Brenton G. Wright 20 September 1947 - 2 November 2017
Brenton Geoffrey Wright was a big person – physically large, intellectually powerful, personally and professionally courageous. Sometimes loud and always outgoing, Brenton was a trusted adviser and mentor to many.
Brenton was born in Salisbury to Doug (a manufacturer) and Doris Wright, and was brother to Graham, Dennis, and Pamela. In those days Salisbury was a country town, where Brenton attended Salisbury Primary, and Salisbury and Elizabeth High Schools. Brenton was always proud of this heritage. When his later life brought success, he would respond to congratulations by saying ‘Not bad eh, for a Salisbury boy?’ In 1970, Brenton married Lyn Fribbins, and they raised two daughters, Kate and Leah. Leah died in a car accident at the age of 17, a loss that brought enduring pain and sadness for her family. Brenton had three loved grandchildren, and was married to Lyn for 39 years.
Brenton graduated from the SA Institute of Technology and began his professional career in the Department of Community Welfare, where he became a manager at the age of 23. From the beginning, Brenton’s career was characterised by a strong commitment to social justice, and an innate sense of what was fair and right. He believed that the best work is done by organisations that provide a safe and supportive environment for their staff, and he had the courage and skill to ensure that these values were played out in the organisations he led. He knew how to develop innovative and effective social policy and programs. South Australia was fortunate that Brenton chose the human services for his career, as he went on to serve as the CEO of Spastic Centres, of the Children’s Services Office and Deputy CEO of the Premier’s Department.
Brenton later left the public sector to work in several senior positions with the American multi-national company EDS, but in 2001 he decided to set up his own business. He drew together a veritable who’s who of Adelaide’s talented managers to establish his consultancy ‘Lizard Drinking’. The company went on to become a leading provider of strategic and management advice to government departments, local government, the private sector and non-government organisations, nationally and internationally, over many years. His unique combination of clear-eyed analysis and intuitive problem solving was valued by his many clients.
Ever the restless intellect, Brenton made his mark in many fields. He served as Chair of the Community Engagement Board, the State Theatre Company, Annesley College, Community Information Services of SA, vivoPharm Pty Ltd, and most recently of Lighthouse Disability. He was also a member and supporter of Amnesty International and Philanthropy Australia among others, and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management.
Brenton is remembered by those who worked for him as a great boss, interested in his staff members’ careers, warm and personable with everyone he worked with, but absolutely clear about what needed to change and how to succeed in that risky endeavour. As one of his senior staff said recently, there is no person aged under 30 who grew up in SA who does not benefit from the policy and practice changes in early childhood services that Brenton led.
He took his work, both paid and voluntary, very seriously, but rarely himself. Most of his jokes were at his own expense, and his sense of humour and his story telling were legendary. He was a great entertainer and even the most everyday event came alive in Brenton’s retelling. He had a love of things technical, the latest gadget, the newest computers and wristwatches by the dozen. Motorbikes (and their matching manufacturers’ teeshirts) were a passion for Brenton – as was the Port Adelaide Football Club. Brenton loved music, and in 2014 he fulfilled a long desire to be part of a singing group by joining the Woodville Concert Choir.
When Brenton met Pam Simmons, his partner of seven years, they both found great happiness. They shared many travel adventures, but also loved their home life and entertaining friends. They enacted their shared deep commitment to supporting the lives of the most vulnerable through philanthropy and advocacy, building on their vast collective experience in the community sector.
The life of this warm hearted, generous, intelligent and funny man was cut short when he was fatally injured while returning from the MotoGP on his BMW. Brenton Wright believed passionately in a fair and just South Australia, made an enormous personal contribution, and is greatly missed.