International Women’s Day – Part 2

In the evening of International Women’s Day, I attended a talk facilitated by Jenny Cole, an energetic and passionate educator-mentor-leader-coach who had brought together a wealth of Perth educators. After quickly realising I was most likely the only architect, and one of only a handful of non-teachers, in the room, I replaced the nerves of not knowing anyone, with the excitement of learning something new outside my usual comfort zone. I attend quite a lot of events, as I love hearing from passionate and knowledgeable people about the things they are interested in. But I think this is the first one in a very very long time that wasn’t architecture-related. Not sure how sad that makes me! 🙂

Anyway, with my new champagne-fuelled courage I got chatting to a few people from Catholic Education WA, and working teachers across a number of schools. There are so many inspirational leaders out there in this sector at the moment, and I’m really liking the programmes being organised for education leaders, it’s great to see that commitment to talent.

Making new friends! Photo thanks to

First up I was introduced to a small not-for-profit in Perth called Communified. Director Rhiannon relayed the story of her son who was diagnosed with cancer just after his first birthday. While in hospital, she received a card from ‘Dial an Elf’, offering ‘whatever you need’ practical assistance for the family while they were in hospital. Things like picking up the mail, walking the dog etc, so she could stay in hospital caring for her son. Months later, Rhiannon realised she could use her software expertise to better organise Dial an Elf, and so she created Communified, bringing together volunteers who could help, with families needing assistance. Since then, Communified have added a host of other assistance programs to their stable, including Warrior Mail, when a hospitalised warrior, or their sibling, is sent letters of support and kindness, Little Heroes of Perth, creating beautiful superhero artworks of children with severe illness or disability, and Wrapped in Love, creating capes and blankets for seriously ill children. This was such an inspiring talk for me. I guess you never really know how you’ll handle a situation until you are in it. I can’t imagine the fear, anguish and sheer exhaustion of seeing your tiny child in such dire straits. I love that Rhiannon took her nightmarish situation and turned it into good for so many people throughout Perth. Please consider donating money, items or your time to this incredible cause. (Oh, and btw her gorgeous little boy is now five years in remission.)

Next up we heard from Cathy Cavanaugh from CEWA. Cathy is an engaging and enthusiastic speaker and told us about her adventures working with an all-girls school in Abu Dhabi. I went to an all-girls school and I guess we automatically think of things from our own point of reference. But imagine not being able to walk where you want without a male escort, or needing permission to socialise or travel, or not being able to decide where or what you want to study. It really makes you think how incredibly privileged we are, and how many different experiences everyone lives every day. So these girl students asked, and gained, permission to learn hiking skills together. Then to go camping. And then, to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Why not extend your dreams? Living in Abu Dhabi, these students have seen dramatic developmental change to their environment in their lifetime. So they understand change and evolution and stretching for your goals. The girls all successfully reached the summit and realised along the way, the more you do something, the more you can keep going… There were so many fantastic lessons from their trip.

Lastly, we heard from Cally Jetta, who shared her story as an aboriginal educator. She was brilliantly raw, humble and authentic and so inspirational. I love hearing how different people’s journeys have got then to where they are. Cally shared some very important lessons she has learnt from her journey. In her words, there will always be someone better, and there will always be someone worse, so just own yourself. As she shared her very personal story, I’m sure there were not many dry eyes in the house. But as she says, that’s ok. Crying means you care, you’re honest, you’re vulnerable and strong. And these are all important feminine attributes that power us forward. Reflecting on her sons, she claims it is easier to raise strong sons than fix broken men, which I think is such an important message given what is happening in the world right now. And her final message, which I think we all forget at times: Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your friends.. All around just beautiful messages from an amazing woman. You can watch her very popular TEDTalk here:

I am really glad I attended this random event and got to hear from so many inspiring strong women. And fromso many different backgrounds and experiences, but all working together to improve their environments. So, next time you see a random event on Instagram that you know you won’t know anybody at, take the chance to give it a go, you never know who you’ll meet!

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