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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

How an Architecture Enthusiast Brought Me to Tears

By Vanessa Sporne

I want to show you how Canberra’s buildings have led me to realise something about the way I view the places I have called home, and the way I will perceive those places I find myself in the future. I want to show you how a someone with passion has allowed me to finally pinpoint the nagging little sensation I have had for the past year, festering in the far reaches of my mind. I want to explain how he has put a name to this unidentified frustration I have been unable to shake, and allowed me to see a little clearer. But how has the imprint Telstra Tower leaves in the Canberra skyline and the faded graffiti on the Dickson shops led to this epiphany you ask? Bear with me.

Darren Bradley, an ‘architecture enthusiast’ spoke at the TEDx Canberra event this year, and while I admit that his on-paper description didn’t catch my attention at first, his passion out on the stage sure did. He spoke about seeing beauty in different lights and recognising the incredible aesthetic value of many of the things we take for granted. His exquisite photographs of some of the buildings I naively ride past on my bike everyday made me stop and think about how observant I am of my world, and the importance of this observance so as to avoid absent mindedly losing some of these wondrous structures.  

I saw a genuinely sincere interest and care for the architecture Bradley photographed, and I think that’s why I felt so much empathy when his discussion turned to the threats these Canberra buildings face under development. After hearing him speak about his love affair with modernist and Bauhaus architecture I couldn’t bear to think that many of his passions were to be torn to the ground by the unobservant. I was feeling waves of disappointment as each image came up on the screen, until a picture of my home appeared.

50 Daley Rd, or Bruce Hall, was torn down last year as I looked on from my new residence 300m down the street. I watched the building pulled apart bit by bit. I watched places where I had made some of the best memories of my life trampled over by machines and turned to piles of broken concrete. 70 years of history were contained in that building, so you may be able to guess why I was so grateful when Bradley explained his genuine disappointment and sadness at the loss of such a place. He said that he didn’t want to see the soul taken out of Canberra in the way it had been taken from Bruce Hall, and this is how he made me realise something about the importance of home; that it’s the soul that makes it count. Soul can’t be replaced by a new shiny building, constructed only to increase the efficiency (and money-making capability) of a place.

In the hours after Bradley’s talk I found that my frustration over the demolition of my beloved home were completely justified. I’d spent a long time hearing people tell me, and the rest of my community, that it was “just a building” and that, “nothing will change”, and while this year I’ve been trying to tell myself that they’re right, every time I drive past I still feel my stomach drop when I see the excavators crawling over the brown dusty patch that used to hold my home.

Although Bradley’s talk focused on the appreciation of beauty, I feel as if there was also a message about appreciating history. The buildings we travel past every day and the buildings we call home become part of our lives because they are the backdrop for our memories. Everyone remembers the home they grew up in, or the school yard where they met lifelong friends and we when see these places later in life we find ourselves reminiscing about what once was. Places like this are important, and I’m tired of people telling me they’re not as an excuse to tear them down. It’s important to preserve our physical history so as not to lose that that only resides in our memory. I’m so glad Bradley stood up and spoke about his passions because he validated the anger and sadness I felt at the loss of a place that I loved.

I wish that every person could have heard Bradley speak, so as to appreciate the beauty and the history of every place.

Mor is the next inspiration for young women

By Michelle Monaghan

What turns a strong female character in a book into a role model for young women? Read this article and find out!

Sarah J. Maas is the author of the popular Throne Of Glass series and A Court Of Thorns and Roses series. Although both of her series are well known for having strong female characters and heroines, one stands out above all others, Morrigan. Better known as ‘Mor’, Morrigan is one of the central characters in the A Court Of Thorns (ACOTAR) series. Mor may not be the main character, but the way her personality and backstory are framed within the series stand out to me as a strong and independent woman, who myself and many other female readers can be inspired by.

Mor says about her childhood, “I was a dreamer born into the Court of Nightmares” but as she grew up, she became a strong and powerful High Fae. So powerful that she was stronger than her own family. However, Mor’s family sought to take advantage of this and sell her off in marriage because of her power could be used as a valuable bargaining chip. Mor has the power of truth and when it first awakened it shook the entire Court of Nightmares. Due to the strength and enormity of her power she was viewed like a prized mare to be used in any way her family see fit.

Mor’s standout quality is her refusal to accept the cards she has been dealt. In many fictional series we see women traded for power, status or money. Used as a bargaining chip by authors and characters alike, however the depth and strength of Mor’s character is shown when she takes her destiny into her own hands, by ruining herself and her value so it cannot been seen as desirable in the marriage game. Despite being afraid of the consequences, she stands up for what she believes to be right, in the process becoming independent and free from the constraints of her family. These qualities are further exemplified in comments from her cousin Rhysand the High Lord of the Night Court, another crucial character, who said about Mor, “If I had not met my cousin, I would never have learned that light can be found in even the darkest of hells. That kindness can thrive even amongst cruelty.”

 It’s clear she has a profound effect on other characters, as Rhysand appoints her his Third, which allows her to run and oversee the Court of Nightmares and the Court of Dreams. Later on in series she would join the fight alongside her cousin and closest friends- showing her as a capable warrior alongside any man and willing to fight for her family and for the protection of her home Velaris the city of starlight.

Mor’s message to the female readers of this series is that no matter what anybody does to you, for whatever reason you can survive it. It may be scary to stand up for yourself, but it’s better than having people bully you and try to control you. I personally feel this from Mor every time I read about her in the books, as she inspires me to have the courage to become a stronger person.
No matter what she says or does in the series, Mor will always follow her own path and step up to protect those important to her, her past only making her more determined to do so. This is why Mor and so many other female characters in Maas’s book will continue to be inspirational to female readers, reinforcing  they are their own person and each unique in different ways, as we all are in the world.

For information on where to buy Sarah J Maas’s Court Of Thorns And Roses Series and her Thrones Of Glass Series check out her website. Plus there is a whole new novella from the ACOTAR series coming out in May next year- can you tell I’m excited?

Where do you draw momentum from?

By Hannah Worsley

“Where do you draw momentum from?”

This was the question every TEDxCanberra speaker tried to answer in their presentation this year. Over the course of the day, I felt awe, joy, sadness, and amazement, and danced, sung, clapped, and laughed. Each speaker had a unique journey, but all had a common thread of drawing strength from somewhere, without looking back.

But this day has left me with a burning question, especially as I sit here, a week later than I had wanted to, trying to write a blog post. Where the bloody hell do I draw my momentum from?

After last year’s TEDxCanberra, I wrote about my slightly wonky study trajectory, and strangely enough I’m drawn to write about it again. There’s something about a TEDx experience that encourages you to investigate your own life, and to think about what drives you, why it does, and what you’re going to do with that drive.

My question of late has been “where has my drive gone”? I’m currently gap yearing/working hard and enjoying a brain break. And after almost 14 years of school/study, I’ve come to associate that with momentum. An essay a day is demonstrative of drive. A colour-coded mind-map shows motivation. Heading into medicine is off the back off my study momentum.

But TEDx taught me that momentum comes in many, many different ways. I was particularly interested in what photographer Grace Costa spoke about in her address. When she began to talk about horses, I guess I was instantly hooked. I’m still a Saddle Club kid at heart. And what Grace discussed about home gave me a deeper understanding of how I can be changing my trajectory, while still maintaining momentum.

She told us about how her mentor had advised against her idea to photograph horses at the old Mt Stromlo Observatory. But for Grace, horses had been there her whole life, they meant something to her, and they were representative of her home, hard work, and her family’s passion. Momentum comes from passion, and often, from the best parts of your past.

I think this is why I’ve come full circle and come upon primary school teaching. It comes from a passion for teaching, a love for kids, and a desire to go back to rural areas. I’ve really had to elucidate these meanings from the mess inside my head in order to find where I get that momentum from. And like Grace, my momentum comes from home. In my mind, if that’s where I get my passion and drive from, then that’s what I should be focussing on.

TEDx this year taught me that momentum is really good at hiding. Maybe confusion is part of the game. But eventually, a part of your past pops up so often that you can’t ignore it, and it makes sense to include it in your future too.

By Sandy Bauer

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.”  – Unknown Author

In the last couple of months my idea of how my life plan is supposed to go has changed in every way possible. I went from having a definite plan of sticking to the one job and going away in October to study, however a few minor ‘things’ fast tracked my so called life plans.

Fast forward – I went from living on a station to living in town within a week. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of living in a small town with a large supportive community, but the differences to station life are massive and I have had to learn a variety of new ways and skills. I still have a definite plan of studying to do my equine bodyworker certification in October, and that one is set in cement!

Within two days of searching, I was lucky enough to find a 3 bedroom house in town for $200 a week, an amount that I’ve never had to pay before. The usual station living fee is about $6 keep per day. The number one skill I have learnt since moving to town has been budgeting, it’s one of those adult tasks when you grow up that really makes you wish you weren’t at the ‘adult’ level yet.

Within the budgeting topic also comes the price of food. To live in town and just feed myself for about one-and-a-half weeks it costs approximately $100-$150. Most – mainly companies and some private places – have a food budget where they have a set amount of money aside to buy their workers the necessary food such as milk, butter, bread, cheese, sausages, fruit and veggies. Along with a lot of places having their own veggie gardens to cut costs – I will be making one in the near future!

I was lucky enough when moving into town that a family that I met when I was doing ‘School of the Air’ allowed me to agist my horses on their block. With the payment of checking a few fences and making sure the troughs are full 24/7. For that I am very grateful, the normal cost of keeping a horse in town is practically an arm and a leg for boarding – and then imagine the feed bill! This is compared to stations,, which usually allow their workers to have anywhere from one-to-four of their own private horses (varies for places) and they just live in the paddock and eat grass at little to no cost to the owner. Lucky for me, my current cost is a bit of horse feed and the essentials for keeping a dog in town, which equates to about $50 a month with the additional $40 council registration per dog. Something else you wouldn’t normally have to pay on a station!

Moving to town also comes with learning new skills, which in this case was my whole point of moving to town! I wanted to learn something new other than the general station hand duties. I want to be able to vary what I know and my skill levels, then incorporate it all into one job.

Currently my two jobs are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I work at the local service station. The jobs here really vary from cooking, cleaning, making coffee, serving customers and handling money. All skills that one day I can put back into station work, be it office administration or cooking.

My second job is as a Teacher’s Aide on Wednesday and Friday, although sometimes I fill in for a full week! This job is challenging but it’s something I really enjoy. The jobs vary from teaching the students, preparing work, helping them to complete their work, getting to know each kid and their personalities, fine tuning their skills and helping them to understand the correct behaviour to become better adults in the future. This job is perfect for sharpening my skill development, learning to become a leader and helping to develop the learning and thinking habits of young students.

Even though moving to town has plenty of ups and downs, like the new environment, more money spent, a large empty house and making new friends, it’s slowly growing on me. It is nice to remind yourself daily of the advantages that employees who work in the rural industry actually receive. They are the small things that quite often happen without you actually realising how lucky you really are!

A few things no one tells you about university

By Vesna Clark – Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

This is an honest and personal account of my experience of the first semester of University.

Throughout my late high school years, friends and family would continually tell me not to worry about university, as it would be much more rewarding and enjoyable than high school. In many ways this is true, in my first semester of studying a double degree of Arts and Social Work at the University of Sydney, I was blessed with a pretty fantastic timetable. My classes began at 10am and finally I was free from the dreaded 6:30am wake ups! Another positive I found was that in university you are (or hopefully) studying what interests you and thus you are surrounded by like-minded individuals. Despite this, I eventually lost interest for two of my subjects, however this is all a part of the process, discovering what you do and do not enjoy which in turn shapes your future career path.

Now, what no one really wants to tell you is that you can become quite lonely at university, being invisible in many ways.

It seems that living in a college on campus does make it easier to meet people and make friends as you are constantly surrounded by students and in many cases, even sharing a room with them. From my experience, it is very difficult to make friends at university as while there may be that person that you have created a strange bond with simply due to the fact that you sat next to them the first day of tutorials and thus sit with them the following weeks, everyone has different timetables and schedules. You may only see these people from your tutorial once a week, twice a week if you attend lectures!

While everyone suggests that you join as many societies as possible in order to meet others with similar interests, many of my society meetings clashed with my classes and any spare time I had was entirely devoted to catching up on class work. In terms of the workload at university, it is completely different to what was expected of me in Year 12 and thus I found it quite difficult to adapt. However, this feeling passed in the first few weeks as I found a rhythm, and my advice is that you will either find a method or it will find you, so do not panic.

Overall, my main point is that university will become easier as time passes. I am enjoying my second semester in which I am studying two gender and cultural studies subjects, Anthropology (which I highly recommend) and unfortunately continuing the excruciatingly dry Sociology. Making friends will become easier as you will find your personal balance, finding yourself in a much more happier state of mind. To those Year 12s reading this, I only wish you the very best of luck and while everything around you may be going a hundred miles per hour, take a minute and breathe, find your own pace and remember that your wellbeing comes first!

Empower Profile: Aprille Legacy

Written by Michelle Monaghan – Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

For this blog post, I found myself overjoyed and honoured to be interviewing one of my favourite authors and role models: Aprille Legacy.

Renee Dutton writing by the pen name (Aprille Legacy) is a successful self-published author who wrote her first novel, Soul Fire, in her final year of high school and published it on June 3, 2013. The novel was then made into a trilogy with a further two published novels. Since then, Renee has published the spin-off series to the Soul Trilogy, starting with A Veil Of Stars, which is part of the Lotherian Novellas.

Renee has even appeared on ABC’s Behind The News, in a writing segment where she ran a writing class with three students from a northern suburbs school.

I first met Renee when she ran a YA writers workshop at my local library in Victor Harbor where I live in South Australia, she discussed writing and the world of publishing. From that day on, Renee has inspired me and given me the confidence to start turning an idea I had into a novel that I would like to publish one day. I have also starting reading her books and highly recommend reading them – you won’t be disappointed!

Q1. So Renee, tell me a bit about your background and where your love of writing came from?

I lived in Victor Harbor for most of my life and attended Victor Harbor R-7 and Victor High. I was lucky enough to have wonderful teachers and special interest groups designed to nurture a love of reading and writing, so a natural curiosity was allowed to grow into full-blown interest.

My mother always had a book in hand, so it was only natural that I follow her lead. Penning my own stories was the next step.

Q2. When did you decide you wanted to try self-publishing your first novel Soul Fire’?

I’d finished Soul Fire and queried it a bit, but I’m a very impatient person and looked into self-publishing after one of my writer friends mentioned it. I liked what I saw, so I set out on that path.

Q3. What have been the challenges of being a self-published author and just a writer in general?

It’s very hard to stay motivated sometimes. When you’re trying to get a new project out there, it’s hard enough to just get the words down, but as a self-published author, you’re also working with designers, trying to meet your own deadlines, hoping you’ve set the right deadlines, organising events and launches… It can all get a bit overwhelming sometimes.

Q4. What advice can you give female writers out there about writing?

I think it’s important for us to have diverse female voices. The current trend in YA is good – strong heroines with a purpose and the strength and willing to make the sacrifice, but we need to diversify. We need girls who can admit that they’re frightened, or girls who are strong in other ways besides physically. We need voices that represent all people. My advice really is this – write for yourself. Pen the book you need to read.

Q5. Why do you think it’s important that we as women promote ourselves and have a voice?

I think female writers are important because they’re capable of bringing new stories to the table. I think it’s important that we have strong women for our girls to look up to, to follow in their footsteps, so that each generation can learn from the last and become better.

Q6. Do you have a female role model and if yes, who and why?

There are so many amazing women out there… I’d have to be corny and say my Mum. She’s an awesome person and has been nothing but one thousand percent supportive of my dreams and goals. She’d started me on this path of reading and writing, and now that I’m an adult, she is my partner is my publishing career. She is one of the strongest, most driven women I know. I couldn’t have asked for better support or guidance.

Q7. Finally, what has been your favourite thing about writing and publishing your own novels for people to read?

Everything. I have to write – it’s in my blood, like an itch. But when I write a story that makes someone come up to me, or write a review, or even just rate it, I know that the words and characters inside my head have come to life in someone else’s. It means I have done my job as an entertainer. I enhanced a few hours of someone’s life. That means far more to me than awards or prestige.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop writing stories – they just keep coming!

Check out this link to Aprille’s website and blog here:

And here is the link to where you can buy her amazingly addictive novels on Amazon:

Why you should vote ‘yes’ to legalise same-sex marriage

By Elise Toyer – Country to Canberra 2016 Power Trip Winner

I’m excited and frustrated and hopeful and ready for change. Australia may (I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed!) finally, at the end of this year vote ‘Yes’ to legalise same-sex marriage.

I’m excited, and it’s time for us, the Australian public, to show Canberra through this postal plebis…survey that Australia is ready for same-sex marriage, now!

But I’m also frustrated, because even though the outcome of this plebiscite will affect me directly, I don’t get a say. I’m too young to vote. 

I have to sit on the sidelines watching my family get kicked around as a political football. And it hurts. My parents are two fabulous, amazing, sassy, kick-arse women who deserve the right to marry. 

It hurts my brother and sister and I to hear comments that we are ‘abused’, ‘disadvantaged’ and are becoming Australia’s new ‘stolen generation’. I’m none of these, and neither are my brother and sister. I love my family and I refuse to be used as a political pawn.

Plus these comments aren’t just offensive to us, but also to sufferers of childhood abuse, systemic disadvantage and poverty, and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I’m hopeful though. To everyone marriage has symbolic meaning, but it also has practical implications and my family shouldn’t be excluded.

Here let this video explain.

I’m ready for change. Equality will happen and this vote is our chance to (respectfully, of course!) let parliament know that marriage does not, and should not, discriminate.

This vote might not change much or matter for you, but for my rainbow, jumbled, dumpling-loving family it will. Still curious? Chuck me a message. Hate and fear are born from ignorance; asking respectful questions is therefore simply a step towards empathy and equality.

So enrol, check your details and get out there and vote. The AEC is only a click away:

Vote proud and most importantly vote Yes!!

Love will win.

Easiest way to contact me is through Facebook or email.  Thank you. 🙂

Was The Manchester Concert Terrorist Attack An Attack On Girls?

Hearing the news breaking while working away on my desk of the terrorist attack at the Manchester Ariana Grande concert left me in disbelief. It was difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the situation by reading about it on a screen – of the 14,200 people who attended, the majority were girls and their parents. It just seemed too cruel to target such a vulnerable and innocent part of society – no matter the attacker’s issue is with the United Kingdom or Western society, these girls were not to blame.

So why attack them? Well, I have some ideas…

For those unfamiliar with the details, on 22 May, 2017 a 22-year-old British Muslim man, Salaman Ramadan Abedi, detonated a shrapnel-laden homemade bomb at the exit of the Manchester Arena as the Ariana Grande concert ended, killing 23 people – including ten people under twenty and Abedi.

As truly shocking and terrible these details are for any reason – the main thing I kept thinking of was why this concert, why these people? It would be a stretch to imagine the concert full of politicians, lawmakers, police and all the types of people who someone trying to push an extremist agenda would be especially angry at – so it’s unlikely that these people would be amongst the dead or injured. However, I bet a lot of politicians, lawmakers, police and all the types of people someone trying to push an extremist agenda would be angry at would probably have young daughters and chances are they like Ariana Grande. Even if they weren’t in Manchester, would you let your young daughter go to a concert – no matter who was playing– in your city after an attack like this?

This, I argue, is the desired outcome from the attack. Not to try and murder 14,200 people, but to try and instill fear in normal, everyday families, all around the world to think twice about doing even the most normal thing in the world, like attending a pop concert.

Why though? Who cares about Ariana Grande? Well, I have some thoughts on that too. I personally think Ariana Grande is ridiculously talented. I also think she is ridiculously problematic. She was on the Disney Channel and now she’s an international pop star, who happens to have shed her squeaky clean Disney image for a much sexier one. Some see it as empowerment, other see it as unnecessarily provocative, some see it as dangerous.

Dangerous? I mean, the title of her show and album is Dangerous Woman! But how is she dangerous? She doesn’t hurt anyone. Her lyrics aren’t harmful or hateful or anything much except sex, love and heartbreak. But that’s it – there is a vast majority of the world who don’t think that girls (or women) should be listening to anything that promotes sex, love and heartbreak. All the reasons why are much too vast to explain here, but my point is that these are very normalised topics in Western society – girls (and guys) in Adelaide where I’m typing this deal with these issues on a daily basis from a young age… just like I’m sure they do in Manchester or any Westernised city.

The normalisation of what can be viewed of ‘dangerous’ topics is what I believe an attacker like Abedi was trying to stamp out. I believe he wanted any parent to think twice about what they’re children are watching, listening to or Googling. It’s a natural reaction, but it’s one based in fear. And fear is – essentially – the currency of terrorism. Terror attacks are always random – the idea is that you never see it coming, so that you become fearful in your daily life. If you become fearful enough, you might decide withdraw from ‘dangerous’ culture, like what Ariana Grande represents, for your safety, and bingo – a small win for the attackers.

This, I think, would be a huge shame. As problematic as I think many pop culture icons have become (I once reviewed a Nicki Minaj concert and I’ve never fully recovered) I think the choice of whether or not you choose to subscribe to them is fundamental. Blocking out anything controversial or slightly unsettling will send society backwards. Sure, perhaps the boundary has been pushed a little too far, but I believe there is a corporate greed propagating the old saying that ‘sex sells’.

But you know what else? A lot of these ‘dangerous’ voices are female – and I think that’s fantastic. They’re businesswomen and for many of them, they have worked very hard to get exactly where they are due to their intelligence and talent. And whether you like their music or image or not, that’s a fantastic thing for feminism.

When I was growing up I wasn’t allowed to watch The Simpsons because it was a bad influence and while in retrospect it seems insignificant, kudos to my parents for sticking to their guns for so long. I support a parent’s decision to guide their child’s morality based on their beliefs, but there is a limit. My parents weren’t afraid that I might die from watching The Simpsons, they thought I would learn swear words. Guess what? I learnt them one way or another – and way worse ones than what The Simpsons ever say.

So now I wonder how parents handle situations where the culture their children are consuming represents so much of what terrorist groups are fighting against? As the months pass from the Manchester attack, life goes on… Ariana Grande will go on (and so she should) and people will continue to go to pop concerts.

But now there’s a precedent for what can go wrong. There’s second guessing, re-thinking and doubt. And there’s fear. We live in a world where something like Ariana Grande can cause fear in a parent beyond whether the think her songs and lyrics are appropriate for their age. And I think that’s an important issue that we should all acknowledge, contemplate and overcome.

Being afraid of things we enjoy will not help us move forward – it’s no way to live. Be confident and proud in what you enjoy and what you believe in – and I don’t mean just pop music. Not everyone will agree with everything you do. Sometimes these reasons are justified, sometimes they aren’t. Use your judgement and morals to guide you – deep down you know what’s best.

Most importantly, don’t allow anything to stop you from expressing yourself in a way that makes you feel confident and empowered. It shouldn’t matter to anyone but you and you should never have to be fearful of things that you enjoy.


A letter to my 13 year old self

Written by Mikah Appel – Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

As the end of Year 12 years, I can’t help but reflect on how I’ve changed since I started high school.

If I could, I would love to dispense some wisdom to my past self in regards to what I should and shouldn’t do, however my mistakes have ultimately led to valuable learning opportunities that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

Here is some advice nonetheless – whether it be to myself in year eight or any other anxious teens who are at the beginning of their high school journeys.

To an apprehensive yet optimistic, acne-faced, nervous, 13 year old, year 8 student,

You’ve just finished primary school and you’re beginning your first year of high school. I know how nervous and uncomfortable you feel since your friends have left. By now, you’re already beginning to feel the pressures of teenage-hood: wondering whether people will like you…worrying about your grades…and letting insecurities get the best of you. But worry not- in a few years you’ll find that high school, while it didn’t always go to plan, was some of the best days of your life so far. Without telling you what to do (I know you hate being bossed around), I need to bestow some wisdom upon you.  

ALWAYS remember to:


You won’t enjoy high school if you don’t get involved in the school community. Fundraisers, competitions, sports carnivals, student council…you aren’t too cool to join in. You’ll actually enjoy it more than you think you will, and you’ll make some really good friends doing so along the way.

13 year old me, you only get to do high school once – do as much as you can!


Yes, your grades do matter, but high school is not all about grades. Enjoy spending time with your friends and engage in activities that lower your stress. It is important that you work hard and knuckle down at times, but not so much that it consumes you. Relax as much as you can now, because the workload will only get larger as you get older!

You are only 13 after all…

  • BE YOU

Stop focusing on what you look like and what others think about you, and start focusing on who you are on the inside.  Allow your qualities – kindness, honesty, tenacity, and intelligence – to replace the insecurity and anxiety that you feel burdened by.  You don’t need reassurance from others to feel like you are enough; you have everything you need inside of you.

In a few years you’ll understand that you were never meant to fit the stereotypical mold that society places you in. Most people appreciate your individuality more than your desire to fit in with everyone else.

As long as you keep these things in mind, I assure you, you will enjoy your time in high school and the days of you wondering whether people will like you, worrying about your grades, and letting insecurities get the best of you, will be far behind you.

All the very best!

From an excited, relieved, slightly less acne-faced, confident, 17 year old, year 12 student.