14 August 2023

As a young graduate presented with an opportunity to work in India UniSA alumnus Matthew Walker decided the sensible thing to do was visit the local video store and hire a documentary to learn more about the country. Three weeks later, he arrived in Mumbai.

Matthew Walker now lives in Lisbon, Portuagal
Matthew Walker now lives in Lisbon, Portugal

Matthew Walker

Managing Director of Acacia Point Capital Advisors
Bachelor of Business (Property)

“The culture shock was vast,” says Matthew Walker of his arrival in India. “I spent three incredibly crazy years living in Mumbai. Nothing could have prepared me for the joy and mayhem of working there in the 90s.”

It was soon after economic liberalisation and foreign companies were pouring into India and needed professional real estate advisors to secure their offices, factories and residences nationwide.

Michael Thompson, Managing Director of Colliers Jardine in India (originally from Perth), lured Matthew overseas, having established the Indian office only 18 months earlier. “Michael was a tremendous salesman, a people person – an incredible professional who gave me so much guidance and belief. He was one of the founders of professional real estate services in India.”

Whilst still a student, Matthew cut his teeth at Hillier Parker in Adelaide, working at the firm one day a week during the third year of his Bachelor of Business (Property). “I was fortunate to then be offered a full-time role in 1991, at a time when Australia was in recession and jobs were hard to secure. Hillier Parker’s MD, Brian Scarborough, “was, and still is to this day, the ultimate real estate professional and the guy changed the direction of my life. There's no other way of saying it – if he hadn’t given me that opportunity, my route into real estate would have been far more complicated”. Brian now runs Australian Lease Management, and Matthew caught up with him during his most recent trip to South Australia.

Matthew’s family have been farmers on the Far West Coast of South Australia since the 1890s, so how did he end up studying Property at UniSA?

“I was packed off to boarding school in Adelaide at the age of 13, with Dad’s message, ‘Go get an education, as times are tough on the land and our future is uncertain.” Matthew’s father had every right to be concerned as the mid-1980s presented the farming community on South Australia's Far West Coast with various challenges, including consecutive droughts and crippling interest rates of around 17 per cent. Numerous pioneering families were on the brink of losing their farms, while many small businesses catering to rural communities also encountered dire financial times. “At the end of Year 12, selecting the Property Degree at UniSA was a bit of a stab in the dark, spurred on by my interest in economics, accounting, business and fondness for playing Monopoly!”

Fortunately, the farming community eventually experienced better years, and Matthew's sister’s family are now the fourth generation to continue operating the family property at Streaky Bay.

Camel safari, Rajasthan Desert, India 1999
Camel safari, Rajasthan Desert, India 1999

After two years with Colliers in Mumbai, Matthew and several colleagues departed to establish the Indian branch of Cushman & Wakefield, a US-headquartered real estate services firm. “India and its people ‘embraced’ me; it was a truly unique experience. I made life-long friends and feel incredibly fortunate that a career in property delivered that opportunity.”

In 2000, keen to experience life in Europe, Matthew transferred from India to Lisbon, Portugal. “Portugal was another challenge – new culture, language, market dynamics – in a truly beautiful part of the world.” After six years in Lisbon, Matthew relocated to London, where he married his English wife and worked in European real estate fund management.

Acacia Point Capital has transformed Quinta da Fonte into a “business ecosystem”
Acacia Point Capital has transformed Quinta da Fonte into a “business ecosystem”

“Then there comes a time in your career where you either succumb to ‘working for the man’ for the rest of your career, or you take the plunge and establish your own business. In 2014, I saw a market opportunity and established Acacia Point Capital, a European-focused real estate investment and asset management business.”

The business covers Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. They partner with private equity capital to acquire commercial property that has been poorly managed, starved of investment or with a complex capital structure, then execute a business plan to refurbish, extend, reposition and re-let to create value. Or, as Matthew puts it, “We buy, fix, sell, and are always alert for the next compelling opportunity.”

Now working for himself, Matthew can live anywhere in Europe. “Eleven years in London was more than enough, and I didn't grow up in country SA to live in a massive city where the sun doesn't shine.” With a return to Australia not a realistic option, in 2017 the Streaky Bay-boy-at-heart relocated his family back to sunny Portugal. A happy family, life by the beach (and some attractive tax incentives from the Portuguese government) have all sweetened the deal.

Step back in time

Matthew Walker and his UniSA classmates forming a human pyramid in front of Sydney Opera House

“As part of the 3rd year curriculum, there was an annual mandatory 10-day trip. In 1990 we piled onto a bus and drove from Adelaide to Sydney with the lecturer (who was possibly driving the bus). We then spent a week visiting the latest and greatest commercial property projects and met with leading developers and investors.”



Matthew Walker travels to SA with his wife and children every year (pandemic permitting). When COVID-19 curtailed his options for celebrating his 50th birthday, he got to thinking about what his cohort from the 80s and 90s were up to and decided to track them down.

A visit to the UniSA website revealed that his former lecturer, Peter Rossini, is now educating the next generation of property professionals. It only took 24 hours for Peter to respond to Matthew’s email, and the idea of a reunion was born.

UniSA Bachelor of Business Property reunion in early 2023
UniSA Bachelor of Business Property reunion in early 2023
(Matthew second from left)

“The reunion was a great success. People came from abroad and from various parts of Australia. We relived the past, got nostalgic and reminisced about the good old days.

“Many UniSA Property graduates have done well in their careers. Maybe there’s something to be said for South Australians: we feel we must work that bit harder to prove we are on par with those from the Eastern states. From an international perspective, it has been my observation that the diversity of UniSA Property course content back then was seemingly more extensive than similar university degrees in the UK or Europe. Continental European property degrees were less established, and historically property/real estate has not been a first choice career move for tertiary graduates from other disciplines. This created opportunity for an experienced property professional.”

While visiting UniSA, Matthew caught up with some undergraduates and, just like his earlier mentors did for him, encouraged them to explore opportunities beyond SA, offering to connect them with various people in London. “Guys, you've got this amazing degree. Australian property people are highly regarded, and I'm sure you can successfully forge a career abroad, if that’s your ambition – I did!”

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By making a contribution to the recently launched Property High Achiever Grant you can make a real difference and encourage students to successfully complete their degrees. Furthermore, you have the opportunity to support scholarships in your own name, or that of your business, to leave a lasting legacy. For further information, please don't hesitate to reach out to Monique Littlejohn, Senior Philanthropy Manager – Major Gifts.

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