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2017 Power Trip Reflection: “Leadership is not equal to authority”

Amy Astill, 2017 Power Trip winner from Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Western Australia

Amy’s Power Trip was proudly sponsored by AgriFutures Australia

Leadership is so much more than authority, it’s about believing in your own abilities. Leadership is seeing things that you don’t agree with and trying to fix them. It is a uniting power that should allow every person within a group to feel equal, but somewhat guided.

On my Country to Canberra Power Trip, my mindset of leadership transitioned. I had always thought that to be a leader, you needed to have the highest-ranked role in your community; to be a leader meant to me that your opinion was one of the only ones that mattered. I was wrong to say the least.

Leadership is not dictated by a voice, and that’s what I learnt on the second day of the power trip (the day following hours and hours of travelling!) It was this day that I learnt how being a leader didn’t mean that you must have entitlement over a group; instead, it means being a part of that group and being a role model in any particular part of the journey. During the leadership development and public speaking workshops, I realised what values I have and how to apply them in order to get my point across, in the most efficient way possible. A panel discussion by the Australian National University (ANU) followed by a Rural and Remote Mental Health presentation enabled me to again think about leadership in another abstract perspective: this included the thoughts of whether or not students could be leaders in their studies, or even, if people with mental health issues could be leaders in their communities. The answer is always yes.

Day three of the trip was my time to use my new leadership skills while we met inspirational politicians and CEOs, toured Parliament House, viewed Question Time and attended the Powerful Women’s Breakfast, where I met with leaders including the 2017 AgriFutures NSW Rural Women’s Award Winner Sandra Ireson.

Something that really stuck with me was meeting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, the then Minister for Women and Employment, Michaelia Cash, and my local Member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson MP, as each of these people encouraged leadership in such unique ways. I write about this because Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who presumably holds the ‘most important’ leadership position in Australia, isn’t a leader because of his role or position, he is a leader because he has opinions on political issues and advocates for them on behalf of the average Australian. This is what I learnt. Leadership is not equal to authority and that was made apparent to me on my Country to Canberra Power Trip.

Amy’s Power Trip was proudly sponsored by AgriFutures Australia

Pathways to Power event: featuring Minister Fiona Nash, Jennifer Westacott, Holly Ransom & more!

160 people came along to PwC to attend Country to Canberra’s Pathways to Power networking and panel event on 20 June 2017! MC’d by MIX 106.3 Presenter Kristen Henry, featuring a keynote speech by Minister Fiona Nash, a panel with Jennifer Westacott – CEO of the Business Council of Australia, Holly Ransom – CEO Emergent, Stephanie Foster – Deputy Australian Public Service Commissioner and Rosanne Brand – Partner at PwC Australia, it was a night not to be missed.

To ensure we could make this event accessible for rural women and girls, we recorded it below! It’s in 3 parts:

  • Part 1: Kristen Henry Welcome & Minister Fiona Nash keynote speech;
  • Part 2: Welcome & 2017 Power Trip speech, Country to Canberra CEO Hannah Wandel; and
  • Part 3: Power Panel featuring Jennifer Westacott, Holly Ransom, Stephanie Foster & Rosanne Brand.

Thanks to our co-host PwC, every cent raised will go toward our 2017 Power Trip program for young rural women’s leadership and education.

2016 Power Trip Video

From meeting the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to public speaking training from TEDxCanberra, our 2016 Power Trip winners had an inspiring time in Canberra! Our winners also received a long-term mentor, plus ongoing opportunities to build their self-belief and leadership capacities. To see what they got up to, watch the video below!

A big thank you to our sponsors and partners Defence Force Recruiting, Maurice Blackburn, the National Rural Women’s Coalition, Hyatt Hotel Canberra, TEDxCanberra and Raising Hope Education Foundation for your support.

This phenomenal video was made by Sandy Barber.


2016 Power Trip Reflection: “My Journey has only just begun”

Isabella Hall, 2016 Power Trip winner from Whyalla, SAimg_0686

My finger swiped across the screen of my phone, the filters on snapchat passing by with each flick, until landing on just the right frame. On the bottom of my easily disregarded normal photo of a room filled with strangers, read the word ‘Canberra’.

Looking at the word still instilled a sense of disbelief within me. It had only been a few hours ago that I’d been sitting anxiously with my parents at my local airport waiting to disembark on a life changing journey.

Yet, the simplest thing, such as the snapchat filter, suddenly made my reality become real. Because my reality was that I had one won a ‘Power Trip’ to Canberra, after entering my story in Country to Canberra’s Leadership Competition.

Canberra was place I had always regarded as a destination of change. This was the city where decisions were made and futures discussed, and to my utmost delight, I was now allowed to have my voice heard.

I remember looking at the itinerary and feeling unable to comprehend the myriad of activities planned for us twelve girls during our short stay in Canberra. From a workshop on public speaking, to a Powerful Women’s Breakfast with the likes of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, I was feeling overwhelmed but nonetheless utterly honoured to have been chosen to experience the opportunity to discuss issues such as gender equality, with women of influence.

From this power trip I’ve been able to take home with me more than a cool t-shirt with the Country to Canberra logo. I’ve returned with a new sense of confidence and belief in my abilities to achieve my goals. Spending time with the amazing girls and volunteers has made me realise that hard work and passion can take you anywhere.

And now that I am home, I realise that my journey is not yet over. It is has only just begun.

Controversial issues, musical genuises and new perspectives: my TEDxCanberra experience

tedx-vanessaThe author, Vanessa Sporne, was a roving reporter at TEDxCanberra on 3 September 2016 for their ‘All In’ Show Day. Vanessa was also a finalist of Country to Canberra’s 2014 Leadership Competition, and is one of our Teen Bloggers. Country to Canberra is a proud Community Partner of TEDxCanberra! 

I really didn’t know what to expect. To me, TEDx had always been some mysterious show on Netflix that I’d never bothered to explore, but when I walked into the Canberra Theatre on September 3rd and saw a little sign advertising ‘Free Coffee’, I had a pretty good feeling that I was going to enjoy the day.

I could barely move within the foyer, as the bustling crowd pulsed with excitement. Looking around I saw people of all different ages and nationalities; little did we know that the TEDxCanberra team had brought us ‘All In’ to experience and propagate new ideas that had the potential to transform our communities. I could already see new connections being formed as people felt the confidence to begin new conversations and start new friendships. It was not only the performers, but the audience that would provide me with new ideas that day.

The sold-out theatre buzzed with anticipation as the lights dimmed and the first performer appeared on stage. Dark Rose opened the event with the uniquely sensual sounds of the Didjeribone. The audience’s attention was well and truly sparked as the musician created music that merged the contemporary and the traditional in a harmony unlike anything I had heard before. Dark Rose perfectly encapsulated what was to come at TedxCanberra in the way that he devoted himself to his unique ideas and fearlessly conveyed them to the world.14141986_10153884386891167_2319739858120424432_n

The rest of the musicians throughout the day were expertly curated, with multiple nationalities, styles and genres. Lucy Sugerman blew us away with a lyrical wisdom, greater than many of the most successful artists today, and Fred Smith pulled at our heart strings while providing a laugh with his songs detailing his time in Uruzgan, Afghanistan. The music kept the day flowing, and gave our brains a rest from the constant stream of information coming from the official speakers.

It was these speakers we had come for, and they did not disappoint for a moment. I was introduced to a new program that allowed people with disabilities to own their own homes, a broader perspective on the transgender community, nuclear medicine imaging and a new understanding of veteran mental health – and that was just the first session.

One of the highlights of my day was getting the opportunity to interview Adriane Boag, a program coordinator at the National Gallery of Australia. Ms Boag described to me how art has the ability to act as a treatment for those suffering from dementia, allowing them to escape their illness. I was inspired by how this idea refused to diminish the arts, and granted them a well-deserved respect. Ms Boag also works to promote the importance of arts in high schools with the National Summer Art Scholarship, helps young people to experience the gallery and refine their talents. It was such an honour to speak to someone so devoted to what they do, and so motivated to show the rest of the world the potential of their institution.

14086437_10153884369486167_6096049176907854587_oAnother set of speakers who touched the hearts and minds of every person in the theatre were Omar and Saad Al-Kassab. These two young men bravely detailed the experience of growing up in Syria, describing the fear and heartbreak they endured in their native country. I’d only ever been told the horror stores of war-torn Syria second-hand; from the TV, online articles and Facebook. Never had someone stood in front of me and told me the reality of living through war. I’ve never felt so lucky in my entire life. Hearing these brothers speak, I realised how blessed I am to be able to attend university, see my family and live in my own house. The most humbling moment of their talk was when they showed us a short video of what their home looks like today. The audience was confronted with images of brown rubble, broken buildings and streets filled with abandoned cars. In that moment the theatre was silent with disbelief and grief. I walked out of that session wishing that everyone in Australia could have a conversation with Omar and Saad, because there is no way you could meet those men and still think that refugees don’t have a right to a better life in this country.

The TEDx event has changed my perception of multiple issues within society that I was initially unsure how to approach. I have a greater ability to appreciate the struggles of others in society who are not as lucky as myself.



2016 Power Trip Reflection: “A trip that will change our lives”


Jasmine Elliott, 2016 Power Trip winner from Gladstone, QLD

Sponsored by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

On the bus to the airport after a packed few days in Canberra, a few of us remarked about how many times we had used the word ‘amazing’ during the Power Trip. We had been given so many opportunities throughout the ‘Power Day’ to network and describe our experience, and ‘amazing’ was on everyone’s lips. I’ve come to the conclusion that this wasn’t a reflection of limited vocabulary- but of the quality of the program. A trip that will change our lives.

This trip was amazing; whatever I write now will surely fall short of the undeniable impact that this program had on our lives. Partially because I, myself still haven’t digested exactly what I am taking away from the trip… but I am sure I will notice its influence well into the future.  I was truly shocked about how many worthwhile experiences we immersed ourselves in within only two full days- so I’ll split it up.

Day One

Despite my initial apprehension, yoga at ANU Sport was an invigorating experience that inspired me to… maybe do a bit more exercise. We developed our leadership skills and worked on breaking down the barriers of stereotype with women from Australian Defence. Tearing apart newspapers, learning about the presenters’ stories and presenting our values provided us a mixed discussion through which we were able to discover so much about ourselves and those around us.

Next up was public speaking training with Ingrid from TEDxCanberra. We talked about the importance of distinguishing between ourselves and our ideas, along with practical instances of public speaking- introducing others, accepting compliments along with the optimal structure of a speech. Thanks to Raising Hope Foundation, all of the winners were able meet our allocated mentors who will mentor us for the next 6 months, providing much needed advice. Then… The Australian War Memorial, a truly breathtaking place which beautifully commemorates the harsh sacrifices made by our servicemen. I thoroughly enjoyed learning even more about Australia’s past during our tour.

Day Two

This day was titled the ‘Power Day’ and rightfully so. It all started at the Powerful Women’s Breakfast at which we were all extremely excited to meet female leaders – including Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop! I learnt so much from the stories of all the women I talked to; from a plethora of backgrounds and in all walks of life. From here we travelled to 666 ABC Canberra where I was interviewed by the brilliant Genevieve Jacobs, and discussed the importance of my community, along with my submission into the leadership competition.

Australian Parliament House: a building where so many decisions are made, debates are had and politicians discuss ideas and plans for the country’s future. We spent our afternoon here, touring Parliament House before attending a lunch with many politicians, including my local member and Queensland Senators including Chris Ketter and Pauline Hanson. I brushed shoulders with inspirational leaders from across Australia and was enthralled in Question Time. We had insightful discussions during our meetings with Fiona Nash and Tanya Plibersek about politics and work-life balance.

And just when I thought we couldn’t possibly pack more into one day there was the VIP Mocktail Event and movie screening of the Queen of Katwe. There couldn’t have been a better way to finish off my time in Canberra.


So thank you Hannah Wandel, Country to Canberra volunteers and everyone who contributed to making this trip one that I will never forget. I was able to make some extraordinary friends, learning about myself and others simultaneously. And to you, reading this, if you’re in high school next year, I urge you to enter the leadership competition. Honestly, there’s nothing to lose and so so much to gain.

I made a huge life decision, then went to TEDxCanberra

14237632_957377001037294_3425952092376546542_nThe author, Hannah Worsley, was a roving reporter at TEDxCanberra on 3 September 2016 for their ‘All In’ Show Day. Hannah was also the winner of Country to Canberra’s 2014 Leadership Competition, and is one of our Teen Bloggers. Country to Canberra is a proud Community Partner of TEDxCanberra.  

I’ve always been a strong believer in the idea that rural people, and rural girls, can do everything when given the opportunity. Opportunities like TEDxCanberra open doors to further experiences and networks. But something I didn’t expect during my experience was the change in mentality, my approaches to problems, and my understanding of myself.

These things are not the most tangible outcomes of an experience like TEDx, but they are undoubtedly the most profound. And if I’m honest, I think they are also the most challenging. Meeting new people is exciting. Contributing to organisations like Country to Canberra and TEDx is a fantastic way to network. But sitting in a room full of the kind of people at TEDx, sometimes the way your own thinking changes is simply scary.

What I’m getting at here (trust me, this blog post has a point!) is that spending a day at TEDx prompted me to grapple with some pretty tricky questions that have been running through my mind lately. For a variety of reasons, mainly illness, I decided to defer my medicine course. As the resident ‘smart kid’ at my rural high school, my path was always well defined. You finish year 12, smash the HSC, go to a prestigious university on a scholarship, graduate, and live happily ever after.

When my path took a sharp and sudden U-turn, and I ended up back at home in rural NSW, I felt like a bit of a failure. Had I made the right decision for me? Yes. Did other people necessarily understand that? No. And although such a trivial point should not matter, when you live in a rural town that your great grandparents also lived in, people give their opinion freely, and it can be hard to take.

When I got to TEDx, I had not long made the decision to defer. These questions and issues continued to pose a lot of problems for me. But I found that this opportunity gave me a quick 18 minute summary many times over of why a perfectly defined path doesn’t exist. There were speeches about mental illness, about life changing challenges, about the power of family, and the bond between man and dog. There was passion and excitement and happiness-but I don’t think any of the people who got up to speak believed in the perfect life path I felt I had destroyed.

I was given the opportunity to interview Brad Carron-Arthur, a mental health researcher at ANU who ran 5000km to raise money for and awareness of mental illness. He spoke about how accommodating massive changes in your life can bring stress and confusion about many things, big and small. And as someone who was in the thick of this exact problem, to hear someone who I thought was amazing say almost exactly what I was thinking was jarring. But in a weirdly good way.

TEDx is all about spreading ideas and helping people make connections with others. But it gave me something more than that. It helped me greater understand myself, and see the truth in what everyone was telling me-that changing my ‘life trajectory’ was not the end of the world.

Given the time to reflect on the path I took through year 12 and on to university, I think I got caught up in what everyone thought was a good idea, rather than what I knew was best for myself. I finished year 12 11 kilograms lighter than I began it. I smashed the HSC, along with my sleeping pattern. I went to a prestigious university in a city where my horses and wide open spaces were impossible to access. And I hit a wall, came back home, and felt like the happily ever after part was out of reach.

I’m writing this exactly one month after the incredible experience that TEDx Canberra and Country to Canberra gave me, and it’s safe to say that I feel a lot more at peace with where I am. How ridiculous, you might be thinking, that it took a 19 year old girl such an experience to find a bit of self-belief. I have literally decades ahead of me, and no single year of my life is likely to ever go perfectly to plan. In less than 2 weeks, I start a new job that I am incredibly excited about. I have plans to take art classes, start swimming again, and to maybe even get a little bit bored-things that a study-heavy year 12, and an immediately following 6 months of medicine never allowed me to explore. I aim to mentally happy and physically healthy. And I think the long and short of it is that TEDx Canberra 2016 pushed me off the ledge I saw as a cliff, and kick-started this new outlook.

Our Top 10 Moments from TEDxCanberra

TED Talks are wildly inspiring and have been given by the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, Bill Clinton, Bono & Jane Goodall. That’s why we were beyond a little excited to be an official partner with TEDxCanberra for their 2016 Show Day!

Held at the Canberra Theatre on 3 September, two of our C2C Teen Bloggers, Hannah Worsley and Vanessa Sporne attended to interview the speakers, audience members & crush life on social media! Here are their Top 10 moments of the TEDx Show Day themed ‘All in’:

1. The number of young speakers!

From neuroscientist Hayley Teasdale, farming & Indigenous Australian Advocate Josh Gilbert & singer Lucy Sugerman – it was great to see youth and their ideas valued.

2. Snicklefritz the dog.

He loves breakfast burritos, comes from Afghanistan and is passionate about wearing hipster dog vests. See Eriz Yarger’s TED Talk for more context 😉

3. The Al Kassab Brothers.

These young men, who fled Syria to Australia, had the ability to make us cry and laugh at the same time. Seeing the image of Homs, Syria, before the conflict and now in 2016, made our jaws-drop. The damage was horrendous, but these brothers inspired us and pushed our boundaries. They received a standing ovation and we truly can’t wait to see what they do next.


4. Our Country to Canberra T-shirts. 


5. Jenni Atkinson’s speech on gender.

The long-time Trans-Advocate did a great job at explaining the difference between sex and gender – something a lot of people don’t understand. Interesting, frank & practical.

6. The performances.

From a magician, to dancers to singers, this kept our energy levels high, gave us a mental break and boosted our invigoration for the Speakers to come.


7. TEDx Bingo!

We took photo after photo with speakers, jumped off fountains and hugged volunteers. Sadly we didn’t win, but we reckon we won over some hearts and minds.

8. The Topics.

So many were controversial, challenging or stigmatised, like refugees, suicide and online abuse. But it was a safe space and a supportive audience, where the the Speakers gave solutions to problems we hadn’t given much thought to before – like Glen Keys’ speech about independent housing for people with special needs (it’s called Project Independence, check it out!)

9. Personal stories.

From Ginger Gorman’s online trolling to Brad Carrun-Arthur’s ultra-marathon, the Speakers weren’t afraid to tell us about some of their hardest moments, and how they got through them. It showed us their motivation and passion behind their incredible achievements.



10. That shining diversity and community spirit. 

The diversity of the Speakers, in particular the musicians, was amazing. Why? Because it demonstrates TEDxCanberra’s support for a wide-range of local performers, and also, their dedication to youth (yep, still at point 10, we’re fangirling over Lucy Sugerman). Even more special, is that these weren’t just your ‘normal’ musicians. Rather, all of their performances had deeper messages, which linked to the TEDx motto of ‘ideas worth spreading’.

This dedication to community and promoting good ideas flowed on to the organisations TEDx partnered with, like Country to Canberra! Country to Canberra is spreading ideas about how to proactively combat gender inequality and about how to empower young rural women like us. So thank you TEDxCanberra for partnering with Country to Canberra – we had the best and most inspiring day.

Ambassador for Women & Girls – Video of Support for C2C!

Thank you Ambassador! 

We’re delighted that the Australian Ambassador for Women & Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, has given a statement of support to Country to Canberra! She’s also encouraging girls to enter our leadership competition, which is open now.

The Ambassador for Women & Girls works to ensure that the empowerment of women and girls is a central focus of Australia’s diplomatic, development and defence concerns. By advocating internationally for women’s equal participation in political, economic and social affairs, the Ambassador advances global progress, peace and stability.

Thank you Ambassador! #C2CGirlsLead



Kelsey’s Reflection Piece: The trip that motivated a thousand ideas

IMG_5243Kelsey Price is a 16-year-old Middlemount High School student who was the 2015 Country to Canberra Essay Competition winner, representing Queensland. You can read her winning essay here

Kelsey’s Power Trip was generously sponsored by the Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Women’s Network. 

Getting the call, saying that I had won the Country to Canberra essay competition, was the most amazing thing that has ever happened. I was simply overwhelmed.

Excitement grew in me as the Power Trip was getting closer. When I embarked on the plane, I was so nervous, and I didn’t know what to expect. When I landed in Canberra, I was greeted by the other state and territory essay competition winners, and we all got along immediately! It was interesting to learn where the other girls were from and their stories. After all, we all came from completely different parts of Australia, which meant we had diverse stories to tell.

The main day rolled in quickly, and we had a jam-packed schedule, which included time to meet scores of wonderful and influential women. The girls and I went to the Powerful Women’s Breakfast at Farmers Daughter where we gained invaluable advice from women in politics, not-for-profits, the public sector and business. We also went to ABC 666 Canberra and I was selected to be one of the winners who took part in a radio interview with the Mornings Host, Genevieve Jacobs. This was an opportunity I’ll never forget, as I got to speak about my hometown of Middlemount, my aspirations and the ‘Cinderella Complex’, which is the topic I wrote my winning essay on.

During the Power Trip day, we also went on a tour of Parliament House and the War Memorial, had lunch with our Raising Hope Education Foundation Mentors and watched Question Time. We visited more politicians in Parliament House, including Tanya Plibersek MP and Senator Fiona Nash. I was lucky enough to secure a one-on-one chat with my local MP, the Federal Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry to discuss key Central Queensland issues as well as gender equality and rural education. Finally, we then had dinner with more female politicians like the Assistant Agriculture Minister Anne Ruston and Senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie.

As I jumped back on the plane to leave Canberra, my nerves were gone, and I was filled with confidence and motivation. I had such and amazing experience in the ACT and I left with so many ideas to suggest to my community and school about equality and young women’s self-belief. I am very grateful to have this experience and I would love to thank Hannah Wandel for letting me have this amazing opportunity! Also, a big thank you to my sponsor, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. Without their support for young women and gender equality, this trip would not have been possible.


Thank you to Maurice Blackburn Lawyer’s Women’s Network for generously sponsoring Kelsey’s 2o15 Power Trip.