Last week marked a milestone in one of our many special relationships – the 30th anniversary of Telstra’s sponsorship of the Australian Ballet.

When the relationship began, in 1984, Telstra was still Telecom. We had 90,000 employees, the vast majority male; we were still government-owned and had a deep focus on engineering excellence.

And yet we entered into a sponsorship of the Australian Ballet. Today it is a relationship that has not just stood the test of time, but grown stronger and richer with each passing year.

Much of the credit has to go to Mel Ward – Mel was the last managing director of Telecom Australia. (Interestingly, he was also the first person to make a mobile phone call in Australia – from the Sydney Opera House on 23 February 1987).

Mel and his wife were great supporters of the Arts. In those days financial support for the Arts was not always easy to find and the Ballet administrators would look through their subscriber database for possible financial supporters. Somebody spotted Mel’s name, a phone call was made, a connection created, a relationship begun. The rest is history. Mel even ended up on the Australian Ballet Board from 1991 through to 2002.

Since then Telecom (now Telstra) has changed a lot and so too has the Australian Ballet. The relationship between our organisations has changed as well in that it has grown in depth and meaning. I think it works so well because like all good relationships it is based on mutual commitment. The partnership has evolved but both parties have gained something much more than just a sponsorship arrangement. There is a strong dimension of mutual inspiration and innovation and for Telstra’s part we are constantly inspired by the skill and capability of the dancers and the artistic excellence of the choreography.

I think there is also strong alignment of shared ideals and values. Things like a commitment to excellence, technical difficulty, discipline, a sense of teamwork, innovation, being courageous in what we do, resilience, perseverance and a personal commitment. These are qualities we treasure as a company and we see in the dancers as they perform. When I watched the videos prepared for the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award and listen to the way the dancers describe their commitment to their art I feel a deep alignment with the passion I see and hear from the Telstra team.

There is also a real alignment in purpose. For Telstra this is about creating a brilliant connected future for everyone. For the dancers it is about how they communicate the wonder of an artistic pursuit and their ability to connect and inspire audiences of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. It is a special privilege that we both share in connecting people that gives all of this meaning and significance.

Looking forward I can only see this relationship getting stronger because we share so much in terms of values, purpose and a determination to be the best at what we do.

It has been fantastic to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our unique partnership with the Australian Ballet. I am already looking forward to the 40th anniversary celebration and the 50th after that.

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