Featured Profile: Therese Rein

Bec Fary / July 02, 2013 04:42 PM

Who’s Who entrant Therese Rein is in her first week back at The Lodge after the leadership spill. 

Therese Rein

Photo credit: Sydney Morning Herald 

Far from being defined by her husband PM Rudd’s political exploits, Therese is a self-made business success. The first Australian Prime Minister’s wife to remain in paid employment while her husband is in office, Therese is the founder and managing director of employment service provider Ingeus.

Therese’s parents were a key source of inspiration. Her father, John Rein, suffered severe spinal cord damage during a plane crash in his time in the Royal Australian Air Force. He went on to represent Australia as a paralympian. He met his future wife and Therese’s mother, Elizabeth, at a rehabilitation hospital in Sydney where she was the head of physiotherapy.

Therese studied psychology at ANU and began her working life as a rehabilitation counsellor before dreaming up Work Directions, now called Ingeus, in 1989. Ingeus operates under a socially conscious model to provide a welfare-to-work placement for the long-term unemployed. Therese told her husband about the plan, and that she would need to borrow $10,000 against their mortgage to make it happen.

He responded: “You’d be good at it.”

Juggling business, politics and family, Therese Rein and Kevin Rudd have raised three children; Jessica, Nicholas and Marcus. Therese describes her family as “enormous sources of joy”.  

After taking Ingeus to the UK, Therese signed a $1.4 billion deal with the Cameron government as part of their introduction of the Work Programme. Operating from 150 locations and employing more than 2000 people worldwide, Ingenus is now the largest provider of employment services in the UK.

A self-described “social entrepreneur”, Therese made it onto the Australian Business Review Weekly’s Rich 200 list last year. BRW editor Kate Mills said it was rare to have a self-made woman on the list, given most people inherit their wealth:

“It is very difficult to build up enough wealth to get on the list within a generation. Therese is in the welfare sector. It isn’t booming and it is regulation-driven."

400,000 people are registered with Ingeus around the world, many of them looking for a job after years of living on the streets. In 2010, Therese was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal for her work in improving the lives of people with a disability. In a public forum at the University of Adelaide earlier this year, Therese told a story about her work:

"There are two women sitting in the reception area of an Ingeus office in London. One is wearing dirty clothes. She doesn't smell very nice. Her head and her shoulders are bent and she is constantly rubbing her fingers together. She's at least in her 50s, her hair is messy and she's just had an accident and wet herself. She has been sleeping on the streets of London for three years.

"The other woman is an accomplished secretary and administrative assistant. She can word-process at 70 words a minute. She can also do shorthand and bookkeeping. She has 30 years' experience. She has three grown children, she loves to knit and sing and is passionate about preventing cruelty to animals. Our task is to help them into decent and lasting jobs."

The two women are the same. Ingenus staff helped the woman find a home and a volunteer position at the RSPCA which turned into a role as an administrative assistant. Therese says she is passionate about helping people live up to their potential.

"I am fascinated by the idea of helping people live their best lives. I love the fact that we can give them hope.”

Sources: The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age The Australian Women’s Weekly. 

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