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photo of Piet Van Der Pol at Adelaide United Stadium

“You cannot build a house from the roof down” says Piet Van Der Pol, Chairman of Adelaide United Football Club. Building a strong foundation is paramount to Piet, “I want United to always be competitive and for people to say, we have a chance at winning the championship”.

His ‘grassroots’ strategy is paying dividends with Adelaide United again playing in the finals in 2022. It wasn’t that long ago that United wasn’t achieving goals. Piet’s arrival just over 4 years ago changed the culture at United to help create one of the league’s most successful clubs with 2 new cups in the cabinet and 4 semi final appearances in 5 seasons. We shouldn’t be surprised, he’s been in the business a long time and his passion is infectious. 20 years ago he was the youngest ever CEO of a professional football club in the Netherlands and that’s no mean feat.

A couple of years ago at the start of the pandemic Piet and his wife Heidi were blessed with their first child named Noah, because “It’s the one name that can be easily pronounced in three languages, Chinese (Heidi is Chinese), Dutch and English”. We asked him if Noah changed him in anyway? “It’s made me more determined!” so in the future we can thank Noah for United’s success!

Piet appreciates how good life is here in Adelaide, the past three years have been turbulent for everyone, Piet, Heidi and Noah couldn’t think of a better place to have been stuck during COVID than in the Western suburbs.

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From a young age Teresa Flaherty wanted to teach. A scholarship to St Aloysius College exposed her to the caring nature of the Sisters of Mercy. They are responsible for Teresa discovering her passion for teaching and helping others. 

After graduating, with teaching appointments in both Adelaide and Mt Gambier, her next port of call was Papua New Guinea (PNG). It would become her biggest contribution to humanity. Teresa’s experiences and work over many decades would leave a significant legacy in the people and culture of our Island neighbour.

Teaching alongside other Australian Sisters of Mercy and priests from around the world she changed the lives of many PNG people. So much so, that Teresa was appointed a School Inspector by the government.

It wasn’t all roses. Near the end of the Bougainville conflict in 1995 Teresa was assigned to a UN Rehabilitation and Peace keeping mission. What she saw and experienced left a permanent impression.

With a PhD in education and a second one in religious history and author of ‘The Women’s Voice in Education’ and ‘Crossings in Mercy’, her dedication to life-long learning and the rights of women and girls’ involvement in decision making, is ongoing.

Teresa often quotes Kofi Annan (UN Secretary General 1997-2005) “No development tool is more effective than the education of girls, and the empowerment of women”.

Her family visited her in PNG but Teresa didn’t realise the importance of their visits until later when they shared the joy that they finally understood what her life was about. 

Her time in PNG brought about many changes for which the people of PNG will be forever indebted to show their gratitude they named the boardroom at the Goroka University in her honour. 

Since her return from PNG, one of Tess’s many personal projects has been researching the brief life of Walter Loxton. The Peter Elberg Walter Loxton Chapel is a tribute to her late uncle lost in WW2.

Please, if you run into Teresa stop and say “yuorait”  (This means “How are you?” in the pidgin English of Papua New Guinea).


Pam Tobin came from humble beginnings to become an Adelaide food industry identity and champion of a primary industry sector while carrying the identity of “Madam Mushroom”.

Her family has very strong roots in the Western suburbs, particularly around Flinders Park. Her father immigrated from Italy with a “few bob” in his pocket, met Pam’s mother here and they married. Pam’s father, Jim, became famous as the head of E Zerella & Sons, a company which became well known for growing tomatoes, potatoes and carrots in the Flinders Park area. They worked hard, most days starting at 3am, with Jim’s love of opera bellowing through the rafters of the packing shed as they packed cases for market every day. Never forgetting where he came from, Jim looked after the “poverachi” (the poor) around the neighborhood with food, a trait strongly evident in his daughter today. In 1966 Pam met a banker by the name of John Tobin they married and went on to have three lovely children, John, Catherine and Amelia. Unsurprisingly they all have a love for food.

Pam worked together on television with Michael Keenan for 12 years and on radio for 30, during which time he coined Pam’s title: Madam Mushroom. He said that Pam single-handedly put mushrooms “on the map”. In her tenure as head of the Food Studio she managed to treble the size of the local mushroom industry.

Pam’s down-to-earth manner and knowledge-base has served as a successful recipe in working with the likes of Antonio Carluccio, various Hyatt’s Executive Chefs, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Indigenous food companies along with countless restaurants and cafes, so much so that she has been honored with numerous State and National awards. 

COVID has been tough, causing Pam to shut the doors on her much loved Food Studio business. But Pam has always seen the glass as half full and declares a positive from the current pandemic turmoil is that “it’s made me more aware of what’s important in life… the act of kindness and talk, talk, talk... to family and friends”

You’ll never find Pam very far from the kitchen doing what she loves most... cooking “per la famiglia” ,nearly always with a recipe including her favorite fungi ingredient!


“Never forget where you came from and don’t get ahead of yourself” profound words from Kathy Nagle’s late father. Words that helped shape who Kathy is today.

From her earliest memories Kathy always dreamed of being a nurse. That dream came true at age15 when she started her career at a Nursing Home in Largs North as a nurse’s assistant.

Today, as the CEO of Western Hospital, with her father’s words still ringing in her head, she’s created a culture which is true to her humble past. And the locals love it. Using Western as a meeting place, not to use the services, but just to catch-up with friends for coffee and chat. Her father would be very proud!

Does she miss nursing? “Everyday” she said. “In fact recently I was ‘on-call’ and got called in for night-duty which I enjoyed very much” It takes a special type to be a nurse, Kathy fits that bill exactly, she oozes goodness, love and compassion.

She’s the real deal from the west or a ’swampy’, as they were once known. Born in Semaphore at Le Fevre Hospital and spending her whole life in the Western suburbs it’s understandable why she never wants to leave, “I’m such a Western person I get lost off the peninsula”

We asked Kathy what was the most useful thing she has learnt during COVID? “Patience!!… it’s forced us to pause” Kathy says she’s not a patient person by nature. She hides it well… sitting and chatting with her was a delight.

Port Adelaide Football Club (PAFC) played a big role in her family, she fondly remembers the excitement felt heading to Alberton as a kid to watch Port play. That excitement was relived recently when voted by members to join the PAFC board. It’s another highlight, in a string of highlights for Kathy’s career.

If you ever get the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with Kathy... take it!


Natasha Stott Despoja AO needs no introduction. She has single-handedly achieved more for women and children since 1995 than many would achieve in two lifetimes.

We’re honoured to have her living right here in the western suburbs where she and her husband Ian enjoy raising their two children.

She has a list of achievements that would stretch from the city to the coast:

  • The youngest woman to enter the Australian Federal Parliament in 1995

  • Founding Chair of Our Watch (the organisation to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children)

  • Australia’s Global Ambassador for Women and Girls (2013-2016)

  • In 2018, named one of the Top 100 Global Influencers on Gender Policy

  • Last year was elected by the General Assembly of the United Nations as a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

  • 2021 National Award Winner in ‘The Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership'.

As one of South Australia’s “100 Most Inspiring Women of All Time”, we’re extremely proud to present Natasha as our first inaugural post in the ‘Inspirational people from the West’ series.

Click here to see Natasha's complete list of achievements:

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