Where are they now – Bernie Cochran (SPC 1979-84)

December 2, 2019

The College recently reconnected with Bernie Cochran (SPC 1979-84) who has enjoyed a rich and varied working life and is now has the work/life balance right in sunny Queensland with his wife and young son. Bernie shares his many fond memories of his time at SPC.


Bernie Cochran with his son Banjo.


Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
It has been quite a journey since leaving as part of the class of 1984, much like most of the graduates of my class I’d bet. Funnily enough my first full-time job the year after I left school was for an up-market ladies’ shoe shop in Ballarat, Frederick’s Shoes in Sturt Street. What made this my first career step I really can’t recall, I was working part time for many years after school at Navaho (a BMX and motorcycle accessories shop) across the road – I think I just saw a ‘staff wanted’ sign in the window while getting a sandwich next door one day and thought ‘money’s money’. An old VW Beetle in need of some upgrades being the primary motivator.

Ironically enough it seemed to work, I discovered that ladies shoes and motorcycle helmets are not that different, it wasn’t the product it was how you related to people. Everyone just wants to be valued and complemented, it didn’t matter if it was a 14 year-old kid choosing a racing outfit or a 50 year-old lady choosing shoes – a kind ‘you look really good in that’ sealed the sales. Frederick’s was bought out by a larger company who imported shoes and ran a chain of stores in Melbourne. My impressive sales record caught their eye and I was moved to their head office in Melbourne as a trainee buyer.

I soon learned that ladies shoes was not really where my interests lied, funny that, so came back to Ballarat to work at 3BA in their advertising sales department. From there I moved to 3XY in Melbourne (those from my era will recall them) and then to 3GL in Geelong before heading back to Melbourne to work in National Agency Sales for Hoyts Media who had just started the Triple J network at that time. Through that time I studied marketing also, balancing my time between work and study. Overseas adventures awaited which pulled me away for a period.

Upon returning I went back to the same job at Hoyts Media in Melbourne, but itchy feet are hard to scratch so I accepted a transfer to their Brisbane office. The first weekend I arrived in Brisbane, I went for a drive with my new workmates down to the Gold Coast and instantly fell in love with it. I rented a unit on the beach at Broadbeach – that was 1989. At that time an old boss had taken over as General Manager of SeaWorld and through contact with him, I heard of a position going at the Gold Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau. I threw my hat in the ring and with his reference behind me managed to snag the position. From there came a fantastic 12-year journey of travelling the world promoting the Gold Coast to travel agents, travel wholesalers and airlines. For six of those 12, I was the International Marketing Manager through a period where we opened the Chinese, Indian and Middle East travel markets to Australia, now amongst the largest inbound tourism markets. That was in addition to existing markets from north and south Asia, Japan, North America, UK and across Europe.

However travel takes its toll and I left there and went on to take up a few positions for various tourism operators ending up in marketing roles with Mantra and then onto Asset Management positions with some Sydney-based investment companies. I soon discovered Sydney wasn’t my scene and chose a change of pace, more lifestyle focused and closer to home, joining a couple of friends at a growing web development studio at beautiful Burleigh Heads. For the last five years 7thVision has been my work-home, a great group of guys, great work/life balance and only 10 minutes from our peaceful home in Currumbin Valley.

I met my wife, Jo, 12 years ago and have been married for 10 of those. We have one son, Banjo who is nine years of age.

My mum, Eleanor, moved to the Gold Coast in 2010, after her retirement from St Patrick’s Cathedral Office after 37 years. She loved Ballarat but absolutely loves her life up here also. Perhaps living in the apartment below the one Kelly Slater owns and having the occasional drop in visit and cup of tea when he is around helps! Funny, she was never into surfing as far as I can recall.

Regardless of the years, I still look back to my growing and school years in Ballarat and have so many cherished memories. Granted, I still stop and reflect each July on what the poor souls down there are suffering through as I am out and about in the beautiful, clear Queensland winter days… Queensland is definitely home now.


What are your fondest memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
The comradery of my friends; Joe Barrett, Chris Franklin, Damien Baxter, Chris Hayes, Anthony Keoh, Peter Robinson, Peter McClusky, Adrian Scarff, Matt Lund, Brian Clifford … so many others. We grew up inside of school and out. It was the morning breaks, lunch breaks, after school and weekend shenanigans…


Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
Mr (Ronny) Andrews was an Art Teacher in my time (1979-1984). I had an interest in art and design and even though art was not a high level priority subject at that time, Mr Andrews fostered my love of the subject. This went all the way through to HSC, at that time Fine Art was not a subject that was part of the general offering, however Mr Andrews offered to oversee my HSC study even though I was the only one undertaking the subject. He, through the school, made the arrangements and took me through the final year subject which I passed.

To me now, that was a great example of a teacher going above and beyond to help kids. I am sure running a HSC subject for one kid was a significant addition to his workload but he did it without fuss and I am very appreciative for the selflessness and interest he took.

There are obviously many others that come to mind; Br (Wild Bill) Wilding, Br Breech, Mr McFarley, Br Miller and many more that I am sure will appear in other’s stories from those around my era.


How has your education shaped your professional life?
It has been the foundation to a solid and stable professional life. Not just from an academic perspective but also from a value and moralistic personal perspective. I feel I had the social skills, resilience and confidence to go into the world when the time came and compete on a pretty competitive playing field. The secondary education is without doubt the foundation of any career to follow, I was lucky in many ways as the world was not as competitive as it is for school leavers and young people today. I do now understand that you really do ‘get back what you put in’.


How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?

I know my parents gave up a lot for me to go to St Patrick’s to ensure I had the best foundation of education to take me through life, and they made the right choice. As much as I resisted and pushed back against some aspects (the discipline, the rules, the conformity etc). I now understand why they were there. I maintain a pretty deep moral compass and I definitely still live by the values that were shaped in those years. It takes a lot to become the best man you can be and I’m still learning and trimming the sails however without doubt that time has shaped me to who I am now in the most positive of ways.


If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
Value the time you have as part of your school journey. As much as I loathed the saying ‘they are the best years of your life’ when I was young, the truth is that they are, or are definitely amongst them. Forge and value the friendships you are making as they are the ones that will last a lifetime. Most importantly, don’t be impatient about wanting the future to unfold too quickly, as it eventually does and in a few breaths it’s gone. Take time, enjoy your growing years and the excitement of your youth and early adult years to come. It’s the journey and not the destination that is the best bit.