Phil Hayes Brown
A rewarding career pushing the boundaries
If there is a word that perhaps best sums up Phil Hayes-Brown’s approach to his career, it's ‘fearless’.
Inspired by his daughter, who has a moderate intellectual impairment, to enter the disability sector in 2010, he has since then been CEO of community agency Wallara Australia.
Twenty years before that, his passion for sports and business steered him from a top-tier law firm to the National Basketball Association to lead their Consumer Products licensing business.
And his first job as an Economics graduate was with the Treasury Department of Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank (HSBC), “in the fast lane of investment banking, just as the Aussie dollar was floated.”
“My double degree at Monash made me curious about the world and gave me a belief that I could do anything…and somehow with the help of my amazing wife who I met at Monash, I have,” Phil said.
“The impetus for my career path has been wanting to push the boundaries, test myself and make a difference.”
From country kid to Melbourne student
Phil Hayes-Brown grew up in Northern NSW in a country town with just 9000 people – so the move to Monash University in Melbourne for his undergraduate studies was a big one. “But Melbourne is where I was born and I had other family here, so it made sense,” he said.
“I shared a house in Clayton and rode my bike or caught the bus to campus. I worked a variety of jobs including as a barman at the Clayton RSL, security guard at Rusden Teachers College, landscaper at Chadstone Shopping Centre and tree lopper.”
He represented Monash in basketball at five National Intervarsity Championships, and met his future wife in the Law School.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Economics in the mid-1980s, Phil spent two years with HSBC, not long after the Australian dollar was floated by Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Treasurer Paul Keating.
“It was exciting to be on a dealing floor in the fast lane of investment banking,” he says of the historic time.
After two years in investment banking, Phil returned to Monash and graduated with a law degree in 1989. He then spent four years with top-tier law firm Freehills as a commercial solicitor.
“Law was great but my passion was sports and business, so I was thrilled to eventually be offered a role within the National Basketball Association (NBA) to lead its Consumer Products licensing business in Australia and New Zealand,” Phil says.
“My Monash law degree and love of basketball were critical to me getting that job.
“Law was so respected within the NBA that it was often said internally the letters NBA actually stood for Nothing But Attorneys”.
Twelve years of NBA work assignments in Singapore, Paris, London and Hong Kong followed.
Phil, his wife and two children then returned to Australia in 2010, where Phil was appointed CEO of Wallara Australia.
Looking back on his pivotal career moments, Phil said deciding to leave the legal profession after four years with a big city firm was a key moment, as was the birth of his daughter Phoebe in Hong Kong in 2002.
Phoebe has a moderate intellectual impairment and communicates via sign language.
“(Leaving the law) opened up the world to me, and my Monash education (paved the way for a) global career spanning elite sports, and now leading a nonprofit to drive greater social change and inclusion for people with disability.”
“Our daughter has a disability so it’s great to apply my global experience to help this community and I have been thrilled to partner with Monash on several initiatives.”
“I hope we can do lots more together to make tertiary education more inclusive for people with disabilities. I also want graduates to know more about disability through their education journey.”
Phoebe’s birth also spurred a new key motivator for Phil: “To create a better world for people with disability where they have more opportunity and acceptance.”
Phil is currently a member of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) National Committee for Supported Employment, and also serves on the NDIS Victorian State Committee.
He was proud to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from Monash University in 2019.
He was an honoree for the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) 2019 Class of Influential Leaders.
Phil was awarded a Harvard Club of Victoria Scholarship, completing Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management in 2012.
He also completed the Williamson Leadership program - a ten month experiential program for senior leaders - in 2016.
Finally, Phil said he was grateful to have combined his professional career with private passions.
“My son, now 21, is a professional basketball player and I worked for 12 years with the NBA because basketball is a passion and the NBA is the world’s best basketball league,” he said.
“My current role (with Wallara) is my most rewarding role to date and was inspired by my daughter.”
“Work and life are very blended, and I love that.”
Phil’s advice for current and prospective students
- Never forget that education can open up the world to you.
- Don’t wait for job advertisements – find places where you want to work and approach them!