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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Dr Emma Campbell: My favourite things

Dr Emma Campbell is the CEO of the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), taking up the role in January this year. Emma has a dynamic and diverse work portfolio and a wealth of experience across academia, the community sector, international crisis responses, business and government sectors. Born in the United Kingdom, Emma’s mother is British while her father is Australian, from regional NSW. Emma came to Australia in 2008 to do a PhD at ANU. “I wanted to come to Australia and do something major because it’s always been an important part of my life” – and that turned into “building a life here in Australia and the ACT”. She says it has been a challenging time to join ACTCOSS as CEO starting in the role at the tail end of the bushfires, followed by hail and COVID-19. “That said, I’ve been able to develop relationships very quickly and understand the issues in the sector because of the closeness of the ACT community sector and professionalism of the many organisations here.”


Emma comes from the north east of England where the original Angel of the North is located. It is a sculpture that is “waiting for you when you come home. It guards the north east, protects the north east”. “I didn’t know there was a small Angel of the North in Canberra. I was running around the lake and came across it. It made me very happy.”


“I love a good jacket. In the morning I am very busy … I want to look smart for work but don’t want to think about what I wear.” Emma sticks to a simple palette of black pants and white or black top paired with a jacket in interesting fabrics or colours. “I’ve always got my eye out for a nice jacket. I also make my own as well.”


While Emma has a PhD and is not a medical doctor, she has completed three missions with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), including in Swaziland (now Eswatini), Sierra Leone and Lebanon. “They are a special organisation because they reach people who would otherwise often have no access to even basic healthcare.”


Emma did her PhD looking at North and South Korea and speaks some Chinese and Korean. “I learnt Chinese when I lived in China and most of my friends were from South Korea. I loved China and the Chinese culture but also learned a lot about South Korean culture.” From its history, to politics and food, Emma says she feels a connection with Korea. She has been to North Korea four times and in her spare time runs a website that looks at humanitarian engagement with North Korea.


Growing up, Emma’s family had a radio in every room of the house and it is now a feature of her life. She has a radio on “nearly all of the time”, generally spoken word but increasingly podcasts. “I get a lot of information and knowledge from the radio,” she says. “I could survive anywhere as long as I have a radio.”

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