When dynamic businesswoman Debbie Burgess finds time to retreat from her busy life, she goes to a lovely little room at the bottom of her garden in Kenthurst.
The zen-like “girly” stand-alone room beside her pool is Debbie’s sacred place where she can “escape the testosterone in the house”.
“This is where I go for me-time, to read, watch TV or just think in peace, away from the boys,” Debbie, mother of three sons, told Sydney Hills Living. “Sometimes my girlfriends join me here for girly time.”
The girls-only retreat is even off limits to the two most demanding males in her life — the family’s Jack Russell terriers, Russell and Titan, who love to nip at their mistress’s heels. Debbie’s other relaxation is a yoga session one night a week.
Being a sociable person, Debbie loves it when friends and family gather around and she is always up for entertaining. “We prefer this to going out,” she says.
Saturday is her only real work-free day. By Sunday afternoon, she is “ramping up” for work and the busy week ahead. Loving her work, Debbie puts in long days running family business Bright Print Group at Wetherill Park with her brother John Bright, as well as keeping the five bedroom home on five beautiful acres immaculate.
“It was more difficult when the boys were younger but now it is a bit easier as they can get around themselves more,” Debbie said. Adam is 21, Guy 18 and Chad 16. Husband of 24 years, Craig, runs a helicopter engineering company at Bankstown airport.
This home that she and Craig built in 2001 is testament to Debbie’s love of housework which, she says, helps to relax her. Yep, she is one unusual woman.
No wonder she was named Woman of the West by Western Sydney University recently for her dedication to business and charity.
The award recognised Debbie’s work with many organisations and causes, including the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Jeans for Genes Day and the Humpty Dumpty Foundation. Debbie impressed the judges with her determination, integrity and compassion.
She has welcomed struggling business women into her home as well as women facing adversity from divorce, poverty, domestic violence, family breakdown and serious illness.
Meeting the woman, you can easily see how her quiet determination and her time management skills have seen her effortlessly manage her busy life, and have plenty of time for her family, friends and those in need.
“For a start, I am not a big TV watcher, although the television can be on in the background,” Debbie said. “I’ve never been into shows like Sex and the City. I would sooner potter around, cleaning the house. On the weekend, I prepare meals for the week, although I try to have Saturday as my rest day.”
Craig helps with cooking but he is often away from home, at racing car rallies with Adam. “We tend to have our own interests, but it works,” said Debbie.
When not in helicopters or racing cars, Craig is on the ride-on mower keeping a large part of the property around the house pristine. The back part of the property is the domain of a cow or two, which come from Debbie’s father’s farm near Orange.
“We usually have one or two cows to keep the meat-loving men of the house fed. We send the cows to the abattoir and then have Tom the Butcher from Rouse Hill cut it up for us.”
How rural is that? “I just love it here, it is so quiet and peaceful but not too far away from things,” Debbie said.> **Home life is in stark contrast to the fast-paced printing world that Debbie > has known for most of her working life, having first worked as a paralegal.**
Home life is in stark contrast to the fast-paced printing world that Debbie has known for most of her working life, having first worked as a paralegal. Driving to Wetherill Park can take up to an hour, but Debbie is raring to go every day.
“I love what I do, and if you don’t love your work you shouldn’t be doing it,” she said.
Printing is a male-dominated craft, but Debbie comes from a strong line of go-getting women so is not fazed by gender imbalance in the workforce. And besides, Debbie Burgess nee Bright has ink in her veins, coming from a family of printers.
The company had its beginnings when Debbie’s great grandfather, William John Bright, started a printing business in 1928, eventually buying Fairfield’s popular community newspaper The Biz, which he sold to Rupert Murdoch in the early ’60s.
His son, Debbie’s and John’s grandfather, William Robert Bright, continued the printing tradition, with one of his first clients Cabra Vale RSL Club still a loyal client, along with many other local businesses.
Bright Print Group evolved from those beginnings in 1963 and has always been run by members of the Bright family. Debbie joined the firm in 1989 and has used her legal, administrative and business skills to drive the company forward, with the firm partnership of her brother, who also likes to be hands-on. The firm, which employs 100, prints a large range of products, including magazines (including Sydney Hills Living), brochures and corporate stationery.
There is no doubt that Debbie is a strong woman, and that strength comes from both sides of the family, with great female role models.
Her mother often cared for the needs of neighbouring children in a Campbelltown public housing estate when their parents could not, her paternal grandmother was prominent in the CWA into her 80s, her maternal grandmother was a president of the VIEW Club and her aunt was director of nursing in western Sydney hospitals.
Debbie grew up in diverse Cabramatta, watching those strong women going about their business, forging the way for other women in less liberated times. But Debbie knows that not all women are as lucky as she is, with positive relationships with the men in her life and a glowing reputation in a male-dominant business. Domestic violence concerns her, as does the struggle all women face in their professional and personal lives.
“The business world is male dominated but it has not worried me, even when I was one of only five women among 500 at an accountancy seminar I attended,” Debbie said. “I enjoy going against the grain. Women have to believe in their own ability and be true to themselves.”
Debbie said women bring a different perspective to business. “Women tend to look at the big picture and they can bring levity and empathy to the work environment,” she said.
Despite her drive to help women live better lives, particularly in the area of domestic violence, Debbie is not anti-men. In fact, she is rather fond of them.
And seeing she is surrounded by them, that is a good thing. ❐