Country to Canberra is empowering young rural women to reach their leadership potential.
Craig Phillips AFP® is no stranger to the work of the Future2 Foundation. As a Future2 Ambassador and a regular participant in the annual Future2 Wheel Classic – having already cycled in seven rides – the managing director of Canberra-based Phillips Wealth Partners has been fortunate to see first-hand some of the inspiring work Future2 is doing with disadvantaged young Australians.
“Through my involvement with the Wheel Classic, I’ve had the opportunity on some of the previous rides to meet some grant recipients and see directly the great work they are doing in their communities,” Craig says. For the 2019 Future2 grants, Craig didn’t need to look too far to endorse a grant nomination, with one of his clients, Dr Kim Vella, introducing him to the work she does as a business coach and mentor to women in Canberra and NSW at the not-for-profit organisation, Country to Canberra.
“I was discussing the 2019 Wheel Classic ride with a client, who turned out to be a mentor at Country to Canberra,” Craig says. “She told me about the organisation and arranged a meeting with the CEO and Founder of Country to Canberra, Hannah Wandel. My involvement with this terrific organisation grew from there.”
Founded in 2014, Country to Canberra is empowering young rural women to reach their leadership potential, by running nationwide programs that provide education, leadership and mentorship opportunities to teenage girls living in regional, rural and remote communities. “We are a leading voice for young women, and are committed to strengthening rural communities,” says Hannah, who was also named the 2019 ACT Young Australian of the Year. “Distance, time and funding barriers can isolate young rural women and make their path to leadership, more difficult. We are committed to strengthening rural communities, and providing assistance to girls from these communities to empower them and help them reach their goals and leadership potential.”
Craig was delighted that Country to Canberra was successful in obtaining a $10,000 grant for Project Empower, which is a series of gender equality and leadership empowerment workshops. “Project Empower really fits one of the key objectives of Future2, and that is to give young disadvantaged Australians a chance to grow and develop,” says Craig.
“For many remote teenagers, staying in school and connected to the world at large, is so important for their mental wellbeing and future lives. “Through Project Empower, these young women get a turbo boost of mentorship, experiences, learnings and connections that help them stay in school and achieve the best results for them personally. I grew up in remote North Queensland and saw first-hand how much harder is for some sections of our community to achieve their best.”
According to Hannah, Country to Canberra has already successfully completed Phase 1 of Project Empower, where the organisation travelled over 32,000km to talk to high school-aged girls (between the ages of 13-18) about self-esteem, sexual harassment, respectful relationships, stereotypes, intersectionality, leadership, goal setting, and their futures. “Over 3.5 months, we visited 81 ‘bush communities’, and reached over 3,500 students across every Australian state and territory. The workshop road trip had an incredible impact on the thousands of young women who we visited, with our evaluation indicating that girls now have ‘a greater understanding of gender equality issues’, ‘feel more confident within themselves’ and ‘feel capable of being a leader’,” says Hannah.
Following the success of Project Empower Phase 1, Country to Canberra is looking to expand Project Empower to Phase 2, with the money from the Future2 grant going to support this life-changing program.
Country to Canberra to deliver full-day workshops to disadvantaged rural girls, allowing us to develop long-term relationships with schools and communities to ensure success,” says Hannah. “Our highly trained facilitators are dedicated to delivering workshops that help young women to overcome barriers and enhance their strengths and empower them to seek success through their rural locations. Future2’s support will enable Project Empower Phase 2 to make a difference in as many disadvantaged communities as possible.” She adds that Phase 2 will focus on low socio-economic regions, remote towns, and regions with high unemployment, substance misuse and high diversity. “We will also focus on areas with students who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and students who are culturally and linguistically diverse.”
The three key objectives of Project Empower are:
1. To encourage more young women to enter leadership roles and to empower them to access education and career-enhancing opportunities.
2. To increase understanding of gender equality, feminism and a desire to create change.
3. To increase self-belief and self-esteem, enabling the program’s participants them to achieve their goals.
A RIPPLE EFFECT
Project Empower is a unique program tailored specifically to young rural women. The program works with communities to deliver workshops that are relevant, accessible and culturally sensitive, in order to most effectively reach young women who are likely to experience greater disadvantage than their city counterparts. “Every participant in a Project Empower workshop is valued and supported, and our carefully developed program tackles broad issues, such as gender equality and self-esteem, as well as helping girls to face issues they are passionate about in their own communities.
“We equip young rural women with the knowledge, skills and mindset to enact positive changes in their lives and communities.” A central part of Project Empower is evaluating the impact the program is having on the girls and their communities, both short-term and long-term. And once the workshop ends, the program continues to engage these young women through online alumni networks. “When the young women we work with are empowered, there is a ripple effect from which the whole community benefits,” Hannah says.
“The Future2 grant is having a significant impact on our ability as an organisation to widen our reach and deliver opportunities to even more young women across the nation".
“In doing so, we are continuing our work to build strong leaders who are confident in themselves, their abilities and their desire to make an impact on the world around them.”
Craig’s involvement with Country to Canberra extends further than just endorsing its Future2 grant nomination. He has also offered to provide financial literacy and financial planning workshops to rural female teenagers as part of Country to Canberra’s ‘Power Trip’ program. The Power Trip program is an all-expenses-paid five-day trip to Canberra for approximately 15 young women, where they meet inspiring CEOs and politicians, attend exclusive events, tour Parliament House, receive leadership and public speaking training, and more.
“I have agreed to help deliver some workshops on managing money, budgeting, investing and other areas that teenagers should be aware of, like credit cards and superannuation,” says Craig. And not to be outdone, Craig’s client who first introduced him to the work of Country to Canberra, Dr Kim Vella, has agreed to match the Future2 grant by offering leadership coaching and mentoring services of up to $10,000 to County to Canberra.