Barry J. Palmer is part Outback, part Sydney and all Aussie. “I’m proud to be an Australian because of our culture,” he says. “It’s very relaxed, very laid back, easygoing and friendly.”
Lions’ 97th international president was born in the middle of World War II in Hornsby on the outskirts of Sydney. The bush was President Palmer’s backyard. Wallabies hovered near his home. Young Palmer was one of three children. His dad, Jack, was an accountant. Sylvia, his mom, ran the home. Barry played three soccer matches each week. “I love the team spirit of it. I like the skill of it. It’s fast. It’s open,” he says.
Intending to work in the wool industry, he attended an agricultural high school. He worked in the bush and in wool sheds. He relished the outdoors. “I think it’s important to be in tune with nature–to just sit in the bush for a while and listen to what’s going on and observing the animals, birds and lizards.” But the wool industry slumped, so he found a job at a bank.
Funny thing about the bank business–you see how money can be made. “I was meeting all these customers running their own businesses and doing quite well. So I decided that if I worked as hard for myself as I did for the bank I’d probably make a lot of money,” says President Palmer.
He started buying businesses, improving them and selling them. Then he went into real estate. President Palmer enjoyed furthering the dreams both of homebuyers and employees. “Assisting other people is something I’ve done for the last 30 years whether it’s a client or staff member,” he says.
Young Palmer met Anne when she was 15 and he was 19. Both quiet and reserved, they grew up and matured together as a couple. “Yeah, we hit it off. I couldn’t put my finger on any one thing. It was just a progression of growing up and wanting to share my life with her,” he says.
The Palmers have three children and eight grandchildren. He kicks the soccer ball around with the younger ones. “Anne was desperately keen to be a grandma. But if someone’s calling me grandpa then I’m getting old. So they call me poppy,” he says.
It’s the world of Lions that will occupy them for the next year. “Look at the projects and the variety of things we do around the world,” President Palmer says. “What I’ve seen so far just blows me away as to what we can achieve.”