Ms Trimmer grew up in Sydney and studied law and arts majoring in English at the Australia National University.
Trimmer stayed in Canberra after completing university and joined leading local firm Macphillamy Cummins & Gibson to practice commercial law, then went onto work at Deacons Graham & James (now Norton Rose Fulbright), before finally finishing her legal career as a commercial partner at Minter Ellison, practicing in both Canberra and Sydney.
Trimmer had her first insight into the workings of government when departments started outsourcing legal services in the late 1990s and she worked on a wide range of matters, including the contracts for the new Australian passport.
It was a high-profile role because it came at an interesting juncture for the legal profession. The practice of law was undergoing significant structural change, with many national mergers of firms; technology changing the way legal services were delivered; and women outnumbering men among graduates going into the profession but still not breaking through into partner ranks to any great degree.
Trimmer says that as president of the Law Council she learned about listening to differing and sometimes conflicting views, negotiating outcomes, and the art of compromise. “I learned that acting in a respectful way around a board table or a council table is hugely beneficial, and you take that into all other aspects of your life. Respectful relationships sometimes get overlooked but are really critical to successful organisations,” she says.
Trimmer also came to understand the political process, the effectiveness of well-directed advocacy, and the need to work with all parties in parliament, as well as with the bureaucracy.
Before she joined the AMA, Trimmer had her first taste of an executive role as CEO of the Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA). She learned more about recruiting the right people, managing them, and letting them grow in their roles. She also gained insight into how to report to a board and importantly how to provide information and guidance from the executive to the board because as an executive she was much closer to the business and where it was heading.
When she was headhunted to join the AMA in 2013, Trimmer saw an opportunity to employ her developing advocacy skills. “I was attracted by the AMA’s advocacy influence and by the complexity of the policy issues it addresses. Health policy is probably the most challenging area of public policy because of the interweaving of so many players – public and private, federal and state, funders, providers, consumers, and of course the healthcare professionals,” she says.
Effective advocacy starts with understanding the structure of the parliamentary process and the political decision-making process. “It’s a completely different set of dynamics, engaging at the political level. Often, people approach political influencing or political advocacy assuming that it’s the minister who is the one that is going to make the decision but, in fact, it’s so multifaceted,” Trimmer says. “Yes, you need to work with the policy minister, but you also need to work with their staff. You need to work with their department. You need to work with committees. You really need to spread your web very wide.”
It is also important to work with both sides of parliament and increasingly with crossbench MPs and senators. “There is now a multitude of small parties that sit in the Senate. Their members all sit on Senate committees, which can be quite influential in particular areas of policy, and obviously they can be a blocker to government legislation that’s coming from the [Lower] House,” Trimmer says.
Ms Trimmer was joined on the honours list by RACS and AOA’s past president Mr John Batten for his significant service to orthopaedic medicines and to professional bodies.
Biography information for this article was sourced from the Australian Institute of Company Directors .