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Kate Foster.

Meet Kate Foster, a remarkable woman whose journey mirrors the winds' unpredictability and the exhilarating voyage of Portuguese sailors.

Apr 21, 2023

Words: Gippslandia
Images: Supplied

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For thousands of years, our fortunes were at the mercy of the wind and the weather. The winds’ far-reaching influence only enhanced their mysticism. The seafarers of the ancient world believed that their fate was tied to the wind and, thus, that they were in the hands of the gods.

Even today, winds have names, stories and legends connected to them. For instance, traditional folklores personified the North Wind – essentially the wind responsible for delivering cold weather – as a nobleman, a snow queen, a guide for finding a suit-able wife or the destroyer of gardens.
The wind is again coming to the fore in Gippsland (although, maybe with less matchmaking this time ‘round).

When speaking with Sale’s Kate Foster, Corio Generation’s regional stakeholder manager, a particular revered wind caught our attention, given the parallels between those that embraced it and Kate’s journey to date.

Apparently, in the late fifteenth century Portuguese sailors began utilising a navigational technique known as volta do mar. When setting this course, they first had to angle their vessels away from the safety of their home harbour.

As a 15-year-old growing up in Gippsland, Kate’s parents offered her the opportunity to attend boarding school in Melbourne. This small push from shore set Kate off on an adventure that, after completing tertiary studies in public relations, culminated in her working overseas in both Dubai and London.

Beyond allowing her to see parts of the world she’d never ventured to, Kate’s position at Sportsbrand Media Group (now Aurora Media Group) provided her with the opportunity to challenge herself.

Shortly after joining the award-winning agency – which broadcast sports, adventure and lifestyle stories – she was invited to attend their gala evening in Monaco. Taking in the night, Kate set herself a challenge; “I’d been there three or four months and set myself a goal to win the [International Manager of the Year] award, which I did the next year.”

After enjoying spectacular travels through-out the Middle East and Africa during her time in the region, Kate headed to London. But her stint there was cut short. Her mum was sick and she wanted to come home.

See, the Portuguese sailors would initially ride the wind out into the middle of the Atlantic, jostling the edge of a gyre, before the trade winds would flip and drive them all the way home.

Sadly, about 10 years ago Kate lost both of her parents, who she was very close to, but she’s grateful for the time she was able to spend closer to them.

Then four years ago, Kate and her family shifted out of Melbourne and returned to Sale. The volta do mar was complete.

Kate fell for the beauty of the region – the Gippsland Lakes, the Ninety Mile Beach and the open spaces. This is something she admits she didn’t value when she was younger, but now a mother of two young girls, she has “gained a new appreciation for Gippsland”.

“The region has a great energy… I admit it wasn’t my idea to return home, but I’ve always been pretty positive and made the most out of any situation. My glass is always half-full.”

When looking for work in the region, Kate sought something meaningful and launched into an agribusiness development role with Wellington Shire Council, a position with a primary objective of promoting and showcasing Gippsland’s $7 billion per annum food and fibre sector. Essentially, celebrating the region’s agricultural strengths.

After two years in the role, Kate (reluctantly) seized the opportunity to become the Wellington Shire Economic Development Manager. Revealing that ‘imposter syndrome’ struck her and that she didn’t initially submit her CV for the position. Despite this, upon earning the role, Kate led a suite of valuable, region-changing initiatives.

She established the Wellington Renewable Energy (RE) Forum of bi-monthly online meetings that update, engage and drive outcomes for proponents of RE, governmental agencies and other key stakeholders – a program never done elsewhere in the world.

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Kate was also an instigator and key partner in delivering the Gippsland New Energy Conference (see our Event Department for more information), which raised the profile of the region and is an achievement Kate proudly declares as a “career highlight”.

Kate praises the vision of the Wellington Shire Council. While celebrating the degree to which both Esso and RAAF have underpinned the economy of Sale and the area, they also engaged global trend forecasters to contribute to the new Council Plan that was adopted in 2021.

The plan highlights the impacts that climate change will have on the region, as well as describing an economy in transition. It presented ‘sunset industries’ of timber, oil and gas, and the ‘sunrise industries’ of defence, intensive agriculture and the most promising opportunity – large-scale renewable energy. The plan is expansive, requiring cooperation across municipal boundaries. Heck, it presents the region and its opportunities in a global context.

After the success of the Gippsland New Energy Conference, several businesses approached Kate to gauge her interest in joining them – something she had not anticipated. It is no surprise to us considering the successes she’s quickly achieved with the Wellington Shire Council positions, notably the advocacy on regional, state and federal offshore wind legislation and the Gippsland RE Zone prioritisation development, which both require multi-stakeholder agreement.

Returning to her personal values of want-ing meaningful work in a sector she’s passionate about and that provides her with an opportunity to build a positive legacy, Kate became the Regional Stake-holder Manager for Corio Generation.

Corio is a portfolio company of Macquarie’s Green Investment Group, operating on a standalone basis. They’re an Australian-owned offshore wind developer with international experience and several projects already in operation. The proposed 2.5 GW Great Eastern project, 22km offshore from the Gippsland coast, will be among their larger tier of projects.

Kate shares that the local response to the proposed Great Eastern Offshore Wind project has been “very positive”. She commented “that naturally there are some concerns with visual amenity and the transmission required due to the scale and pace of the sector but overall feels the region understands the importance of addressing climate change and harnessing our natural resources.’’

For Kate, the continual building of positive momentum for renewable energy projects will be achieved by demonstrating the education pathways into the industry to Gippsland’s kids. While Gippsland has incredible technical capabilities now, the region’s proposed RE industry will need a steady stream of talent over the coming years. Consider that the timeline for construction, once approved, is three to four years, and that operation will be another 30 years.

“We need to better highlight the opportunities in Gippsland. Opportunities and success stories are here, but we don’t showcase that enough,” emphasises Kate.

The best adventures are never a straight line, but embrace twists and turns. This is true for regions, as well as passionate individuals like Kate. In embracing the winds of change, both can reach previously unimaginable destinations.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 26

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Gippslandia is a community, non-profit publication. We curate an ever-optimistic take on regional, national and global issues, in a local context. Leaving you feeling like a Gippslandia local, no matter where you’re from. Read more

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