Kate Fitzsimons is a woman on a mission: to save as many people as possible from her sister’s tragic fate.
Having landed a marketing grad’s dream job in the final year of her business degree at UTS, Fitzsimons seemed to be well on her way to a successful corporate career. Then, in the early hours of Saturday 20 October, 2012, her world was turned upside down.
She received a call from her mother saying her beloved sister, Nicole, had been killed in a motorbike accident in Thailand. Nicole and her partner Jamie weren’t wearing helmets as they rode their motorcycle back to their resort. As they turned into the driveway, another speeding rider crossed onto their side of the road and t-boned the pair. Jamie survived. Nicole didn’t.
Three months later, a devastated Fitzsimons quit her corporate job and formed The Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation. She has worked tirelessly every day since to ensure her sister’s legacy lives on.
The Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation has two goals – to educate young Australians on safe travel, and to assist young, talented and financially strapped performers and sportspeople achieve their dreams.
Over the past four years, Fitzsimons has travelled the country, speaking to more than 30,000 young Australians. She says, “I just thought my sister’s story could be that one story that stops a young Aussie from making a foolish decision overseas. And if that means one less family suffering what we’ve been through, and one more beautiful life that gets to achieve the dreams that my sister didn’t, then it’s worth it.”
The impact of Fitzsimons’ message has even transcended the school system, in which her work is based. In 2014, she was recognised by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop. Fitzsimons says she was “in awe” of Bishop at their first meeting.
“She did a speech, at a Smartraveller event, and she gave me a personal mention. I remember being in the crowd and I jumped up and I put my hand up and waved and she waved,” gushes Fitzsimons. “She seriously waved back. It was so beautiful to see!”
Late last year, Fitzsimons, who is also a fully certified life coach, was named one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence.
“I believe that tragedy touched my life so I could touch the lives of others,” says Fitzsimons. “I like to think the foundation is built around the lessons I learned through my sister’s accident and the life coaching is about everything I’ve learned since.
“I’m a big dreamer. I sometimes get excited by the big picture and have to pull myself back in,” she enthuses. “Life isn’t about being happy, it’s about being fulfilled. In these presentations, I’m not necessarily happy to stand up and talk about my sister’s death, but I am so proud that I talk about it in a way that touches and inspires others.
“Nicole was destined to touch a lot of people just because of who she was – she always supported and encouraged others to pursue what they loved. I’m so grateful I have the honour of being her sister and helping her do that still.”