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TravelManagers magic: ukulele and spellbinding soldier

September 11, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A hard day at the office is never as bad as lying on the ground in 40-degree heat and watching bullets kick up the dust near your face as guerrillas armed with heavy machineguns try to kill you. That’s the word from someone who knows, and who told it straight at TravelManagers’ 10th annual national conference in Darwin on Thursday.

Ben Roberts-Smith VC is Australia’s most highly decorated soldier.

Ben Roberts-Smith in action, exiting a Blackhawk helicopter in Afghanistan (Australian War Memorial)

He spoke on the first day of the TravelManagers conference. Personal travel managers (PTMs) and suppliers from around Australia all found him awesome. You can tell a lot about a travel industry conference from its first day – and the first day of the TravelManagers conference in Darwin on Thursday was brilliant.

It kicked off with Ali Mills, a Larrakia nation elder, giving the welcome address – except it wasn’t an address, it was a song, called Arafura Pearl and written by her mother Kathy Mills, which Ali accompanied on the ukulele. Everyone loved it.

Ali Mills


This was followed in short order by an impromptu song-and-dance performance by PTMs and staff – including a version of the Village People’s classic YMCA, complete with costumes and everyone standing and clapping along!

TravelManagers do sunset at Mindl Beach markets #TM2017DRW @travelmanagerspeople #darwin @tourismtopend

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Then came Roberts-Smith VC, giving the keynote address – one that nobody will ever forget. His tales of combat, challenges and decisions under fire in Afghanistan were interspersed with humour and lessons drawn from the action. The situations he described were life-and-death – in some cases literally – making Roberts-Smith’s speech riveting.

The audience was also struck by his humility. He hardly referred to his own action, which gained him the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery.

For the record, while serving with the Special Air Service in 2010 Roberts-Smith took part in an operation to hunt for a senior Taliban commander in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. In an assault against an enemy fortification, Roberts-Smith exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from members of his patrol who were pinned down.

Fighting at close range, he then stormed two enemy machine-gun posts and silenced them. His citation in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette noted that “his selfless actions in circumstances of great peril served to enable his patrol to break into the enemy’s defences and to regain the initiative … resulting in a tactical victory”.

What an inspiration. #tm2017drw #andreafriend_travelmanager #travelmanagersaustralia #inspiration

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Roberts-Smith, now general manager of the Seven Queensland rural network and of metropolitan station Seven Brisbane, told TravelManagers of the importance of believing in yourself and your team. No one doubted him.

Day One of the TravelManagers conference included some great testimonies from PTMs and ended with a visit to Mindil Beach Sunset Market to dine on all sorts of exotic foods, enjoy cooling refreshment and watch the sunset over the Arafura Sea. Hard to beat!

ONE new recruit to the QLD flash mob team #tm2017drw

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'I love a sunburnt country'…#tm2017drw #mingleatmindil #travelmanagerspeople #travelmanagersaustralia #travelmanagers

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When it comes to magnificent sunsets, nowhere beats Darwin!

Written by Peter Needham

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