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Alan Kirkland: Choice CEO

Monday 29 August, 2016
by Emma Nelson
A New Collegian in 1990-91, Alan is now the CEO of CHOICE, Australia's leading consumer advocacy group.

Alan Kirkland has progressed from using a sandwich toaster to make late night pancakes in the college kitchenettes, to determining the most reputable pancake mix on the market for consumers. A New Collegian in 1990-91, Alan is now the CEO of CHOICE, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group.

In his role, Alan connects with a range of topical issues relevant to Australians and aims to deliver unbiased consumer information. He rallies passionately for significant reforms where problems are identified. In recent months, we owe credit to Alan and the CHOICEteam for their investigative work surrounding a range of matters from the legalities of Uber to the safety hazards of Thermomix.

Alan didn’t become CEO of CHOICE overnight. As a country kid enrolling in an Arts Degree, Alan transferred into Arts-Law at the end of first year. He found himself dabbling in a variety of majors, including Russian, French and International Law, which lead him to spend time studying abroad in Moscow and France. He counts these experiences as “life-changing”.

A career in law reform soon became the clear choice for Alan’s future.

It was on the Kensington Campus at UNSW that Alan began engaging with policy work in a significant way. Initially joining the Student Guild, he soon became the State President of The National Union of Students (NUS).

“NUS was where I had my first experiences of lobbying politicians and debating issues through the media. I remember the excitement of first appearing in the Sun Herald, as part of our fight to stop the uni administration bringing McDonalds onto campus.”

From this initial success (McDonalds only managed to gain a position across the road from campus, thanks to Alan’s work) Alan continued to follow the path of lobbying politicians during his time at UNSW.

The opportunity to work with CHOICE was a logical next step in his career path.

“It brings together everything I love—working for a cause I believe in, campaigning for law reform, and being able to be part of the national economic debate. I have no idea what job I could do after this that could possibly be better than CHOICE!”

Alan’s time at New College in the early 90’s was an important time of setting foundations for his current work. If he was to conduct a CHOICEstyle investigation into any aspect of college he says it would probably be the meal times.

“I found the combination of early dinners and late nights somewhat challenging!”

Most importantly though, Alan grew from the relationships formed with his fellow collegians. The experience of being surrounded by people with different values and ideas greatly enriched his university life and beyond.

“As a non-religious person at New, I sometimes found it challenging to live in a community where religion was a really important part of most people’s identity - but I’m also sure that other people found some of my views a bit confronting! Ultimately, I think it’s good for anybody to spend time living with people who have different values because that’s a common experience as you move through life, so I am glad to have spent two years at New College.”

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