What is the Question – January

January 13, 2021 BY

To get What is the Question started in 2021, Roland chanted with IT executive Tevita Topui.


What is your name?

Tevita Topui.

What is your occupation?

IT Executive – (director of event I.T. examinations & chief operating officer).

What brought you to Ballarat?

University. I had several options but I chose Ballarat as I don’t really like big cities. I grew up in a small country town.

What is your earliest memory?

A motorbike screaming past my house and causing a short in the heart monitoring equipment that was installed on my sister’s cot. She was considered an extreme SIDS risk.

What building would you choose to be?

The old Ballarat Fire Brigade building which has burnt down and been re-built. I can’t help but compare that building to my life. On several occasions, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, I’ve had to rebuild, either mentally or financially. The building and I are still standing – stronger than ever.

What is your most treasured possession?

A fob watch chain which I wear around my neck. It was given me by my surrogate father on initiation into Freemasonry.

What would you change if you could edit your past?

Mandatory self-closing lids on nappy buckets and better education of childhood dangers for new parents. So many children would have been saved.

I lost my identical twin brother in an accidental drowning. It was the 80s, when parents used reusable nappies and nappy buckets. My brother fell into one and couldn’t get out. It nearly killed my parents. It drove them both to drink.

What or who inspires you?

My father. I remember watching him serve our family a chicken neck soup for dinner and not eat himself until my siblings and I had our fill. He collected-up what was remaining for his dinner. I realised, decades later, even though we had nothing, dad always made sure we were warm, fed and safe. He worked – rain, hail or shine – as a labourer in the Mallee. This inspires me daily. No matter how hard the day ahead, you need to tackle it!

What is your favourite quote?

“Education is not a part of life; education is life itself,” John Dewey.

What person – living or dead would invite to dinner party?

Nelson Mandela. He is a reminder that even while you are being forced into the darkest parts of your life, and all the world seems against you, you can continue your path and live your dream.

What qualities do you admire in other people?

Honour, respect, compassion and manners; particularly respect for others and compassion for the needy. Above all else, a gentleman’s manners are his biggest asset.

What was your first job?

I was 13. Every day after school I was fridge stacker, rotating stock at the local fish and chip shop. Sometimes I prepared the chips. I was paid $20 a week and as many dim sims as a boy could handle!

What did you want to be when you were growing-up?

A police officer. I liked the idea of helping people thought. I thought it would be cool; however, even at the peak of my fitness (which was pretty good once. I’m a former state champion rower and cross-country runner). It was a police force requirement, you had to be flexible enough to touch your toes. I never could!

What scares you?

Ledges. I am not scared of heights just the ledge between myself and the height. It’s a strange paradox. I can, and have, jumped from planes; I can climb and descend cliff faces, but I cannot stand at the edge and look over.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

It’s okay to fail, and once you hit rock bottom, the only way-out is up!

What is your most embarrassing parenting moment?

My daughter ate a piece of red tissue paper without me noticing (I was busily cleaning-up a broken jar). When I walked back into the room and saw her bright red mouth I panicked.  Even though I was trained to deal with stressful, life threatening situations, I froze, and started yelling for my wife. She calmly picked-up our daughter, took the tissue out of her mouth, laughed uproariously, and handed me the piece of tissue.

What is the funniest thing you remember one of your kids saying, or doing?

We all know that children mimic their parents. I was driving down a Ballarat road when I was cut-off by another car. Rather than the usual rant about “Ballarat drivers”, I said nothing. When I attempted to move to another lane, only to again be cut-off, I heard my son, sitting in the back seat of the car, say, “What a wanker!”

What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a parent?

Not pushing to much of your own up-bringing onto your children. I grew up in an extremely strict Christian household.

Previously, coming from my cultural upbringing (Tongan), it has been a struggle at times not to say to my daughter: no, you can’t wear that skirt; or to tell my son he can’t wear pink clothes – which he now wears on a daily basis and it’s his favourite colour. If anyone has a problem, they’re welcome to discuss it with me.