Force of Nature

Award-winning chef, entrepreneur and global networking supremo Phil Harte introduces Classic Agenda Heroes 2021, a magnificently photographed book celebrating the achievements of Aussie women from all walks of life.

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International jetsetters will know the glossy coffee-table book Classic Lifestyle – it’s on the shelves of first-class and business airport lounges around the world and covers the best of everything about fine dining, prestige travel and ultra-luxury living. 

Phil Harte’s company, Harte International Consultancy, released the 25th edition of Classic Lifestyle in March. While every edition is a visual feast, Classic Agenda Heroes 2021 is the latest in a series published to celebrate inspirational women, in conjunction with International Women’s Day (IWD). 

Sixty guests at Bells at Killcare were among hundreds of people who attended lavish IWD 2021 lunches across the country, fundraisers organised by Harte International.Phil and his wife, uber-talented photographer Danielle Harte, hosted the events; well-known TV presenter Sandra Sully and former Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce are deeply involved with the Agenda books, which sell for $100 to support the Women’s Legal Service Queensland (available at wlsq.org.au).

While previous editions of Agenda showcase Danielle’s stunning black- and-white portraits of high-profile women – Cate Blanchett, Turia Pitt and Tina Arena among them – Classic Agenda Heroes 2021 marks a change of focus. The book devotes many of its weighty 350-plus pages to the uplifting stories and amazing portraits of the unsung heroes who have been the “invisible backbone” of our country during a year of devastating drought, bushfires, floods and the Covid-19 pandemic.

You’ll meet firefighters (including a 91-year-old Rural Fire Service volunteer), farmers, small business-owners, artists, a Royal Flying Doctor Services pilot and the founders of the Empty Esky campaign, to mention just a few. “These women represent the tens of thousands, just like them, who have all simply put their heads down, without accolade or fanfare, and got on with the job at hand,” says Sandra Sully. “They are the indestructible thread that is the lifeblood of our communities, yet their kinship and enduring spirit have enriched us all.”

Highly recognisable women who also appear in Classic Agenda Heroes 2021 include Celeste Barber (the author and comedian who raised $51 million for bushfire relief), Maggie Beer (cook, author and restaurateur), Sam Bloom (world champion canoeist, whose story was portrayed by Naomi Watts in the movie Penguin Bloom), Sam Kerr (soccer star, former Matildas Captain and Young Australian of the Year), Ellie Cole (Paralympic swimmer and wheelchair basketball player), Cate Campbell (Australian swimmer), Lauren Parker (elite para-triathlete), Wendy McCarthy AO (founder of the NSW Women’s Electoral Lobby) and Pip Harrison (Head of Tourism Australia).

How do they do it?

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Phil and Danielle Harte spend weeks of every year – except 2020, for obvious reasons – travelling to exotic destinations in all corners of the globe, reviewing hotels and airlines, cooking with chefs at the world’s best restaurants (Phil) and photographing everything from those fabulous dishes to hotels, palaces, street markets, famous landmarks and remote villages (Danielle and, sometimes, Phil). 

They lead glamorous lives, mixing and mingling with elite business people, top chefs, movie stars, sporting greats and big names in the music world. The core business of Harte International Consultancy is event management, on a global scale – and along the way, the company raises at least $1 million a year for numerous charitable foundations. 

But behind this larger-than-life success story is one simple philosophy: doing it for yourself. Phil says that when he was a teenage apprentice chef, “I decided I would never work for anybody, answer to anybody, or rely on anybody else for the success or failure of my business.” 

This indefatigable, self-described “egomaniac” doesn’t take no for an answer and his support of women’s causes is well known. Last year, he was invited to organise an IWD brunch for 100 women at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where he found the ideal venue – the hallowed Long Room. He was told tradition dictated that women weren’t allowed in; let’s just say Phil got his way. 

He made sure the Long Room was adorned with blown-up photographs of notable women, many of whom were at the event – possibly outshining dusty portraits of all those male MCG members. The icing on the cake was the Australian women’s cricket team beating India in front of a record crowd. 

Although Classic Agenda Heroes 2021 was not the book Phil and Danielle originally envisaged – who knew Covid-19 would shut down international travel from Australia for more than a year, and counting – it is a wonderful testament to women from all walks of life, long-lasting business collaborations and personal friendships. We look forward to seeing the 2022 edition.

Sally

Sally

Central Coast Life & Style's editor is now a resident Coastie, having visited many times over the years. Sally is a well-known travel and cruise writer and loves exploring near and far. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’ve got a local story to tell!

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