Rewarding potential through a generous bequest

University of South Australia Chancellor Pauline Carr welcoming Vicki Tomlinson to the Chancellor's Club

Vicki Tomlinson is welcomed to the Chancellor’s Club by Pauline Carr

With a determination to succeed from an early age, Vicki Tomlinson is now helping others achieve their goals. Through a bequest to UniSA, her influence will be felt by generations to come.

It was a photograph of a sailboat pinned next to her desk at the local bank in Bordertown that inspired a young Vicki Tomlinson to save her money and pursue her dreams.

Vicki, now a Management Consultant and UniSA alum, has fond memories of her regional hometown where her parents ran a market garden – and her grandmother occasionally minded a young Bob Hawke.

While it was a happy childhood with plenty of love, there was never a lot of money, however Vicki won a scholarship that helped her complete Year 12 at Bordertown High, finishing as Dux of the School. Despite this, financial circumstances meant going to university was not an option at that point and Vicki knew she would have to support herself.

Vicki worked as a lab assistant which led to a job with the Highways Department. The role meant relocating to Port Augusta where she was hands-on, testing soil and overseeing the construction of the Stuart Highway.

Just before moving to Port Augusta, Vicki met Brett, a young farmer running his family’s 1600-acre farm near Bordertown, and once the highway was completed, she returned to the farm which they ran together for several years, managing sheep, cattle and crops. Vicki also had a job at the bank and dreams of travel.

Vicki on the farm at Bordertown

Vicki on the farm at Bordertown

The couple’s early travels around Australia had them hooked, and the lure of the ocean remained strong, so they saved what they could to buy their dream yacht, which at the time was the price of the average house. They lived on board for eight years, sailing up and down the east coast, from the Great Barrier Reef to Tasmania, stopping to work in casual jobs long enough to save up for the next voyage.

Vicki on her boat in the Whitsundays

Vicki on her boat in the Whitsundays

Deciding it was time to settle, the couple sold the boat and moved to Adelaide. “We had absolutely nothing after we sold the boat. We had to start all over again,” Vicki says.

Vicki seized the opportunity to study for a Diploma in Business Management at TAFE, a Certificate in Frontline Management, and worked in leadership roles at Adelaide City Council and then WorkCoverSA.

With an already successful career, Vicki felt that completing a university degree was “unfinished business”, so at the age of 42 she enrolled in the Bachelor of Business (Commercial Law) at UniSA. She was the first person in her family to go to university and completed her degree over eight years while working full-time, with Brett’s support to keep the home fires burning.

Graduation Day 2014

Graduation Day 2014

After graduation she immediately landed the role of Manager Business Services (later Director Corporate Services) with South Australia’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). A significant moment in her career was attending Parliament House with The Hon. Bruce Lander QC, the first Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, who addressed newly elected MPs following the 2018 State election.

The skill Vicki is most proud of is her ability to build a culture of integrity in the workplace. “I learnt to live integrity in all aspects of my life, not just talk integrity in the job,” Vicki says.

When asked by an organisation to do this, one of the first things she looks for is signs in the kitchen. “If you need a sign to tell you to clean up after yourself, it is not a good workplace culture,” she says. Coincidentally, one of Vicki’s treasured possessions is a teacup given to her by a former employee to thank her for the way she handled a difficult situation – another reminder to always act with integrity and respect.

Vicki stepped down from her role at ICAC in December 2021 after more than seven years and is now using her extensive experience to mentor aspiring business leaders in UniSA’s Executive Partners Program (EPP). She is also a board member for a regional waste authority.

For Vicki education is key – she believes that at ICAC it is as much about educating about ethics and integrity as it is about investigating corruption. With this in mind, and her early lived experience of having to make sacrifices, she is determined to help other high achieving young students now that she is in a position to do so.

Vicki and her husband Brett are members of UniSA’s Chancellor’s Club, having committed a significant bequest to support talented, financially disadvantaged students studying in the field of health sciences.

Vicki is currently mentoring two MBA students through the EPP, as well as several former colleagues she has remained connected with over the years. She particularly enjoys helping people re-enter the workforce.

While Vicki is dedicated to ensuring young people have the opportunity to pursue an education and fulfil their potential, she doesn’t regret the times life for her and Brett may have been a bit of a struggle. “A bit of hardship makes it all the more rewarding,” she says.

If you are interested in making a bequest, you can find out more here.


A gift in your will

A bequest is a special way to make a significant gift and create a legacy that can make a real difference to the lives of others. It provides an opportunity to give to the University where you may not find it possible in your lifetime.

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