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My view on quotas

Han Worsley
Hannah Worsley, Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

50:50. Half and half. Equal. It’s a nice concept isn’t it? In the fight for gender equality, I guess that’s exactly what we are aiming for-a society where men and women have the same opportunities.

But when people propose quotas in order to achieve this, sometimes I wonder if we are actually missing the point? If we are so focused on equal outcomes, that we forget the underlying problems that prevent equal opportunity?

 Quotas for women in federal parliament have been a hotly debated topic recently, with many touting them as the solution to our deficit of females actually sitting in the upper and lower houses. There’s no denying that the ratio of men to women in our current federal government is, quite frankly, abysmal, and the kinds of patriarchy that these women face everyday hasn’t exactly fostered my once passionate desire to become a politician.

 

There are a number of problems that arise from having such a disparity between the number of men and women in parliament. The lack of role models for other women aiming to break into such a career is certainly one issue, but also the way issues pertaining to women are addressed when the parliament is full of men. We only need look at the celebration of International Women’s Day in a male only venue or the reluctance to remove the GST from essential women’s hygiene products to see that sometimes, without women in power, we lack the voice and the impetus needed to enact positive change.

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However, as a female who had considered politics, for me, quotas were not the answer to the political problem with gender. They were, in fact, only another indication that as a female, politics was not my domain, that I could not get there without the help of my male counterparts, that concessions had to be for me to be successful, and that if I got into parliament, I would not be there because of merit, but because I was female.

Furthermore, changing the number of women in parliament doesn’t do anything to address the real problem, which is the attitudes which have prevented them from getting there in the first place. Sexist remarks and blatant discrimination can be seen towards female political figures from all sides of politics, from Peta Credlin to Julia Gillard to Christine Milne. We should not be implementing bandaid solutions to massive, deep-rooted problems. Society needs to change, so that women have equal respect, acceptance and opportunities. The numbers will follow.

Learn more about Hannah here

The one big question for today’s teenagers

Knitted turtleneck (1) Ellie Simpson, Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

 

 

As if high school isn’t daunting enough, us Tasmanian teenagers get to experience another two years in a new and fun, albeit daunting and stressful environment to decide upon our futures.

For Years 11 and 12, we put ourselves through college to answer the one question that adults love to ask:

“So what do you want to do when you finish school?”

It is a confusing question to ask us as teenagers. We as a group tend to make rash decisions based on our futures. All through high school I was set on making myself a journalist. Since then I have changed my mind too many times to count and I am back at square one. My answer to the question is simply, “I don’t know yet”.

College is our time to decide what our passion is and is supposedly the most important two years of our lives. We experience new things, meet new people and of course, study so hard our brains are fried.

Marching through the corridors, you hear the monotone buzz of several hundred voices making their way towards you. Gossip, jokes and giggles speed forward and hit you before you notice they’re there.

There are certainly some downfalls of college, but there are some perks that you can get out of the stressful two years that are Years 11 and 12.

  • You don’t have to sit through classes you don’t enjoy and instead you can study the subjects you’re interested in. However, there’s the struggle of keeping up with the overflowing workload, studying for tests and maintaining concentration during class time.
  • Making new friends is one of the greatest benefits of college as there are so many people. Although, sometimes there are too many people. Cafeterias are packed with teenagers and can be overwhelming if you’re not used to it.
  • You have the opportunity to explore so many things in the world that we don’t even know about. There are jobs and careers that we have never heard of, places that we could only dream of going and people that we would be fascinated to meet. Then comes the struggle of what to do first. As they say, “the world is your oyster”. There is so much we could do with our lives and where do we begin?

My mum has always told me that the best way to learn about places is to visit them. Just like the question of which came first out of the chicken and the egg – what comes first, travelling or a career? College is our time as teenagers to have fun. There are huge amounts of pressure to decide on a career, presumably for life. The generations before us have not necessarily lived their lives under the one job. Don’t feel the pressure that so many of us give-in to when it comes to deciding our future. These last two years of school open so many opportunities to us and it’s our time to make the most of what we are being given.

Learn more about Ellie here and follow her on social media:

Twitter: @esimo_
Instagram: e.simo
Facebook: facebook.com/CheetaCakeBlog
Blog: www.elliesimpsonblog.wordpress.com

Empower Profile: Senator Fiona Nash

Happy International Women’s Day – a day that spotlights gender equality and celebrates the contributions of women around the globe! This year’s theme, #MakeItHappen, is encouraging effective action. So, in the spirit of ‘leaning in’ and going after our goals, Country to Canberra is posting its first-ever ‘Empower Profile’. These profiles will feature inspiring women and girls who are making waves and promoting empowerment in rural Australia.

For our first Empower Profile, we were thrilled to interview Country to Canberra supporter and Assistant Minister for Heath, Senator Fiona Nash. Having represented NSW for a decade, Minister Nash is passionate about helping young women succeed.

Our founder, Hannah, caught up with the Minister to learn what life is like as a female, country politician.

 

It’s International Women’s Day! How have you been celebrating? 

I’ve been doing some events around regional communities, lunches, and talking to local women in regional towns about women in business, about women in politics and it’s been really interesting! The tagline for International Women’s Day is ‘Make It Happen’ and I think that’s something we’ve all been talking about: that often sometimes women don’t’ feel like they have the confidence or the qualifications to get out there and do what they want, so I’ve really been saying just make it happen. One of the things that I’ve found most interesting and one of the best parts of the job is actually getting out into regional communities, into businesses, into the main street talking to people about the issues that are most important to them. So, that’s how I’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day. 

 

Take me back and tell me a bit about your background. How did you end up living in country NSW? 

I actually grew up in Sydney til I was 16. When I met my husband and we got married, which was 25 years ago, we moved out to Young (in rural NSW) for a job. He was working on a farm out there and he’d been working on a dairy farm prior to that. A couple of years after that, with our parents, we bought the property we’re on now and we’ve been there ever since!

So, why did you get into the political game? AAA FN2

Lots of late night dinner parties complaining about things 20 years ago! [Laughter] Thinking well, if I am going to complain, I should be prepared to put my hand up and get involved. So, I joined the local branch of the National Party and that’s where it all started.

What are some of the challenges involved in being a rural politician? I’m imagining lots of driving!

[Laughter and sighs] Ahh lots of driving, lots of miles, lots of travel. That’s probably one of the big differences between a city MP and a country MP; their patch is so much smaller. Being Senator for NSW, and indeed some of my lower house rural colleagues, we have massive electorates. So that sort of tyranny of distance really exists for everyone in rural Australia, and that’s one of the biggest challenges for rural people in general. That certainly applies to me as well. Then of course it comes to balancing work and family, time away, and those types of challenges as well.

Societal discourse about gender equality seems to be increasing but we don’t spend a lot of time focusing on rural girls. What do you think are some of the main struggles faced by girls living in regional and rural Australia, and what can we do to overcome them?  

Access to education, particularly tertiary education. Again, we’ve got that tyranny of distance. We’ve got young girls (and blokes as well, but we’re talking about girls at the moment) finding it difficult to actually access tertiary education. One of those challenges is simply the requirement of having to move away from home to attend Uni: there’s not one on the doorstep like there are for city girls so I think that’s a real challenge. It’s terrific to see so many of the regional Unis doing a brilliant job and I think they’re fantastic, but I think that’s a real challenge. Sometimes for young regional women, if they’ve got a path they want to tread that’s different to their peers, as they’re growing up it can be more of a struggle when you haven’t got people around you that are headed in the same direction. Sometimes that support for young girls is missing when they’re aiming at that’s not something necessarily something that many of their peers are doing. I think that can be a struggle and they can feel a bit isolated.

katenashNoting that the theme if IWD 2015 is #MakeItHappen, if a 16-year-old girl came to you, saying she wanted to be a politician, what would you tell her? 

First up, ‘go for it’! Then I would talk to them about what they actually needed to think about to get to that point. Whenever people ask for advice about getting into politics, I say ‘do everything you can do to get there if that’s what you want, but don’t change your life path’ because I’ve seen so many people who have been focussed and working toward thinking they’re going to get into politics, and it doesn’t happen and then they’re devastated. They might’ve changed their job, they might’ve changed where they lived. So I always say ‘look at a potential career in politics in parallel with what your life path ever is’. Then, it’s a case of getting involved in a political party, learning from the grassroots what their party of choice is all about, and just being prepared to be involved and do the hard yards. These things rarely happen overnight it takes a lot of work, but at the end of the day it’s very rewarding when you can be in parliament, be involved and make changes for the better for people, which is really rewarding.

Lucky last, on this International Women’s Day, who is your female role model?

That one’s easy: that would be my mother. Unfortunately she has passed away now but my mother was an absolute trailblazer. She was a doctor – a GP – and she practiced for nearly 50 years (it might have even been 50 years). She was at Sydney Uni, doing medicine the year after the war finished, so that was 1946 when she started. She had a fantastic photo showing her open intake the year after the war – there were hundreds of people in this photo doing first year Uni and there were just 5 or 6 women in the photo doing medicine.

She always worked incredibly hard and did amazing things for people. She was a wonderful doctor and the community loved her. She was just really smart and clever and very, very wise. So my role model was definitely my mother.

 

Why I Had an Eye-Opening Experience

Libby O’Brien is one of the winners of Country to Canberra’s inaugural essay competition on gender equality in rural Australia. Following her win, Libby scored an all-expenses paid ‘Power Trip’ to Canberra to meet inspirational female leaders on December 3, 2014. Libby’s 16 years old, is from Beaudesert, QLD, and was recently made School Captain! Below are some of Libby’s reflections following her journey to the ACT.  

For a 16-year-old girl who had never been on a plane before, you could say the Country to Canberra trip was pretty exciting for me. The ‘Power Trip’ has been the most sensational and valuable adventure one could ever ask for. Meeting women who have proven the theory that gender means nothing when it comes to achieving greatness has made me hope that I can one day do the same. Discussing the issues that rural women face in today’s society has opened my eyes and shown me that we must work together to create a better future for women everywhere. Exploring problems faced by rural females with my fellow winners, Vesna and Hannah, allowed me to see that we shared common experiences and ideas, which made the trip all the more rewarding.

In my original competition essay, I mentioned that access to strong female role models is imperative to breaking down gender barriers in rural communities. I found that in Canberra, there were many inspirational females including Katy Gallagher, Rebecca Skinner, Gai Brodtmann and Stephanie Foster who were willing to share their stories and experiences at the ‘Powerful Women’s Breakfast’.

After arriving in Canberra I was filled with excitement for what was ahead of me. I was still giddy after undertaking the first flight of my life. The next morning I was ready to begin my adventure that would teach me about female empowerment and expose me to some incredibly inspirational women.

Hearing the stories of the fearless women at the breakfast was unforgettable. I learnt that it is imperative to embrace my own abilities and be as independent as possible. I realised that there are gender equality issues, including the gender pay gap, in both rural areas and large cities like Canberra. I was motivated to think that I would be able to spread their message to my town of Beaudesert and hopefully make a difference to the women at my school and in my local community.

The exhilaration of being interviewed live on radio for the first time was something I will remember forever. While preparing for our interview, I learnt to let go of all my fears and to speak from the heart, especially when discussing a topic I feel so passionate about.

The tour of the National Gallery was calming and much of the artwork was quite moving. Getting to know Hannah and Vesna during this time was motivating as we all share common goals.

The tour of Parliament House was yet another wonderful experience. This was followed by a fantastic lunch that we shared with many politicians who were passionate about raising the status of women in rural areas. The local member for my electorate of Wright, Scott Buchholz, was also in attendance and he whisked me away to give me a special impromptu tour of Parliament House. This was one of the highlights of my trip as he is such a busy man, yet he took time out of his schedule to show me around particular spots of Parliament House that regular visitors do not usually get to see.

After witnessing an interesting, and at times humorous, Question Time, we were able to meet Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, which was an incredible experience. Julie took the time to read our essays and she was really enthusiastic about what we had written. Walking into her office was intimidating but so exciting. She was friendly and really seemed to care about the issue of female empowerment.

The Country to Canberra ‘Power Trip’ was an experience I will not forget for the rest of my life. It has opened my eyes to the big issues of gender equality and female empowerment and it changed my position on multiple topics that are important to women. I encourage all girls to enter this competition in 2015. You could possibly have an unforgettable experience like I had. I am so thankful to everyone involved in this competition and hope it continues for many years to come.

A ‘Powerful’ Trip to the Capital

Hannah Worsley is one of the inaugural winners of Country to Canberra’s essay competition on gender equality and empowerment in rural Australia. Following her win, Hannah received an all-expenses paid ‘Power Trip’ to Canberra to  meet inspirational leaders on December 3, 2014. Hannah lives on her family farm near Nullamanna in New South Wales, is 17 years old and has ambitions to work in a science (Dr Worsley has a nice ring to it). Below are some of Hannah’s reflections following her journey to the ACT. 

Hi, I’m Hannah, and I’m a country bumpkin. Yes, I do own sheep. I can drive a tractor. And just this morning I went mustering on horseback with my dad, who wears an Akubra and Blundstones. I whinge about too much rain, too little rain. My closest neighbour is a kilometre away.

But despite being what many see as the quintessential country girl, I think I’ve been fortunate enough to get a whole lot of experiences outside the rural area in which I live. I’ve been to the city, experienced traffic lights, caught trains and been overseas. But beyond the physical learning experiences, I’ve discovered differences between city and country that lie within the mentality of the people.

Last year (2014), I was lucky enough to be named one of three national winners of the inaugural Country to Canberra Essay Competition, as a result of the essay I wrote on gender inequality in my local area. My essay spoke about the kind of casual sexism that seems to permeate rural communities to a much greater extent than metropolitan ones. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been told by any individual that hails from the city to “get back to the kitchen” or “go make me a sandwich”, but I barely go a day at my school without hearing it. I’d love to think that they’re referring to my brilliant skills as a chef, but considering that I almost set the grill on fire trying to toast bread in year 7 food tech, I highly doubt it.

In the city, while there are certainly issues with gender equality, it seems like the exposure to various awareness campaigns and political movements prevents people from falling into a false sense of security. People know that what they say in a passing joke can have a broader ripple effect. In the country, it seems we forget that by surrounding our girls with reminders of their predestined path as dutiful domestic damsels in distress, we aren’t exactly helping them achieve their full potential, or feel a sense of equality between themselves and their male peers.

My experiences on the Country to Canberra power trip were eye opening, inspiring, and will not be easily forgotten. All the amazing men and women I had the opportunity to speak to, including Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, have given amazing advice and guidance, including to take risks, don’t settle for something you’re not happy with, follow your own dreams, not other peoples’, and be your own best friend. Through these inspiring individuals, both male and female, I have been given a wide variety of opinions both supporting and challenging my own, and I absolutely loved the fact that there appeared no barriers as a result of my age or gender. However, each person has also voiced concerns about gender inequality, casual sexism, and ingrained patriarchy, and its prevalence in rural areas. And their acknowledgement of, and willingness to discuss the issue, has filled me with nothing but hope for a more equal future.

As a rural girl, I’ve learnt to have a thick skin. That we have to push harder for equality than others. That there are no funny sexist jokes. That sometimes, our more sheltered environment allows the gender gap to spread faster than prickly pear.

But I’ve also learnt that country people are some of the most wonderful and intelligent people there are. That education and exposure can turn the casual sexism into passionate advocation for equality. And that the country bumpkins are just as good as the city slickers.

What I learned on Country to Canberra’s ‘Power Trip’

Vesna Clark is one of the 2014 winners of Country to Canberra’s essay competition on gender equality and empowerment in rural Australia. Following her win, Vesna received an all-expenses paid ‘Power Trip’ to Canberra to meet inspirational female leaders on December 3, 2014. Vesna hails from the Southern Highlands in New South Wales, is 16 years old and has ambitions to work in communications (specifically to kick-start her own magazine!). Below are some of Vesna’s reflections following her journey to the ACT.  

Country To Canberra’s “Power Trip” was a life changing and unforgettable event where I was able to meet a number of powerful women and hear their stories and advice. I became deeply inspired on this trip and the belief and notion that girls can do anything was constantly reinforced. I identify as a feminist, holding the values and beliefs that women should be liberated and our rights and achievements should be recognised. The “Power Trip” successfully recognised the achievements of three young women aspiring to make a difference and for their voice to be heard.

On the morning of the 3rd of December 2014, Libby O’Brien, Hannah Worsley and I were taken to the ‘Powerful Women’s Breakfast’ at Farmers Daughter, Yarralumla. This breakfast involved an open discussion regarding issues that women face within a modern context. Powerful women including Katy Gallagher, Gai Brodtmann, Rebecca Skinner, Stephanie Foster and Frances Crimmins asked for our opinions on various topics including the impact of media on young women, the importance of financial independence and issues surrounding the lack of self-esteem within young women that may impact life decisions. I was delighted at the number of women who occupy political positions and I became inspired when they told their stories and the journey they took to get to where they are today.

Throughout the day we were involved in interviews, including one with 666 ABC Canberra. This enabled me to voice my individual opinion, giving others the perspective of a young woman living in a rural area. I discussed the issues that are present within my community and what can be done to resolve them. This, in itself is empowering and is a wonderful feeling.

Later in the day for lunch, Libby, Hannah and I met a number of senators and members of Parliament House from a range of parties. Although there were a variety of political opinions and positions, the parties had came together for the same reason: to empower young women. This was wonderful as I was able to speak with my local Member of Parliament, Stephen Jones, who congratulated me and asked about the topics I discussed in my gender equality essay. I was also able to speak to a number of women including  Minister Fiona Nash, Senator Anne Ruston, Senator Lee Rhiannon, Terri Butler MP and Senator Jan McLucas, who were extremely impressed with our efforts and the issues we explored in our entries. Some women were surprised that many issues they faced growing up are still prevalent in our generation. This was crucial as it presents a need for change and to address what can be done in order to achieve gender equality.

Meeting Julie Bishop was a wonderful opportunity where I became further inspired as she talked about her career, telling us that female role models are a ‘must’. Looking back on the ‘Power Trip,’ I realise that I have gained a number of female role models and friends that have encouraged me to pursue my desired career, explore other avenues that I may have previously thought of as ‘too daunting’ and to be the best I can be.

The main message that resurfaced throughout the day was to take risks; no matter what people say or if you doubt yourself, just do it. Almost always, you will surprise yourself and I believe that this principle strongly applies to me and the essay that I submitted. I thought nothing would come from it but I was called a month later and told that I was about to be involved in an unforgettable experience that involved meeting amazing, inspirational women and being recognised and empowered through my achievements.

 

A Girl For the Rest of My Life

Lauren Northcote is a Year 11 student and blogger from Darwin, Australia. She wrote the following guest post about gender equality for Country to Canberra. 

In rose pink, taffeta dresses and elegant bows, I was told I was pretty, well dressed, with quiet manners. This was well-suited perhaps, if only for the reason, that it was to set the very tone for the rest of my life.

I soon learnt to cross my legs, not to shout and to filter my words before they rolled off my tongue. I was no longer the sanguine girl who spoke her mind, discouraged by constant criticisms of being bossy and boisterous for taking the reins.

Instead I learnt to smile, be polite, placid and pretty. I discarded the idea of being prime minister. After all, girls were for nurturing and boys were for leading. I learnt to accept, on a daily basis, flippant compliments like, “You are gorgeous,” which had nothing to do with me as a person, and everything to do with the DNA on the card that I happened to receive in the genetic lottery.

As an adolescent it was not the first blood that announced that I had entered womanhood. Instead it was the constant and palpable weight of the male gaze. It was the crude leers from men who unashamedly whistled and called out, “Hey sexy” as I was jogging, barely thirteen years old. It was my mother scolding my unintentional cleavage and being sent home from school for showing my shoulders. I learnt that my body was shameful; that a man’s thoughts and actions were my responsibility and that my body was primarily a sexual object in need of covering.It was not long before this message was internalized. I longed to be the women posing in lingerie selling products from cars to couches. I began to see myself as a sum of my body parts, believing that that I was my body and that my body defined me.

Gradually I discovered that these imposed standards were comically paradoxical, impossible by nature and that this age of ‘equality’ was not really equality at all.

With information came knowledge, and with knowledge came empowerment. Now I know that there is so much to be done to address such gendered injustices if women are to be truly equal.

We need to silence the use of sexist slurs, which are dividing and damaging. We need to stop blaming victims for incidences sexual violence or street harassment. We should be demanding that women and men are on an equal playing field in the workplace. We should be refusing to accept the media’s ridicule of women in power and the over-sexualisation of women’s bodies to the point of dehumanization should not be tolerated. Both men and women need to start the tricky conversations and lead by example. Only then will we see a cultural shift in attitudes towards women.

And now…

In whatever I choose to wear, I know that I am confident, well-informed and empowered. This is well-suited, perhaps, for the reason that, it is to set the very tone for the rest of my life.

For more of Lauren’s work, check out her blog: ingenueme.wordpress.com 

 

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International Day of Rural Women

Our founder, Hannah Wandel, wrote this guest post for YWCA Canberra to honour the International Day of Rural Women on October 15, 2014. See the original post here: https://ywca-canberra.org.au/blog/2014/10/country-to-canberra-celebrates-rural-women/

 

sunset SA croppedLast month, I had three unforgettable conversations. I called the winners of Country to Canberra’s inaugural essay competition, and told them they had won a ‘power trip’ to meet some of Australia’s most influential female leaders.

Through my phone I heard sounds of delight, jovial parents and sincere gratitude. Multiple ‘wows,’ ‘oh my gods’ and an unabashed ‘holy moly’ streamed out of my speaker.  The girls’ excitement was contagious, and provided reassurance that Country to Canberra is making a positive impact on the lives of young women in rural Australia.

So, what is Country to Canberra? Launched in July 2014 and funded by a YWCA CanberraGreat Ydeas grant, Country to Canberra is a national initiative that empowers rural girls to reach their leadership potential. On December 3, we will connect our recent essay competition winners with high-profile female executives and politicians at a breakfast event in the ACT. They will also get a behind-the-scenes tour and lunch at Parliament House. This experience will expose the rural girls to government, provide rare mentorship opportunities, and hopefully, inspire them to become leaders in their local communities.

In the areas these girls live, distance, time and funds often isolate students from educational opportunities. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that rural students have poorer university enrolment rates than their urban peers. Compounding this with today’s 18.2 per cent gender pay gap and leadership disparity (just 30.5 per cent of federal parliament is made up by women), it is clear that rural women face both geographical and gender barriers to success.

Growing up on a farm in country South Australia I saw these obstacles first-hand, and at age 15 I moved to Adelaide to attend boarding school. Here, I noticed city students had greater access to resources, and importantly for girls, increased access to female mentors. From then on, I was determined to build an organisation that helps bridge this unnecessary divide.

shutterstock_smiling girlResearch indicates that youth greatly benefit from same-sex mentorship programs, as they often model behaviours on high-ranking leaders. Yet with more men occupying executive-level positions, there are not enough senior females to satisfy mentee demand. To counteract this, Country to Canberra has engaged the likes of the ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and the most senior female executive at the Department of Defence Rebecca Skinner, in a bid to tangibly demonstrate the permeability of the ‘glass ceiling.’ We will ensure the girls are able to stay in touch with these senior women, and hopefully, our efforts will help foster the next generation of female trailblazers.

In addition to mentorship, Country to Canberra aims to generate increased discourse about women’s empowerment in rural Australia. We facilitated this discussion with the essay competition, which asked girls to analyse gender equality in their local community. Sadly, these entries confirmed that a multitude of issues, such as sexism, still negatively impact girls around Australia. However, it was uplifting to see so many entrants discussing their ambitions and praising fellow women who make valuable contributions in their hometowns.

As we celebrate the International Day of Rural Women, I feel encouraged by the passion and potential I saw in Country to Canberra’s essay applicants. These young women are focused on breaking down barriers to success and diminishing gender inequality. I’m confident that our future leaders are here. Now it’s our responsibility to support them on their way to the top.

Getting over the white line

Start Starting Line Americorps Cinema Service Night Wilcox Park May 20, 20118I will never, ever forget my school sports days. I will always remember the loud cheers, my feeble attempts at triple jump, and the cans of coloured hairspray that turned my head from brown to sparkly blue as fast as you can say ‘tunnel spoke.’ But there was one thing I always hated about sports carnivals: the 100-metre sprint. Something about standing at the starting line and waiting for the race to begin was the most stomach-turning, near-vomit inducing part of my day. I swear I could hear my heart beating as I placed my foot in front of the white painted line. I was a decent sprinter, but I wasn’t good enough to win if I didn’t take off within a millisecond of the starter’s pistol. The perfect start felt like the difference between glory and failure, and the worst part about it all was…waiting. Waiting for the race to begin, and waiting to see whether things would pan out in my favour. Amidst this festival of fear going on in my brain, a bang would suddenly erupt into the atmosphere. The race would have begun, and miraculously my arms would start swinging through the air and my feet would be pumping hard on the grass (no shoes of course – no shoes makes you go faster). Once I started barrelling toward the finish line, all the apprehension seemed to fade away. Even before the race was over I felt a mix of emotions: relief that I had started, and elation because I was sprinting as fast as I could toward my goal.

Funnily enough, I felt a siStudentmilar sense of anxiety when I started Country to Canberra (albeit with way more excitement). There was a lot to do, and I spent days upon days writing lists, making project plans, and getting my ducks in a row. This wasn’t a bad thing, as I had to set a direction. I had to think strategically about my goals and devise a realistic, yet adaptable, plan. However, there comes a time for action. Once I started putting one foot in front of another, the fear faded away. I realised I could do all of the things that had been making me feel uncertain. Sure, I felt out of breath at times, and I needed to look at my friends and family on the sidelines for encouragement. But ultimately, I would never have had met the people I have met, or gained the skills I have gained, without jumping in the fast lane and giving it a go. I believe the same principles apply for girls thinking about entering Country to Canberra’s essay competition. There’s no point waiting to do something tomorrow when you can pursue it today. I encourage you to fight whatever is holding you back, unleash your inner Usain Bolt (#iwentthere) and give it a go. You could win! You could get your essay published. You could meet some of the most powerful women in the nation. No matter what happens, you will start taking steps toward your own personal finish line. At the end of the life’s crazy carnival, learning to shed fear and seize opportunities is the one of the most important achievements of all.

– Hannah.

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