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11 Reasons You Should Enter Country to Canberra’s Essay Competition Today

HW Farm PictureBy Country to Canberra Founder & Executive Director, Hannah Wandel.

C2C Essay Competition closes Thursday, 10 September 2015 at 11.00pm AEST.

It’s officially that time of year. Fathers Day has arrived (hello bacon), footy finals are in full swing, and it’s the last weekend before Country to Canberra’s essay competition closes for Year 10/11 rural girls.

Like any good AFL cheer squad, we’re hell bent on motivating you to reach your potential. So, here are 11 reasons why you should skip that Netflix session and enter our essay comp today.

  1. Your chances of winning are high. This year, we’re selecting winners from every state and territory.* That’s seven winners, people. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
  2. To enter, you only have to write 500 words, which is about two pages of a Harry Potter novel. If JK Rowling can pump out seven of those bad boys, we have no doubt you can jot down 500 words before taking an afternoon nap.
  3. You can enter using any format. Keen to submit a blog post? Go for it. Want to write a rap song? Embrace your inner Kanye. Sure, it’s called an essay comp, but we’re not fussed about the format –just your ideas.Kanye West 18
  4. Does your resume resemble a pair of Beyoncé’s designer jeans? If it’s full of holes, then winning a nationwide essay competition is going help stitch up your future. By filling in the gaps on your CV, you’ll be one step closer to that dream job/youth ambassador position/school captaincy you’ve been eyeing off.
  5. There’s no right or wrong answer to the essay competition question. You have nothing to lose and a truckload to gain by voicing your authentic opinion. 
  6. Winners get to attend breakfast with phenomenal women like UN Women Australia Executive Director Julie McKay, Greens Deputy Leader Senator Larissa Waters and Federal Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann MP. And we haven’t even announced the full line up of yet! When we do, prepare for an outbreak of inspiration (vaccinations not required). Girls Resized
  7. If you’re keen to be the next Leigh Sales, then this competition is for you. The top 15 entrants get their essays published and showcased to a national audience. First step: Country to Canberra. Next Step: Foreign Correspondent.
  8. Last year winners scored selfies with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. The hashtag possibilities are endless.  Julie Bishop MP chatting with our rural winners and founder Hannah.
  9. The winners’ all-expenses paid ‘power trip’ to Canberra comes with free flights, free accommodation and most importantly, free food! This includes taking you to Canberra’s #1 burger joint. Prepare your taste buds, hearts and Instagram filters.
  10. As well as the ‘Powerful Women’s Breakfast’, 2015 winners get an evening event with Senators, a behind-the-scenes tour of Parliament House, 6 free mentorship sessions, and much, much more.
  11. Finally, and importantly, you should enter the competition because women’s rights are human rights. By entering the competition and brainstorming ways to tackle gender inequality, you’re making a positive contribution to a crucial social and economic movement. For that, you should be proud.

Please note: this year’s Country to Canberra essay competition question is ‘If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would you do to help achieve gender equality. Think locally & nationally!’

For more details on how to enter, check out the How to Enter Page on our website, or download the entry template here.

 * Bar the ACT

The Day Profile Pictures Turned Rainbow


By Kaitlyn Loft, Country to Canberra teen blogger. Learn more about her here. 



Remember the day that Facebook profile pictures turned rainbow? I do. It was the 26th of June 2015 – a day that marked a huge success for the LGBT+ community due to the legalization of same-sex marriage across the United States of America. The US Supreme Court decision made an incredibly progressive move towards universal equal rights, and I hope that it leads to similar positive progress in other countries. Importantly, this would create more room to shed light on other, less glamorous issues facing the LGBT+ community.

Same-sex marriage has long been seen as one of the biggest obstacles to an equal society and there are many reasons why it is so important. To recognize same-sex marriage is to recognise the validity of same-sex relationships. It would also afford same-sex couples greater legal securities and benefits reduce stigmas and it would normalize the existence of the LGBT+ community. In fact, it still amazes me that our society is so set on policing an expression of legitimate, genuine love. As a member of the community, I’m so proud of America’s Supreme Court decision, and I’m happy that same-sex couples there are beginning to be recognised as equals.


One thing that the Supreme Court decision did highlight for me though, was the level of media Americanisation that we’ve become accustomed to. For minorities in rural Australia, social media is often where you can find the most support, as it provides a platform for discussing the problems within the context of our own country. It can be a little frustrating to see local issues constantly overlooked, and personally, I would love to see more vocal political and social support for the LGBT+ community in Australia.

Nevertheless, America’s decision did reignite the debate about marriage equality in Australia. It kick-started a number of important conversations that I hope will help normalise the existence of same-sex relationships among the wider community. I know from experience that normalisation can reduce years of anxiety, depression and dysphoria in LGBT+ teens, who often devote so much attention trying to fit in and be accepted. One only has to take a look at American Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note (a transgender teen who committed suicide in December last year and posted her suicide note on social media) or testimonies from local teens who went through similar situations to understand that the struggle between ‘fitting in’ and being true to yourself, is a real problem among LGBT+ youth worldwide.

Facebook-Pride1While the legalization of same-sex marriage in America is a huge step forward, it is important to remember that there is still a long way to go before we overcome discrimination and prejudice. For the LGBT+ community in Australia, I can only hope that attention garnered by this case bolsters support for LGBT+ equality at home.

27 Things Aussies Learn On A European Academic Adventure

Han Worsley
Hannah Worsley is a Country to Canberra teen blogger. You can learn more about her here

I know, I know. I’m crazy. I’m sacrificing everything I’ve worked so hard for. I’m going to be so behind. I must be so stressed. I’ve heard it all. But the London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF) was not a burden – it was an enlightening learning experience, and as such, I’ve created a quick guide on the 27 things I’ve learnt from being on an overseas academic program for 3 weeks with 470 teenagers from 65 different countries.
1. There is no such thing as a comfort zone on session. You’re always pushing yourself.
2. Commit yourself. Whether it’s to asking a question, following a dream, or just crossing the crazy London streets, you’ve got to have faith in yourself.
3. School isn’t the end of the world (I’m still getting used to that one).
4. Science is so, so cool. When else do explosions happen safely (well, kind of safely) in lectures?
5. There are other people out there who not only share my love of, but understand,  science puns.
6. Collaboration is incredibly important. Just 2 ordinary people together have more brainpower than Einstein.
7. 6 chocolate croissants for breakfast each day in France is absolutely not unreasonable.
8. Network not just for the opportunities, but also for the friendships.
9. As an Australian, I am incredibly lucky.
10. Being proud of yourself isn’t just okay, it’s essential.
11. There are few better feelings than having a supportive network of friends and family behind you.
12. Represent yourself, your family, your community and your country with pride.
13. The language barrier isn’t always a barrier-it can also be a great way of learning how to laugh at yourself (and your poor pronunciation attempts), while learning about other cultures.
14. Being a stereotypical tourist is ok-this includes accents, walking on the wrong side of the stairs, wearing berets, and getting lost.
15. There are always people more (and less) intelligent than you.
16. The weather in the UK is actually ridiculous. Whatever I just went through was not summer.
17. Saying goodbye to friends is really, really hard. Forecast = 100% chance of tears.
18. Different opinions are often the best kind.
19. Public transport is not as terrifying as it seems. Just don’t leave any items on there, you’ll probably never get them back.
20. Communication is key.
21. You don’t have to be an expert to hold your ground on an issue you’re passionate about.
22. Women can hold their own in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industry, as can men. Gender does not impact ability, only opportunity.
23. Watermelon is a great ice cream flavour.
24. The Australian dollar is woeful. And Switzerland is chronically expensive.
25. Being at the CERN Large Hadron Collider is an awe-inspiring experience. The numbers are astounding-over 100 nationalities employed, 1 petabyte of data generated per second, and a 27km circumference.
26. Knowing what you want to do is something you’ll figure out through experience more than anything else.
27. Nerd is not an insult. And I now know 470 students who will agree.
Please visit for more information on this incredible program, and search for LIYSF on Facebook.

Power Trip Recap: How Country to Canberra changed my life

Vesna Clark was one of the winners of Country to Canberra’s 2014 essay competition. For her amazing efforts, she had her work published and scored a ‘Power Trip’ to Canberra, where she met powerful female leaders, toured parliament and was interviewed for TV and radio. We asked Vesna to look back on some of her favourite and most inspiring moments…

C2C: Hi! What motivated you to enter the 2014 competition?

Vesna: I was told about the competition via a teacher at school who knew about my passion in women’s issues/feminism and thought it would be a great fit! A lot of ideas about gender equality sprung to mind when I saw the essay question and I really wanted to communicate them, so I began writing. The biggest motivator for me was that I hadn’t been given the chance to openly talk about my ideas and opinions and thought that what Country to Canberra was offering was brilliant and I really wanted to become a part of it.
C2C: How did it feel being told you were an inaugural winner? 
Vesna: I was absolutely ecstatic! I had never won or become a part of something so big before and it felt wonderful. I remember telling parents and friends with a big smile on my face and couldn’t wait for the Power Trip to come!

I was absolutely ecstatic! I had never won or become a part of something so big before…

C2C: What was your favourite part about the ‘Power Trip’ to Canberra?
Vesna: It has to be a tie between meeting the other winners, Hannah and Libby and the Powerful Womens breakfast that was held. We were able to discuss women’s issues, particularly education and hear the stories of many women such as Katy Gallagher, Gai Brodtmann, Rebecca Skinner, Frances Crimmins and Stephanie Foster who were all very inspiring.
C2C: What was the best piece of advice/lesson you learnt?
Vesna: The main message I took away with me from the Power Trip was to take risks, no matter what people say or if you doubt yourself, just do it. Almost always, you will surprise yourself.

The whole experience, including actually writing the essay, being published, and the Power Trip, was life changing.

C2C: What are you up to now/what are your plans?Vesna: I have just finished my HSC trial exams and have just over two months left of Year 12 so at the moment its study, study, study. My plans include applying for Uni and hopefully getting into my desired degree of Social Science with a major in Gender Studies (surprise surprise) and also taking a much needed relaxation period after HSC exams.

C2C: What would you say to girls who are thinking about entering the 2015 comp?

Vesna: The whole experience, including actually writing the essay, being published and the Power Trip was life changing. I became more confident in my writing and opinions, sharing them with others and being published on Country to Canberra was even more of a confident boost! I have learnt to not hold back and that writing is one of the most powerful ways to express your ideas. It is so crucial for young rural women to have a voice concerning gender inequality and your ideas and thoughts are invaluable, so get writing and keep smashing the patriarchy!

Little schools, big heart

11262356_10206720360317866_1929929064_nBy Vanessa, Country to Canberra teen blogger.



When I was younger, and before I became an intolerable teenager, my primary school was the centre of my world. It was where I got to escape my parents and delve into a universe where I could completely be myself. Jamberoo Public School was the place where I played ‘Saddle Club’ with my friends in the forest. Sadly, I never got to be my favourite character Stevie, but I did make an awesome horse. It was the place where I had my first crush. Unfortunately, Josh never recognised me, even though I put extra chocolates in his Christmas card that year. It was the place where I met my closest friends, who I’m still best mates with today. Whenever my friends and I reflect on our childhoods, ‘JPS’ is always a talking point. It seems like almost all of our precious memories were created in that magical place and we love to relive them – take for example, that time Jacob fainted in choir practice, that time Sophie’s mum dressed up as a zebra for ‘Book Week’ and that time *somebody* cracked a rotten egg during the end-of-year assembly.

shutterstock_141891718I wouldn’t be the person I am today if Jamberoo Public School hadn’t been a part of my life. Each time I drive past and see the little sandstone library nostalgia immediately follows. When I finished my seven years there, I was comforted by the thought that it would continue to be a part of my little town and positively impact other local kids. Lately, however, I haven’t been comforted this comfort has been deteriorating. The number of students attending JPS has dropped to dangerously low levels. Less than one hundred children attend the school now, and just five of them are in Kindergarten. Unlike our closest capital city Sydney, Jamberoo residents don’t have a lot of schools to choose from, in fact, we only have one, and that

one small school makes an enormous difference. This tiny primary school is one of the big factors that attract many young families to the area, including mine in 2000. Without JPS and all of its facilities, all of Jamberoo would struggle, including sports clubs, local event organisers and businesses. It would be a domino effect. Importantly, the children bring a crucial vibrancy to Jamberoo, and without them, our entire community would transform – and not in a good way.

If Australia wants to keep its valuable country towns alive, it must counter this issue with initiatives that promote the school, promote country living, and encourage more bright and talented teachers to work rurally. The local school fosters our community’s future, and it plays a special role in my past. Ultimately, I want Jamberoo Public School to be the place where my children make their own precious primary school memories.




Empower Profile: Jewel Dennis

Libby O'Brien

By Libby O’Brien, Country to Canberra teen blogger. 



For the average teenager, balancing the pressures of school life with home responsibilities can seem almost impossible, but maintaining stability between these factors is vital for a successful life. As a rural teenager in her final year of school, seventeen-year-old Jewel Dennis not only proves that this can be done, but she also sets an outstanding example for other teens, proving that rural teenagers can achieve just as much, if not more, than anyone else.


Jewel’s family are Queensland dairy farmers who have stood up against the big companies and created their own independent product, ‘4REAL’ Milk. Located in southeast Queensland, the Scenic Rim Robotic Dairy Farm has been featured on ABC News, ‘The Project’ and ‘The Today Show’. Jewel couldn’t be more proud of what the business has achieved and the local support it has gained. “I am very proud of what 4real Milk has achieved so far. It’s good to see all the support we have received from our customers and our stockists” Jewel said.

Not only does Jewel contribute to her family business, she also has dreams of her own that go beyond the farm. Jewel is a strong-willed person, and having loved her rural upbringing, she feels like she’s got the world at her feet. “I am hoping to go university next year and study a dual science/arts course. I am also hoping to, at some point, travel to Japan and study the language and culture at a deeper level. One of my long term goals is to one day be able to travel the world photographing natural and historical landmarks”.

Jewel is a firm believer that hard work gets results, which she displays through her school grades. As someone from a small town, she is still exposed to a population of approximately 1500 students at her high school. This is what Jewel believes has kept her level-headed and shown her what her future life could be like if she ends up attending university.

Jewel Dennis is an inspiration to rural teens and her positive attitude has inspired those around her to achieve great things. In regard to the future of her family’s proud business, Jewel has high hopes, “I’m looking forward to the future of 4real Milk and the Queensland dairy industry”.


You can learn more about the author Libby here or follow her on Twitter: @ekobkate

Fake it til you make it

Knitted turtleneck (1)

Ellie Simpson, Country to Canberra Teen Blogger.



A common catch-phrase among schools, the workplace and in my own life is “fake it til you make it”. There isn’t one person in particular who gave me this piece of advice, as I think almost everyone has used it at some point.

Picture this: you’re sitting in the school library, one earphone in your ear and work spread out all around you. You’re just trying to get things done. But there is that one person sitting beside you who will just not. Stop. Talking. You don’t want to seem rude, so you listen and reply with the appropriate response. You’re trying to seem as interested as possible, despite wanting nothing more than to finish your homework. But somehow, you smile and make it through. Now, I’m not telling you to lie, but these familiar conversations show that we have the stamina to put on a brave face.


So, what about this: you’re not feeling confident about a presentation (I know we have all been there. Public speaking, eek!)? But if you act confident, people will believe that you are. With your head up high, a smile and a projected voice, nobody will ever know that on the inside, you are a shaky mess and are hoping that nobody sees your trembling legs.

Faking it til you make it is a constant sticker in our brains. It is a reminder to yourself that you can, in fact, achieve. One example is that you can achieve by blocking-out a chatter-box in your environment. Another is that you can achieve by getting through a stellar presentation. It was just self-doubt that was standing in the way – you could achieve all along. This piece of advice continues to get me through both school and work. By having a smile on my face and speaking up, I can never be unheard.

However, there is such a thing as being “too fake”. There is no need to brag about how confident you are in an effort to make yourself believe it. The only person you need to tell is you.

nonu | photography / Foter / CC BY-SA

Remind yourself that you are confident, that you can do it and that you will do it well. Self-doubt can be such a downer. I can tell you that pretending is no piece of cake when you honestly do not believe it. Not everybody can trick themselves into thinking they are the next best thing after Beyoncé. All you can push yourself to do is your best. Isn’t that what you have always been taught? “It’s okay. Just do your best”. Even if you don’t end up like Beyoncé, you will still be impressed with yourself. Guaranteed.

So, next time you find yourself succumbing to self-doubt, giving a presentation you really don’t want to give or believing you won’t make it like Beyoncé, fake it ‘til you make it. It’s a showstopper, I swear.

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

Twitter: @esimo_
Instagram: e.simo

Why some people reject the F-Bomb

KaitlynIMG_0950 Loft is a Country to Canberra teen blogger



Feminazi, man-haters, extremists – when the word ‘feminist’ carries such negative connotations, it’s no wonder that parts of society feel alienated and attacked by a movement that’s actually defined by equality and created by common sense. To some, feminists have been reduced to irrational women, to the punchlines of jokes, to a media stereotype, which makes it that much harder to enact the social, political and economic change needed in society.

There are several reasons behind the negative stereotypes of feminism and why some women reject the concept, particularly with those who already possess the privileges that come with being Anglo-Saxon and middle class. These people are inclined to believe that feminism is unnecessary just because they, personally, don’t need it. Maybe that’s because they aren’t a part of the 1 in 6 women who are physically and sexually assaulted by their former partners*, or they can’t see the 18.8% gap between the weekly earnings of men and women, and perhaps some can’t empathise with the racism and issues that are endured by many women of colour.



Just because some women are comfortable with their lives doesn’t mean they don’t need feminism. For years, that’s exactly what we, as a society, have needed. Without feminism, women wouldn’t have the power to vote or be able to claim their own basic human rights of freedom, safety and speech. The comfortable, privileged position that some women hold has only been obtained through hundreds of years of work by the feminists they regard as unnecessary in modern society.

There’s another issue that might explain some people’s rejection of feminism – and it’s not because feminism is rejected outright, but because a misconstrued version of it is condoned. ‘White feminism’, as it is known, is often guilty of excluding the presence, achievements, and issues of women of a different race and cultural identity. The fact that ‘white feminism’ is so mainstream, where a celebrity only has to mention the gender pay gap and be hailed as a feminist pioneer of the 21st century, presents a problem regarding alienation and exclusion.

Alienation can also create a problem for rural communities. Rural communities can be frustrated by their exclusion from metropolitan society. Although social media has eased the restriction of information, I feel a lot of the feminist literature that rural communities see is white feminism, which is stereotyped and excludes women who aren’t white themselves.


Feminism is a complicated and personal issue for many people, including for those who identify as feminists. It covers a broad variety of issues, including equal pay, abortion, rape culture, and works towards deconstructing toxic gender norms and stereotypes that can also negatively affect men, as well as intersecting with issues of racism, homophobia and transphobia.

The foundation of feminism is the belief that a feminist is “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”, as put by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her Ted Talk, ‘Why We Should All Be Feminists’. Feminism is not about putting women a box. It’s about having the freedom to express ourselves in whatever way we choose and it’s about giving women, who are deprived of this, the voice and ability to do so. It’s important that we’re aware of white feminism. It’s also important for everyone to understand that feminism is a movement that is, fundamentally, about equality, for the benefit of women and society as a whole – so the question we should be asking is, why aren’t you a feminist?


*Statistics from Australian National Research Organisations for Women’s Safety. Figure from 2012.

You can learn more about Kaitlyn here.

The struggles of the modern-day country girl

‘Goodbye, cash. See you never.’

This was pretty much the conversation I had with myself seven weeks ago. I wanted to book a flight from Canberra to beautiful Port Lincoln in rural South Australia. My sisters live around this town (known for tuna and great whites respectively) and my need to go and see my adorable nieces had gone into overdrive.

As I picked the cheapest flights possible, the price came up. $900. ‘Sure, that’s expensive,’ I thought. ‘But it’s totally worth it.’

However, the real shock was yet to come.

The following day, I caught up with my mate Jack who started telling me that he’s booked flights to Vietnam.

Stoked, he exclaimed, ‘I got them for $869 return.’

Jaw dropped.

‘You’re telling me it’s costing more for me to get to country South Australia than for you to get to Ho Chi Minh City?’ I interrogated.

Awkwardly, the poor guy nodded. (Correction – not so awkward, again, he was stoked).

At this point, reality smacked me bang in the face. It was more expensive to travel to my nation’s beautiful backyard than to head off on an Asian adventure.

Now, before you tell me to suck it up, I’m more than happy to support our awesome airlines, who spend millions of dollars on charities and pivotal community projects each year. Also, I’ve been to Vietnam and LOVED it (indeed, the above photo was taken by yours truly).

But something else was bugging me.

I started thinking about it from the other end.

What if girls in Port Lincoln wanted to come to Canberra, but couldn’t afford it?

What if they wanted to experience their own capital city, the heart of Australian decision-making, but couldn’t scrape the cash together?

What if they lived even further away, like in the Kimberley or remote NT?

This year, County to Canberra is offering an all-expenses paid ‘Power Trip’ to our essay competition winners. Importantly, we’ve committed to picking a winner from each state and territory, to ensure that no matter where girls live, they’ll have an opportunity to meet influential mentors and powerful women in the ACT.

Last year, we ensured girls like Libby could go on her first ever plane flight. Our winners met women like Julie Bishop, watched Question Time and embraced their nation’s political epicentre.

We empowered girls with leadership skills and expanded their career networks to fight both gender and geographical barriers to success. Because at Country to Canberra, we want to ensure that no matter where they are, girls won’t be prevented from accessing opportunities.

So no matter where you live, enter our 2015 Essay Completion or send the details on to someone who will benefit. We’re offering seven ‘all-expenses paid Power Trips’, to ensure that young female leaders are given equal opportunities, and are given a fair chance to reach their leadership potential. That’s what Country to Canberra is all about.

Oh, and side note: I just came back from Lincoln, armed with FruChocs and adorable memories of my niece practicing ballet. It was worth every single cent.

Hannah Wandel is the Founder and Executive Director of Country to Canberra. Check out her bio here.  

Country sport rocks. Can you play ball?


Vanessa Sporne, Country to Canberra teen blogger.



Every Friday night, no matter how cold, no matter how windy, no matter how badly you just want to slip on those ugg boots and park yourself in front of the TV, the Jamberoo Community Touch Football Tournament must be attended. Jamberoo is only a small town, just two hours south of Sydney, but when it comes to our sport we’re as passionate as anywhere.

Our Friday night touch football (although joined by many purely for the post-game drinks and sausage-sizzle) helps define our little town. Between 6 and 9:30pm, our community fields become a haven of friendly rivalries, playful banter and convenient catch-ups. When the horn sounds, we trudge through the Jamberoo Pub doors; a mass of jostling bodies as we try to get first in line at the bistro before the prawns run out. Any tourist sitting down for a peaceful dinner at the historic venue is forced into the company of hundreds of sweaty, muddy and noisy locals.



Whether it be tennis, rugby or cricket, sport is what brings us together; it’s the key to our community. Our sporting culture is ready to embrace any new member with open arms. Anyone is free to join in the fun.

But, here’s my question: what if sport just isn’t your thing? This is a problem faced by many newcomers into Jamberoo. Without joining the sports teams, it’s almost impossible to experience the vibrant community that our little town has to offer. There are some knitting groups and book clubs, but these are often age restricted and in short supply. Our town is built on relationships, but without an initial activity or time to get to know people, how can one build these relationships in the first place? Without sport, it seems there’s barely any opportunity for newcomers to seek out their own community within Jamberoo, because it’s so rare (or even impossible) to find anyone with similar interests.


Sport is so valuable to our town; it creates friendships that carry on within the wider community, like when you need someone to pick your kids up from school, to feed your cat for the week or to give that extra hand at the garage sale. My fear is that ‘non-sport goers’ are simply cut off. It’s going to take some innovative individuals setting up alternative groups to help solve this problem. Sport brings so much vitality to Jamberoo, and this problem is in no way ‘sport’s’ fault. However we need to remember that some people just don’t have any interest in sport (no matter how hard that is to believe), but this shouldn’t mean they can’t be a part of our fantastic little community.

You can read more about Vanessa here or follow her on Instagram via @vanessa_sporne