Meet Pernell Callaghan

Date: 25 Nov 2023

Treasurer, Dilworth Old Boys’ ‘Association (DOBA)

Pernell Callaghan has been Treasurer of the Dilworth Old Boys’ Association since 2020. He owns and operates three businesses across the real estate technology, private wealth management and finance sectors, employing around 170 people.

He tells us what drives him to give up his time for Dilworth's old boys, what he loved about his own time at the school, and the inspiration behind the name Pernell.

How would you describe the objectives of DOBA?
The overarching goal would be to bring the old boys community together, whether that be through events, personal support or forging connections. We try to respond to what our wider community needs. We’re trying to get people together who have a strong sense of commitment to the school.

We play a role in connecting old boys if they have similar business interests or other things in common – even old boys who might be 20, 30, or 40 years apart in age.

For those who want to be involved with DOBA, we ask how can we help. For those who don’t want to be involved, we ask if there is anything we can do to support them.

How can DOBA help Dilworth alumni?
Making connections and opening up employment opportunities are a couple of ways.

I have old boys that work for me, for example. I have a real estate company and a while ago I came across a Dilworth graduate who had left school 2-3 years earlier and was looking for a job in real estate. He didn’t have qualifications or licensing requirements so I hired him and took him through the process of getting his qualifications.

I hear a lot of stories like that in our old boy's network.

What does the role of the Treasurer entail?
I manage the financial side of DOBA, subscription payments, reconciling accounts, paying creditors – everything to do with the finances essentially.

What drives you to be involved with DOBA?
It’s nice to make a contribution and give something back to the school after the education and support I received when I was a student there. It feels good to repay everything we received.

What activities does DOBA do?
We meet every month, or sometimes more frequently if we have an event coming up. We hold four or so larger events every year and something smaller once or twice per month. Often these are integrated with the school - recently we met with Year 13 students, for example, to explain who we are, what we do, how you become a member, and how we might be able to help.  

How would you describe your years at Dilworth?
It was the best time of my life. I really enjoyed it. That’s why I’ve still got a strong affiliation with the school.

You’re from the Far North. How did you come across Dilworth?
My mum saw an advertisement in a magazine and talked to me about it, and I was interested. I’ve always been an independent person and even at a young age I felt ready to board and wanted to take the opportunity. We went down, did the orientation, and I was successful in getting accepted.

What sort of student were you?
I was an average student, certainly not a stand-out! It’s fair to say I didn’t fully apply myself. In fact, I took all the subjects where I didn’t have to do exams! I participated in everything though – cultural, music, sports. I just wasn’t the best at anything.

Did your education set you up to take the next step?
I didn’t go to university because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I started working straight away, and that’s worked well for me.

For me, the key aspect wasn’t the education itself, but the sense of discipline, routine and respect instilled at the school. The school and staff recognised that you need to keep students busy so you’re not mucking around. A good routine, making my bed, having a proper breakfast, skills that transfer after leaving school.

Probably the most important thing that I learnt was a respect for leadership in different contexts – that has helped me in the real world, in transitioning into employment, when managing staff or helping people.

Any stand-out memories of your time at Dilworth that you can share?
I appreciated how, in Years 12 or 13, the teachers did their best to treat you like an adult. There was a certain level of leniency and respect from teachers to students, less authoritarian, but still helping you understand where the boundaries are.

The biggest takeaways were not the specific lessons, but how to be a decent human in general, with personal responsibility and respect for people and discipline and boundaries.

Where does the name Pernell come from?
My mum loved the TV series Bonanza. One of the main characters in that show was played by an actor called Pernell Roberts. I was named after him.