebody giving injections to a lady through the window of the drive-through because it was so cold they didn’t want to make her get out of the car.

Where did your degree lead? What are you doing now?

Jordan:

In the last year of my course I applied for graduate roles all over Australia. I received an offer from Rio Tinto to work in the mines but turned it down. It might seem crazy, but I was pretty settled in Melbourne and I wasn’t that keen to move away from my girlfriend.

Thankfully it all worked out. I was able to get a job with Arup working in their civil group for a couple of years. It was a great place to work – they have a great history of working on internationally recognised projects such as the Sydney Opera House and the Beijing Olympic Water Cube.

That being said, my partner ended up getting a job in Perth once she graduated so we moved there in early 2013. I’m working as a consultant for a medium-sized company called Cossill & Webley who specialise in land development for broad acre subdivision.

Chloe:

As a part of my pharmacy degree I did two six-month Internships, one with CSL Biotherapies and one with the RCH. I was a bit nervous about them because the internship year is the year you put all the theory you’ve been learning into practice, and I had chosen two specialised placements.

My original plan was to complete the general exam at the end of the year and focus on pharmaceutical marketing. But during my internship at the RCH I found the experience of working with children so rewarding that I ended up staying there as a clinical pharmacist.

I’ve been here ever since.

Around 16 months ago the RCH made the decision to implement a hospital-wide electronic medical record (EMR). The transformational EMR project means patient medical records will be accessed and stored electronically, essentially making it a paper-free hospital. It’s the first hospital in Australia to implement the system.

They needed clinicians to join the team to help implement the system, so I applied for a Principal Trainer role for the Medications and Oncology applications. It has been a huge amount of work, and we’ve had to travel to the United States for training, but I am now one of 60 certified Epic EMR employees at RCH and thoroughly enjoying the challenge.

It has also given me a much better big picture view of how a hospital functions. It’s also been interesting going from working in a clinical capacity with patients, pharmacists, doctors and nurses to training them in how to use new systems. I am particularly enjoying the feeling of having a bigger impact on the direction of the hospital.

What’s next for you?

Jordan

I’m really happy in Perth at the moment and I see myself staying here for a few years yet. I’m still playing footy with one of the local teams - Wembley Football Club.

My partner and I have also bought a house and are currently renovating it. I also recently proposed to her (she said yes), so there’s a wedding to plan for too.

I still find myself back home a fair bit over the summer months to see family, catch up with friends. Not as much as I’d like but pretty good considering we’re on the other side of the country.

Chloe:

The electronic medical record is set to go live in April and I will continue to work in a training role until October, so I have a lot of work ahead of me yet. Once it’s all up and running I’m not sure what I’ll do. The skills I’ve got from this are invaluable and have the potential to lead to work domestically or internationally.

As for getting back home… I don’t get back there as often as I would like anymore, but I love going back, it’s always such a treat! It’s mostly mum and dad who come down here to visit these days.

You have a little brother, what does he do?

Our little brother is studying Education in Ballarat with a focus on English and History. He’s set to graduate mid-year and he really enjoys working with more challenging kids. He’s also an entrepreneur and entertainer – he’s started his own mowing business and recently bought a guitar, taught himself to play, and now performs local gigs.

Their mum Sue Bell, who is a lab tech at the college, is proud as punch. Here’s what she had to say.

“The thing that we are most proud of with our three children is their wonderful work ethic, and the fact that they are actually really good, honest, reliable people. We have been blessed.

Sir Robert once said:

"Thinking ahead, what really happens to us will depend on how many people we have who are of the great and sober and dynamic middle-class - the strivers, the planners, the ambitious ones"

I feel that Sir Robert would be quietly pleased with these young Australians who grew up on a farm half-way between Dimboola and Jeparit.”