Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Moree and moved to Armidale where I went to Duval High. I went all around the country working in radio before I kind of fell into politics and election campaigning. Then I went into strategic communications and recruitment. I got more and more interested in the research that drives communication and how badly it’s done and made it the focus of my PhD. And now I do research as my primary interest.
On the personal front I got really sick abut 10 years ago and needed ongoing access to medical specialists, so had to live in the city. It took years before I was correctly diagnosed with an uncommon type of migraine, and before a couple of years ago, I would be in hospital every six weeks.
What brought you back to Armidale?
Not long ago, new migraine drugs came out and I became stable enough that I could consider working and living in Armidale again. And of course you (Ingrid) talked me into coming down here to work with you.
There’s a lot of opportunity here. Not just because New England is interesting, politically… there’s this sense that Armidale is on the precipice of a boom. Watching and researching that social change is interesting to me. Plus, being able to be close to friends and family and the ability to get a good pub steak is very attractive.
What does KORE Communication Strategy Research do?
KORE CSR is a social good research company that also does strategy and communication that flows from research. By social good, I mean, I only work for not for profits for charities or organisations that make the world a better place. And the research that I do is about finding out how to change hearts and minds to make the world a better place.
What led you to start KORE CSR?
KORE was the name of my original consulting company 20 years ago. I was ‘Katho on the Radio Enterprises’ when I worked at FM 100.3 in the 90s. I kept the KORE name to remind me where I came from, and the journey from a little radio announcer to where I am now, doing really complicated, interesting things.
The reason why I like what I do is because I’m the kind of person that you bring in to fix something. I’m much better suited to consulting work, where I can come in, fix the problem, get everything up and running again.
What were some of your challenges starting out?
Oh, my health was the biggest challenge by far. I didn’t understand for a very long-time what migraine was doing to me and I didn’t manage it well. I would just ignore it and push it away, and it just got worse and worse until I ended up in the acute stroke ward. It made it really difficult to predict what I could do for clients. I would over promise sometimes, under promise sometimes. It was really inconsistent. The big challenge for me was learning to only take on what I can handle. So, if I’ve decided to work for you, it means I really like what you do.
Tell us about Migraine Australia
I founded Migraine Australia a little over two years ago with a group of other people who live with migraine. We started fighting for affordable access to the medications that have changed our lives. These were the first ever drugs designed for migraine and they are incredibly effective for about 75% of people who live with migraine. I am what they call a super responder; as long as I behave and keep my lifestyle modification on track I can now live effectively migraine attack free.
We needed to get these drugs on the PBS.
Despite being well schooled in politics, I did not understand that we do not have universal health care in this country. Access to health care is decided by bureaucrats, and when you have a really common condition like migraine – there are 5 million Australians living with migraine – you are less likely to get your medications on the PBS. My medication costs me $695 a month and will not be listed on PBS, because it was too big a line item in the budget.
What’s the benefit for the government in putting migraine drugs on the PBS?
We already know that through the introduction of these new medications 820 people have come off disability support in the last three years, which saves the government $20 million a year in welfare.
There is another 14,000 people that are still on disability support because of migraine, many of whom could get off welfare if they could access the new medications. Plus, there’s a huge economic boost from potentially millions of people not being sick so often.
In addition to lobbying government, Migraine Australia runs support groups and tries to raise awareness. Most people, even doctors, don’t understand migraine is a genetic sensory processing disorder so there’s a lot of awareness work to do.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the challenge. The harder it is, the more I want to do it. In terms of people that inspire me, it’s my grandmother, who was one of those amazing, strong country women who just ran our town. She’s passed now, but her insistence that values are more important than everything else stays with me.
What is what advice would you give a business just starting?
It doesn’t matter what you’re going to do, whether it’s an advertising Blitz or starting a new business, you need to understand what you’re getting yourself into. And the best way you can do that is research. Find out who your competitors are, or just talk to people. You don’t need to come to somebody like me, however, you do need to understand your market.
What’s next for KORE CSR?
I recently launched the KORE Poll and the next step for that will be to make it an omnibus poll. We’ll allow charities and non-profits to buy a block of questions in the poll, providing a really cost-effective way to get some numbers that can help refine their message and strategy. I’ve also joined an international firm Aurora Strategy Group as their Australian strategist and I’ll be doing polling for them around the globe.