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.