Meet Amanda Gutwein-Burke, wife and biggest fan of Premier Peter Gutwein.
TASMANIA’S First Lady of politics lives by an old fashioned proverb passed down from her father.
“He’d always say ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’,” Amanda Gutwein-Burke says with a smile about her dad, Barry Burke.
The sentiment has certainly proved true recently for the businesswoman and wife of Premier Peter Gutwein, who has steered Tasmania through the depths of the biggest health and economic challenge seen for generations.
Mrs Gutwein-Burke, or Mands as she prefers, has seen the situation unfold from two sides – from a business perspective as the owner of Launceston boutique Inside and also politically.
She has figuratively been by the side of the Liberal Leader since he made the brave call to put in place nation-leading restrictions in mid-March.
The pair only saw each other twice during the crisis, with Mr Gutwein based in Hobart to manage the situation and Mands in the north at home with children Millie, 16, and Finn, 13.
As she reads out notes she’s scribbled in her Gratitude Journal, which is usually reserved for to-do lists and Book Club notes, the sense of pride in her husband is more than evident.
“He was awesome,” she says.
“He had to be totally consumed by the task because it was life changing.
“People say ‘you must be proud’ but I have always been proud. Treasury was an enormous responsibility, but he has always been smart enough to surround himself with clever people to move forward with an informed vision.
“His team was amazing. They all played a role in enabling him to think clearly and focus, which was critical.
“I know he has also been so complementary about the unity between departments and the way all of Government worked together.
“This helped him to speak with confidence and conviction and he was committed to getting us through. He had to stay strong for everyone.
“Some people come into the shop and want to discuss matters and say ‘it wasn’t a real crisis’ – I just see that as an insult, because things could have been so bad – we only need to look at what’s happening outside Australia. We are still losing people around the world and it was tragic that we lost 13 lives here.
“All of Tasmania has benefited from his decisive and clear plan.”
The shop Mands speaks of has taken a big hit, along with thousands of businesses like it around the state. She closed the doors of the clothing and homewares business on March 12 and the financial ramifications were scary.
“Around 30 per cent of spending at the shop is by mainland and international visitors and the corporate workers of the city popping in for a gift-wrapped present, while they get a takeaway coffee from the (adjoining) cafe,”she explains.
“But the cash flow projections were dire. Some of the big retailers have continued to do well but for many small businesses like mine, I know first hand that it’s been tough.
“Thankfully, we have some amazing customers who would ring and we would meet them by appointment but you can’t compete with foot traffic.
In saying that, we did make the choice to close up and if I had to make that call again, I would.”
The vivacious brunette says she was lucky enough to have established a website presence 15 months ago to allow for some sales to continue online.
“But that component is tiny for us. Inside is a sensory, in-store experience,” she says.
“Online is a bit of a labyrinth.
“There’s inventory, accounts and customer loyalty programs that need to link with our online platform, that then links to our accounting package which I have to pay someone to support me to do so I can focus on the important aspects of customer needs and service.”
Three of her staff maintained their jobs via JobKeeper during the shutdown and are all back on board supporting the business come back to life in the depths of winter.
“I am well prepared for a good Christmas, which is a critical trading time. A lot of my customers buy things to send overseas and that will probably increase more so now. I always source special, light Christmas decorations and items that can be posted easily.
“I am so grateful we have such strong community support at Inside. We endeavour to stock locally made products and I feel that the support we’ve received recently reflects our ‘island pride’.
“My business needs to stand on its own feet with quality product presentation and stock – if I don’t have a product a customer wants, then I source it.”
The girl who hails from Rushy Lagoon in the state’s far North-East corner has an extensive CV.
Originally a teacher, she’s also worked for the TCCI as a training and employment adviser and sold advertising at The Examiner newspaper. She met Mr Gutwein when he was a staffer to former Liberal senator Jocelyn Newman, they got engaged when he proposed to her atop a wet and windy Eiffel Tower in 1998 and married the following year in Barbados.
While living together in Cork, Ireland, she studied and practised kinesiology and when the pair returned to Tasmania to start a family she managed the Bridport Bay Inn.
Before buying Inside in August, 2018, she worked as the Beacon Foundation’s National E-Beacon Manager, helping facilitate on-line learning and mentoring for those in lower socio-economic areas around the country.
“We designed a multi-stakeholder platform with live and supported collaboration to help those communities that really needed it.
“It allowed a student on the Central Coast who wanted to be a marine biologist to be connected with the appropriate mentor so that they weren’t disadvantaged by their location or demographic,” she explains.
“It was my dream job. I got to work in some fantastic schools and communities around Australia helping others gain employment – but it didn’t work for my family.
“My children are the centre of my universe and I wanted to be able to go and help at sports events or enjoy assemblies.
“This allowed me that flexibility for a better work-life balance.”
Mands reveals that she and her husband rarely discuss anything about politics.
“But he is definitely attached to his mobile phone,” she laughs.
And they are both very private. “Not everyone knows who I am which is great. We don’t roll the family out very often.”
The only thing rolling is that stone and she admits she doesn’t know what or when her next career challenge will be. “But I’m sure it will be interesting.”
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