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Bernardine Brierty

Sometimes you just have to have the courage to walk through the door. Often there is a wonderful surprise for you to experience. 

That was me nearly 22 years ago. After 14 years at home with four children it was time for me to learn something new and challenge myself.

A social worker by profession, the funeral industry was one I felt I could contribute to.
Who would have 
known the ride would be so awesome.

Leanne O’Dea, a family owned company was a name I had grown up with. I remember feeling very proud that I was working for such a respected company –that has never changed. I remember feeling daunted by how much there was to learn and wondered if I would ever get my head around the options available to families, the funeral procedures and protocols, the challenges families would present and their grief.

As my confidence grew, my passion increased. This was not a jobthis was a vocation. At times I felt guilty for loving my work so much when our families are so bereaved. However supporting them at such a difficult time, guiding them through the funeral so their bereavement experience can assist their grief has meant the guilt is replaced by satisfaction and joy.

After a few years in the industry I had the opportunity to attend an AFDA WA Divisional dinner. What a night! I was so proud to be among people who displayed a real delight in what they do. My only surprise was that no women were on the Divisional Council. How come? The answer is still not clear.

Soon after that Joe O’Dea Jnr invited me to represent Leanne O’Dea O’Dea on the WA Divisional Council.  Who would have believed the story that would unfold.

Now I had the opportunity to contribute in a different environmentto make a difference to the standard of funerals within WA. It was exciting to encourage training, represent the industry to various stakeholders, discuss industry matters and develop some wonderful friendships.

Occasionally there was a fellow woman at the table however for a variety of reasons they did not continue. Too often we need to make life choices regarding the work, family, life balance. At that time the industry was embracing women and the considerable contribution they make to the industry. Sadly, it would seem that in many quarters the appreciation did not extend to the boardroomFortunately this was not my experience.

Our industry requires so much of our soul. Leanne O’Dea has indulged me and allowed me the time I have needed to juggle the many positions I have had. My family has supported me throughoutaccepting that the ‘goodnight’ kiss was often over the phone.

Accepting the WA Divisional Presidency was an honour. I had learnt so much from colleagues. I was proud that there was a female perspective from the West. Becoming AFDA National President was humbling. I enjoyed the many opportunities to travel nationally and internationally, the hospitality and the chance to learn more about the unique challenges we all face.

Throughout my AFDA journey I have been inspired by so many peopleI am pleased that I have been able to bring back some of that knowledge to my everyday workplace. My role at Leanne O’Dea  & O’Dea has morphed over the years and now I concentrate on Training and Development. However no thing is more fulfilling than when I have the opportunity to sit with a family and guide them through the funeral arrangements.

I have so much to be grateful for. The journey has been inspiring, I have learnt so much from so many. The ride isn’t over yet!

Taken from AFDA Journal – June 2017