An Unusual Dinner

Last Thursday evening I went to a book launch.

Widyan al Ubudy with Gina Rinehart

Not just your average book launch with a glass of chardonnay and some canapes, mind you, but instead a book launch and formal dinner for several hundres in the ballroom of the 4 Seasons Hotel in Sydney. And the event wasn’t just remarkable for the dinner. When was the last time that you went to a dinner where before the main course is served, you are asked to be upstanding in order to sing the national anthem?

It made me realize that I was in a room full of people who were not just supporters of the author, but were also passionate about Australia and its future.

But then that is what I should have expected in going to the launch of a book by the world’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart.

I was joined at the dinner by a strikingly beautiful young Arab woman, who I met while she was a student, and who I have been mentoring. She is currently interning in the newsroom at Channel 10, one of Gina Rinehart’s portfolio of investment interests. I am also editing a book that she is writing about refugees. She knows a thing or two about the subject because she was born in a refugee camp, and she spends time as a volunteer, taking food to refugees at Villawood, one of the detention centres for “illegals”.

Widyan al Ubudy is her name and she was, without doubt, in a dead heat as the youngest person in the room with one of Gina’s daughters who was with her. Most of the people in the room were male and over 70 – investors and entrepreneurs from the mining sector. They had come to hear Gina’s vision.They got what they wanted.

Widyan and I were seated at one of the VIP tables, thanks to Julian Malnic, the chairman of the Sydney Mining Club, who had previously met Widyan, and saw the same spark that I saw, and wanted to help give her the opportunity to get noticed.

A lady came and sat at the table next to me and introduced herself as Jan, and we got chatting.

Jan Ford with Widyan al Ubudy at the Gina Rinehart book launch

It turned out that Jan was on the board of the organization that Gina has set up to help drive her vision for Australia. She started to talk to me about the Gina that is not in the media. It was quite fascinating. There is clearly a public Gina Rinehart who is all P&L and a private Gina who has a strong philanthropic motivation. Jan, the lady at the table with the insights, told me that much of what Gina does philanthropically never gets into the news, because Gina doesn’t want it out there…I thought that was rather interesting….

I am rather pleased to say that Widyan got to meet Gina…. who told her to hang in at Channel 10 and stay the distance. Who knows where these things lead….?


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