Brian Stevenson Chief Operating Officer Assets and Security Jurisdiction Services Courts Victoria  / 
A Mission in Life

story / Interview / October 17, 2016

I started my professional life as a psychiatric nurse in Edinburgh, Scotland. This was like a passport, as the profession was in great demand and helped by my education in a well renowned school in Edinburgh. After a few years of grounding, I moved to Melbourne without firm plans, but with strong encouragement from Australia because of the need for professionals in my area of work.

Through these years in Australia, I realised that so many organisations needed to change. I was impatient and wanted to drive some of this at greater than never or snail pace. I also realised that I could be very influential and that people were generally happy to support my direction. Once here in Melbourne I progressed as a psychiatric nurse and up the scale in leadership and management.

I went to RMIT to study a Grad Dip in Health Management and soon after an MBA. In health, I moved from an Assistant Director to a Director of Nursing. From there I moved into more general senior management and executive roles. In each instance I was leading major change and reform, which usually involved major projects in one form or another. I held two CEO appointments and otherwise I’ve worked as an executive manager of major service delivery organisations.

As a youngster I wanted to work with people in need. In fact, when I decided that being a missionary wasn’t quite the right fit I moved to southern England and worked as a volunteer in a home of disabled people. This was formative and influential in my life. I broke through barriers I didn’t know existed – disability, disadvantage, prejudice, institutions and institutionalisation by way of example. I also learned new talents, listening and seeing behind superficial aspects and signing. Playing guitar became another big part of my life.

I moved into psychiatric nursing which seemed a natural extension and indeed proved to be a great vehicle for me to fulfill a bit of a mission in life. The pace and need for change in the health industry is notable; the type of service need and demand is changing massively on a constant basis, discoveries and technology interact and necessitate rapid responses. Community expectation is a huge influence including, rightfully so, customer expectation and indeed the inclusion of consumers, which is now standard practice in design and measured in terms of effectiveness in health accreditation processes. The built environment needs to be a sophisticated and adept response to this changing world. Flexibility and future proofing are essential, so that further and ongoing adaptation can be accommodated as changing needs are certain.

In building processes, there is a range of major influences including PPP’s which have forced a stronger focus on functionality, design standards and building performance. Environmental sustainability has become standard practice. 3D design is becoming embedded. Contract types and early contractor engagements are more and more popular. Economics has driven competition and the rates and profits today are very different to even 10 years ago. Clients are more demanding and it’s much tougher to win work and if you do – you don’t want it to go wrong because the next job will be super tough to get hold of.

I am a very hard working and somewhat driven. I do not stop nor give up. In my younger days, my balance was about lots of participation in sport and partying! This is obviously no longer, as I drove my body so hard it will not let me do what I would prefer to do. Earlier this year, I recognised in myself that I needed to find better ways of balancing in current times. I discovered mindfulness and am very thankful for this and the learnings it has provided me with. Very good discipline if you can get into it – and better still maintain. My practice has dwindled but I feel it is at my fingertips and I can swing in and out whenever I want – very comforting.

In my current role I have worked with one of my colleagues to lead a healthy workplace project. In this we have drawn others into work with us, developed a wide range of initiatives, launched and promoted a range of ongoing positive activities and provision of information and education. In recent executive strategy planning I strongly promoted staff wellbeing as a key focus for our organisation. Take note – sitting is very bad for us.

All that said, technology will be put in its place I am sure (it is of course a great enabler), however, we all need to lead ourselves and our colleagues to be smart and care for ourselves and each other. One hint – do not use your ipad or iphone or equivalents in bed – at all. You will be surprised how good that can be for rest, relaxation and sleep. Then keep it up…?

I am a person who has always deplored prejudice and disadvantage and simply do not tolerate it. I have worked for most my life in health where women have been ever present in senior roles and parity has generally been in place. I realise there has always been and still is some unresolved issues surrounding this. Look at recent press regarding surgeons and bullying of female colleagues. Barriers are basically a result of stupid blokes.

I have had a reputation for favouring female appointments. This probably isn’t really true as I always awarded jobs to the best candidate, but I have probably stood out by appointing a high proportion of women. I read today that when surveying organisations that do not have women on boards, one of the reasons included that women talk too much!!! Now these people are seriously dumb and an embarrassment to all genders. The good news is – that with my daughter out and about – parity and equality is probably just around the corner.

Never look down on anyone or believe that race, gender, creed or colour in any way diminishes anyone. Be respectful and considerate of others. And my mother and father exemplified this in great style all of their lives. What better could a young Scottish lad want in life.


We first met with Brian at his office in the city. Brian is charming, quietly spoken, and brilliantly Scottish in that down-to-Earth, forthright and honest kind of way. Brian is a wealth of life experience and knowledge. He has a keen interest in good design and was about to embark on an in depth study tour of judicial services around the world. Recently we met up for some photographs. Brian very kindly took us for a black coffee at coffee hotspot, Patricia (if in the CBD, you won’t be disappointed) to talk design and the built environment. It is so refreshing to find someone so centered and calm, but with such strong convictions. Someone who is passionate about their work and about diversity. We hope you enjoy reading about Brian’s path into the built environment. And we wish Brian all the best for the future.

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