Lessons from the Legends

The new UDIA NSW Legends and Legacy Program seeks to identify the industry’s next generation of leaders, harness the power of diversity within the industry, and provide unprecedented access to some of the industry’s greats.

Written by Holly Reynolds and Michelle Bowers, Left Field Communications

Legend, Tony Perich AM, is as wildly successful as he is humble. He and his family have grown a portfolio of diversified business interests, including Leppington Pastoral dairy farming, Greenfields property development, and a majority shareholding in Freedom Foods.

A man with a very busy diary but an easy smile and self-effacing nature, Perich was initially reluctant with being identified as a legend because of his dislike for the limelight. But when he was asked to help the next generation through UDIA’s Legends and Legacy, he embraced the program with his trademark passion.

“I’m not a developer. I’m still a farmer. But I’m a leader in business. I can turn my hand to anything physically or mentally. If you can pass that on to the younger generation, you can inspire them to do more than they would normally do. That’s the secret,” says Perich.

Creating the Program

UDIA NSW Councillor and CEO of Diversified Property Group Vanessa Pearson, remembers what it was like at the beginning of her career, walking into a room full of strangers who were already established in their careers and that all seemed know each other.

“It was hard to break in and establish myself as someone to know in the room,” she recalls.

Pearson was fortunate enough to meet people like UDIA NSW past Presidents Ross Blancato, Ralph Bruce (Life Member), Judy McKittrick (Life Member), as well as Life Members Tony Perich AM and Kevin Alker, who saw her potential and took time out in her early career to chat with and encourage her.

“It was these interactions which inspired me to create this program,” she said. “Looking back, I was very fortunate to have met the right people to nurture my career. I had gained so much from a series of five minute conversations over a number of years. There is something very powerful that happens when industry legends give their time in this way.”

“I wanted to supercharge this networking and nurturing experience for our next generations of leaders. I wanted to remove the element of chance and support and fast-track the next generation of leaders to create connections which meant they were no longer strangers in the room.”

Over the years the kernel of an idea to create a unique, part-mentoring, part-networking, part-leadership program to nurture the best young talent in the development industry began to grow.

As a result, Legends and Legacy was born as a key pillar of the UDIA’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee’s 2019-20 Strategic Plan. Its purpose? To identify and foster the next generation of industry leaders and harness the power of the diversity within the industry by uniting those who have invaluable knowledge through experience with those who hold the development industry’s future in their hands.

Launched earlier this year with 11 of our industry’s ‘Legends’ and 14 ‘Aspiring Leaders’, its success is a measure of the commitment of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. And Pearson’s inspiration aligned perfectly with the objectives for the committee.

“Legends and Legacy presented the perfect opportunity to embrace the diversity within our industry with a targeted program that connects and unites our legends and aspiring leaders,” said Nathan Croft, Diversity & Inclusion Committee member and champion of the Legends and Legacy program.

“It highlighted the commonalities between people in our industry, and exposed the diversity of thought that comes from diversity of experience, to create deeper and richer interactions,” said Croft.

As Perich, one of the program’s inaugural legends, told us, “People like [fellow legend] Sean O’Toole and I… we’ve done it. So, we’ve got to try to bring other people on. If we don’t, who will be our leaders? If I can pass the good on and bring a few more people on to be leaders that’s worth more than all the money in the world.”


Apply to be part of the Legends and Legacy Program 2020 here


Igniting the next generation of leaders

Although he’s never taken part in an organised mentoring program before, Perich’s belief in the UDIA and drive to help people saw him not just become an inaugural legend, but also agree to take part in an intimate fireside chat.

The fireside chat format – in which legends Perich and Crown Group CEO Iwan Sunito each hosted a frank Q&A session attended only by the aspiring leaders – proved hugely popular. Not least because the Chatham House Rules proviso allowed a special openness.

“The fireside chats were inspiring, funny and engaging,” says Pearson. “Both Tony and Iwan gave us a ‘warts and all’ recount of the early stages of their careers, the obstacles they endured and the emotions that came with those experiences. Tony and Iwan shared much more with us then they have previously done in published interviews.”

Priscilla Tran, Development Manager at City West Housing, is an ‘Aspiring Leader’ and winner of UDIA NSW & OptiComm Young Leaders’ Award for Excellence 2019, most appreciated the fireside chats and candidness about setting big goals, which inspired her to go home and immediately talk to her husband about their own goals.

“I set a day with my husband to talk about where we are in our life. I called it a ‘life strategy day’. To discuss what we want and how we can get there. I hope in 10 years’ time I’ll have made significant strides towards those goals and along the way built really good relationships in the industry.”

Pictured: 2019 Legends and Legacy participants at the Fireside Chat with Iwan Sunito, CEO Crown Group.

Becoming your own advocate

The program almost didn’t happen at all for Tran, who moved to Sydney from Brisbane last year. She felt that she didn’t have enough time in the game, or the State, to deserve a seat at the Legends and Legacy table.

“I felt like I needed to establish myself more in Sydney… that I needed permission. One of the ways I’ve found this program so valuable is realising that if I don’t fight for myself, who will? I needed to give myself permission to succeed,” she said.

With direct access to some of the industry’s biggest hitters, Tran says she discovered that no matter the success they’ve had, they’re just like everyone else, albeit with more years of experience.

“It made me realise that if they’re like me then I could be like them one day. I still need to apply myself, work hard and develop good relationships. All those things I hold on to but now I can see the potential I have which is greater than I thought. I’m honestly thinking and dreaming bigger.”
Tran says many conversations between legends and aspiring leaders during the program may seem insignificant to the legends but can have a lasting effect on an aspiring leader.

“[The conversations I’ve had] are something I still think about. Even if it’s not something I practically put into place immediately, it’s something that will stay with me like a nugget of wisdom to hold onto.”

“For the people who are the titans in the industry it can be easy to forget what it was like at our stage in their careers – to not have the contacts, the knowledge or the confidence. Whatever they can give is invaluable.”

Tran’s reaction is exactly what Perich hoped for in return when he signed up as a 2019 legend.

A two-way street

Alongside the knowledge shared by the 11 Legends, Tran is also grateful for the relationship that has developed between the Aspiring Leader group. An unexpected by-product which she says has “helped fast-track good quality relationships that will hopefully last for the rest of our careers”.

The 2019 group have ‘taken the ball and run with it’ to help ensure the program has a bright future – attracting more of the industry’s recognised legends and those with the commitment to work hard to get there to create their own legacy.

“You don’t become a Legend unless you’re the type of person to want to contribute,” says Tran.

“It reminds us we’re not just in the job to gain a career, earn money or be in a position of power because all those things fade. It’s the legacy that we want to leave behind. The impact that we have on people along the way whether they’re of note or whether they’re just starting out.”

Bringing the vision to life

Although opinions about diversity and how it should be embraced differ across the generations, the program has already shown what can happen when you bring those differences together.

Ultimately, despite being diverse in years and backgrounds, Perich and Tran agree emphatically on the most important quality of all – respect.

“I give the same respect to anyone no matter their position or who they are,” says Tran.

“I felt that from the Legends, that they give us their time and their wisdom in a way that reminds us that we are also important and encourage us to keep pursuing what we’re doing.”

For Perich, it’s simple.

“I hope I can help change people’s minds. Maybe change their direction. Make them realise you can’t do it on your own and understand the importance of respect and relationships. Just respect one another then you won’t have any problems.”

“I have been humbled by how well this program has been received by not only the legends and aspiring leaders but also the UDIA membership. The feedback has been very positive especially on how well the program went in its inaugural year. This of course speaks to the quality of our aspiring leaders and the excellent contribution of our legends.”
– Vanessa Pearson, UDIA NSW Councillor

“I had the privilege of participating in the interviewing and selection of the applicants for the L&L Program. The diverse range of people and talent was a real eye opener. If the young leaders selected in this program are the future of our industry, we are in very safe hands…Anyone who knows anything about this program has got to rate it a bloody roaring success.”
– Kevin Alker, Legend and program champion

Honour Roll of 2019

Congratulations and sincere thanks to our inaugural community of Legends and Legacy participants.


  • Kevin Alker
  • Julie Bindon
  • Ralph Bruce
  • Sylvia Hrovatin
  • Abdul Khan
  • Laurie Kresner
  • Judy McKittrick
  • Carmen Osbourne
  • Sean O’Toole

Fireside Legends:

  • Tony Perrich
  • Iwan Sunito


  • Kellie Adamson
  • Dayne Bennett
  • Jacqueline Bowie
  • Joss Engebretsen
  • Emily McLaughlin
  • Samantha Miller
  • Vanessa Morschel
  • Bernado Reiter
  • Marcus Skeggs
  • Sarah Thompson
  • Priscilla Tran
  • Adnan Voloder
  • Richard Williams
  • Ledlum Yugure

Read the PDF version here

Apply to be part of the Legends and Legacy Program 2020 here

Special thanks from UDIA NSW Diversity and Inclusion Committee
This program would not have been possible without the contribution of Legend and Legacy program champions Kevin Alker and Nathan Croft and seamless delivery by Kylie Prince and the UDIA staff. We would like to thank our President Michael Sheargold, CEO Steve Mann and the UDIA NSW Council for their ongoing support of this program. Most of all, we would like to thank our Legends who volunteered their time to make an impact and to be a part of this program.