Valda Krastins

| BACK |


There are dates in our lives that are significant. Thursday evening the 13th October 2011 is one of those special events when I received a surprise phone call from Telopea68 CEO and super sleuth Brett. He explained to me that a reunion weekend of the Telopea High School year of 1968 would be happening in 24 hours time in Canberra!  Wow … a connection from 43 years ago was about to be re-ignited.  And what a magical evening it was.  Sharing updates and reliving stories with both Telopea High School colleagues and also students from the Forrest Primary school class of “the little horrors of 4C” as we were christened by our teacher, Mr Childs. I remember fondly these years as they were characterized by feeling safe, nurtured, loved and encouraged by the teaching community and being accepted by a fun loving and friendly bunch of students. 

It was not always so easy and so pleasant.  My Mum and Dad fled their birthplace of Latvia in what can only be described as dreadful personal circumstances when foreign troops invaded their country. My folks met, fell in love and married in Germany as Europe became engulfed in a horrific war. The “deal” to escape this ghastly situation was a safe passage to Australia. In exchange for this new life, Mum & Dad committed to work for two years wherever the Australian government would send them. Their choices were rather stark:  cutting sugar cane in Queensland or working as a labourer in the Canberra Timber mill. Very sensibly, Dad thought that the Canberra job would be far less traumatic than the heat of Queensland. Hence Canberra was the town where I was born.  

The formal briefing about life in Aussie land to the assembled ship board passengers, all refugees from war torn Latvia and Europe, as they docked at Port Melbourne during a standard bleak August winter was a film - “The Sundowners”! Mum and Dad’s only possessions were a battered old suit case containing Dad’s architecture books from aborted studies in Riga and Stuttgart, photographs of their wedding day and some clothes. Everything else had been left behind as they fled for their lives. Their intangible possessions were optimism, gratitude, a hard work ethic and impeccable values.

Finally they were safe. Those early years were very difficult in many ways. I recall accompanying my Mum to a butcher’s shop to buy pet mince and bone off cuts. These supplies were not destined for cats or dogs but our dinners as that’s all that could be afforded. My first years at a girl’s primary school were miserably unhappy. These ‘charming’ girls called me a ‘wog’, physically assaulted me and called me names because I couldn’t speak English properly. They could not pronounce Krastins nor wanted to and they generally made me feel like a leper by shuning and ostracizing me.  This was not a great time for young Valda.

Back to Mum and Dad. In addition to their values, these two parents had stamina, resilience and determination. In 1953/54 a block of vacant land became available in a sparsely populated suburb called Forrest. My parents purchased this block with assistance from a money lender known as “Mr Ten Percent”. The architecture studies that had been abandoned due to the war commenced again with passion. Dad worked at the Canberra timber mill during the day, studied at night and in the remaining hours designed our new home. A team of trades people from the “home country” forged even stronger bonds by uniting to build the home that Dad had designed.

The move to our new Canberra Avenue home from the government rental house in Yarralumla meant that I had to change schools. Hooray! Arriving at Forrest Primary School was a revelation.  To this day the memory remains vivid and a joy.  I was warmly welcomed to this new school by both students and teachers. No-one jeered at me or assaulted me. Instead, I was encouraged to overcome my nervousness, as wrote several Forrest Teachers in my school reports. I was greeted as a ‘normal’ peer by fellow students. No one laughed at my less than perfect English. In short, I had arrived in a happy and nurturing environment which was the start of a very lovely period in my life.

The Telopea High School years were equally fantastic. On the last day of High School I recall walking home, sitting on the front steps of our house and having a jolly good howl knowing that this cherished world had come to an end. Fortunately, a new beginning was about to start. Holidaying at Manly Beach in Sydney, Dad & I awoke at dawn to walk to the local newsagency to buy the paper and check out the results of the HSC. We hugged each other and cried with joy. Unbelievably, there was my name listed as a winner of a Commonwealth Scholarship. This sensational news meant that I could go to University. I desperately wanted to go to University, but knew that it was not a realistic option because Mum and Dad could not afford the tuition fees. How times were changing for me.

ANU was brilliant. I loved every aspect of my studies which included History, International Relations, Politics and a 4th Honours Year.  In amongst the earnest study, Dad and I sailed our Flying Fifteen yacht on Lake Burley Griffin. Together with Richard Norris we enjoyed lots of sporting and social activities under the auspices of the Canberra Yacht Club. I was also an active member of the Latvian folk dancing group with its nice link back to my heritage.

At this time, another very strong instinct beckoned …  travel. I had a burning desire to discover Europe and joyously arrived in Rome in 1972 travelling with a mature family friend for the first leg of my adventure. There was something magical about being in Rome and Italy.  More ‘growing up’ occurred as I variously travelled with groups and alone, throughout Europe and into Morocco. I worked in London as a typist to earn money to keep funding the travel. I wonder if being on drugs must have felt like this, experiencing the exhilaration of travel?

After 10 months of adventure, lots of great memories and penniless, I returned to Canberra and started serious work. My first job was as Research Assistant for the newly appointed Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission, Mr Alf Rattigan at the IAC offices in Barton.  Interspersed with interesting work, my passion for travel really spiked. My good fortune was Alf’s decision to take extended annual leave at the end of each calendar year. I grasped this opportunity with gusto. For four years in succession I took my annual leave plus one month’s leave without pay, to coincide with his vacations.  The trips were real adventures. From her perspective, Mum’s concern was that they were increasingly becoming dangerous. Dad was excited.  He thought they were exotic and would have loved to join me.  Each vacation was 2 months in duration with the first being to South America, the second to Burma, Nepal and a bus from Delhi to Istanbul, the third solo travel in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya and finally an odyssey journey by truck across Africa with a group of 20 adventurers from diverse nationalities and ages. This trip’s itinerary was Rome to Tunisia, across the Sahara Desert until we reached Nigeria, turning east via the Cameroon and CAE to Kigali in Rwanda. Needless to say, this last vacation cured me of camping for the rest of my life.  Establishing camp unknowingly on a huge nest of gigantic and angry ants in the Cameroon, did the trick. Knowing what I know now, I am happy and relieved that I survived some scary situations which should have met with nasty and finite consequences for this intrepid young traveler. Mum was right after all.

My next role was with the Department of Immigration.  Not long after joining the department, the Personnel Manager asked me if I would like to go to Rome as there had been an unexpected resignation in the Australian based staff which required urgent recruitment.

My response was immediate:  “Where’s my ticket?”

The three year posting to our Embassy as a Migration Officer was an extraordinary personal and professional experience as well as a family milestone. My boss was Ron Harris, Christine’s Dad. It was really great to have this connection with the Harris family and share experiences with Christine. By this stage in the evolution of the Krastins story, my Dad had built a successful architecture practice in Canberra and would be invited to join the Architect’s Institute to recognize overseas qualifications for his profession. My role in Rome was to select appropriate Italian families to migrate to Australia and ensure any “dodgy” intending visitors were not granted visas. I was fortunate to have the opportunity of working in our Swiss, Spanish and Maltese embassies as well as a brief stint as Acting Consul in our Messina post in Sicily. A full circle for the Krastins household in the migration story had evolved.

During this time I met Guy Lavoipierre. I was fascinated by this cultured, worldly, interesting and dynamic man who was a medical epidemiologist working with the World Health Organisation in Geneva.  A long distance romance blossomed, but not without some early anxious moments for the couple.

On our first dinner date, I was intrigued and interested in this man. Towards the end of our meal, I couldn’t hold back on a rather perplexing situation, viewed from my lens at this time. Contrary to my experience dating Italian guys, this chap was completely different in how he was engaging with me. He was interested in our conversations  and my thoughts on a huge range of different topics.  Unable to contain my curiosity about him any further, I blurted out “What are your intentions towards me?”  There was a very swift reply from Guy:   “If everything goes according to my plans I will marry you”.  It’s not often that I am stuck for words but this scenario had me speechless. 

We married in Sri Lanka in December 1981 thanks to wonderful friends who were at the Embassy in Rome, then promoted to Ambassador to Colombo. It was a “huge” wedding party of 6 people which included the bride and groom.

My Italian posting concluded in April 1982 and I returned to join Guy in Melbourne. I found the orientation back to Australia a mixed one as there was an initial dark cloud on the horizon with Mum’s death from bone marrow cancer in December 82 and Dad’s death of a brain aneurism in 1988.

All of Guy’s family in Melbourne (mother, father, siblings and cousins) were incredibly welcoming and a delight.  Guy’s special Mum Magna left us in 1991 and Dad Rene in 1993.  We often discuss and reflect with much gratitude the amazing gift from our parents in shaping our values and giving us the parameters for our moral compass.

Professionally Guy continued working as a Medical Epidemiologist with the Victorian Health Department and then branched out into the world of computing with funds management company Jardine Fleming and a Personnel Recruitment Company. 

My passion for coaching and engaging people to achieve their potential led me to three years work in management consulting and a 19 year career with Cadbury Schweppes (CS). CS is an organization that met with my personal values, a situation from my perspective that is not too common in today’s corporate and business world. With CS I experienced diverse and exciting professional opportunities in Australia, New Zealand and as well work in the UK, India, Singapore, China and the Philippines. In July 2008 I ventured into the realm of freelance consulting with a focus on executive coaching, cultural intelligence and organizational change. I work both solo and team up with others in these three arenas. It’s a marvelous professional space as it provides both choice and flexibility about what I do and when.

Meantime, Guy continues to evolve and enhance his professional activities from medicine and computing to a long held desire - a love of writing. As a youngster, Guy wanted to become either a journalist or a motor car engineer. His Dad, a doctor, dissuaded the young Guy, “encouraging” him to become a medical doctor so it’s taken a little while for Guy to be living and breathing his passion. He loves summarizing interesting books that straddle a huge array of subjects - e.g. the earth’s climate, the tensions between world’s religions, what will sustain our planet in the future, etc. These summaries are emailed to friends who are time poor but interested in having their brain cells nourished and excited with new ideas and perspectives. 

As a couple we love travel and have enjoyed trips to Europe, the USA as well as visiting a range of Pacific and Australian Islands. Needless to say, our itineraries are now about enjoying places of interest in comfort. There are no longer basic camping experiences, bush toilets or travel in converted army trucks!  Our recent travel highlights include Europe and the States in 2008 and in Australia Kangaroo Island & the Barossa, Margaret River area (photo attached from April 2011), Broome and Tasmania. After short stays in Victoria’s Grampians and the Bellarine Peninsula during the last 12 months, we have realized how much awaits to be explored right here on our doorstep.

Guy and I love our world and its special combination of choices – there are cultural activities at the National Gallery of Victoria, regular gym sessions, book reviews for Guy and freelance consulting for Valda.  We cherish this delightful ‘work life’ balance. And …. life keeps evolving into great and new experiences such as being re-united with students of Forrest Primary School’s  ‘little horrors of 4C’ and the class of Telopea68.   Life is indeed special.

CV [pdf 18kbs]

Valda Lavoipierre has extensive and diverse senior HR experience with a leading global FMCG enterprise, an international management consultancy and the public sector. 

Her experience at Cadbury Schweppes includes lead specialist roles in Talent & Resourcing, Learning & Development, Organisational Effectiveness, Business Partnering and Transformational Change across sales, marketing, finance and IT functions.

She has received global peer recognition for creating and facilitating a tailor-made Leadership Program for senior CS managers.  The 'Value of Leadership' program inspired participants to appreciate the critical role that leadership plays in organisational success.  A challenging agenda of professional and self discovery underscored for participants that only a select few are able to take up the mantle of leader.

Valda partnered senior business leaders by creating strategies, plans and interventions to lead people through organisational change.  Her achievements included designing and implementing an innovative Change and Culture model to support outsourcing various transactional functions in CS to a third party company located in China and India.  Her work is recognised by CS global leadership as best practice. 

She has a reputation as an inspiring and motivational coach and facilitator for executives and teams.   Valda champions the value of holistic learning to create positive personal and professional impact. 

Valda's forte is to clearly link change strategies to business objectives and aspirations. She has demonstrated this through designing and delivering transformational change programs that have impact across functions and geographies.  All these interventions share Valda's philosophy of care for individuals and belief in their capabilities.  As a result, each person she works with is motivated and energised to add extra discretionary effort towards achieving business outcomes.

Career summary

Freelance HR practitioner: 2008 to present

Valda’s business focus is coaching, organisational change and cultural intelligence.

She delivers bespoke solutions solo and in collaboration with global consultancies for individuals, teams and organisations including Cadbury Schweppes, the banking sector, educational institutions, energy providers, manufacturing entities, medical practices and an amateur sporting association.

Cadbury Schweppes Pty Ltd:      1989 to 2008

2006 - 2008        General Manager HR Asia Pacific - Shared Business Services & IT

2004 - 2002        General Manager HR - Asia Pacific IT and ANZ Sales

2002 – 2004       General Manager HR - Commercial and Corporate, ANZ

2001 – 2004       General Manager HR - Confectionery, ANZ

2000 – 2001       Organisational Development Manager, ANZ

1999 – 2000       Corporate Recruitment and Development Manager, ANZ

1997 – 1999       Development and Recruitment Manager, ANZ

1989 - 1997        Recruitment Manager, Australia.

Prior to Cadbury Schweppes:

Price Waterhouse, Senior Consultant, Executive Recruitment

Waite Consulting Management Group,  Senior Consultant

Commonwealth Public Service

Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.  Roles included:

Assistant Director, Language Services, Melbourne

Migration Officer, Australian Embassy, Rome, Italy.

Acting Consul for Australia, Sicily, Italy.

Industries Assistance Commission, Canberra

Research Assistant to the Chairman


BA (Honours) Australian National University, Canberra

Numerous Internal training programs at CS (Melbourne & UK), AGSM.

Telopea Park High School, Canberra

Forrest Primary School, Canberra.


Australian Human Resources Institute

National Press Club, Canberra

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

| BACK | TOP |