2020 was the year no one expected. It highlighted so many of the pleasures we take for granted, stretched us to find new delights in ordinary moments and be reminded of what is truly important to us – family, relationships, health, nature and movement.
It showed us the importance of community and connection, resilience and adaptability, and the robust leadership required amidst uncertainty. This year highlighted just how interconnected we are as a global society and how our community ecosystem is only as strong as our most vulnerable counterparts. So yes, this year looked and felt very different than past years both personally and in the business.
2020 was a year to look back for me – it’s been 25 years since I went to the first UN International Children’s Conference in England with 800 kids from 90 different countries. This experience for me was truly life changing and set my life on a very different trajectory than it was before.
We celebrated the anniversary of the UK conference which was the first in its aim to gather children from around the world to learn about and voice their concerns on the state of the environment as well as to showcase their environmental initiatives. And then also the birth of Millennium Kids, now 25 years old, helping kids tackle the biggest issues on our planet.
A big shout out to my friend and mentor, Catrina Aniere. She was the teacher who supported four of us kids to start the first Kids Helping Kids conference in 1996 and she has been there every step of the way in building Millennium Kids for the last 25 years supporting kids to have a voice, work together, be inventive and create the change they want to see in their community. An incredible community leader, teacher and supporter of kids all over the world!
Lighting the fire
20 years ago, I graduated from high school and ran as a torchbearer for the Sydney Olympics. It was an honour to be a torchbearer and play a small part in this global legacy. As the Olympics was postponed this year due to COVID-19, it reminded me to be grateful for the opportunities to bring humanity together as one and not take it for granted. Over the years, I’ve been so fortunate to attend many international conferences and events bringing people from all over the world together. Through technology, we have the world at our fingertips, but do we go out and explore other countries, cultures and people enough? I think there is the opportunity for more, to build our empathy and understanding, especially in the divisive global times we are living in.
Constraints spur creativity
Constraints are often seen as a negative, but constraints can make you more creative. We all set common constraints in our lives without even realising it – work from 9 – 5, Monday – Friday for 46 weeks of the year, for example. This was the year of new constraints – no national or overseas travel, work completely from home, no face to face meetings to name a few. Within these constraints, new innovations were born, from health to the arts to business. Everyone had to innovate. People began to redesign their work and lives according to what was truly important to them!
My year kicked off with the Emerging Leaders in Governance program. We had an incredible group come together. We were very fortunate to start the program as normal with workshops, site visits and a weekend retreat. Then halfway through the program, we changed to fully online delivery. Evening workshops, panel discussions, even our graduation was online. The participants were absolute troopers! Not only were they dealing with the challenges of a global pandemic and how this affected them work-wise and personally, they maintained their commitment to the program. When we couldn’t meet face to face, we met online, we had phone chats and kept in contact over messenger and email. We supported each other with information, connection and empathy.
One of the most exciting online events of me this year was to curate and facilitate the Engaging Young Leaders on Aged Care and Community Boards program’s Unconvention with an international line of guest experts based in India, Singapore, Sydney, Bendigo and Perth. For two hours we talked about the importance of relationships in the boardroom. We could never have engaged these leaders to come to Perth but to be able to tap into their perspectives and expertise was a true delight.
You can read the program’s Annual Report here.
Just before Lockdown
In March, just before the closing down of many workplaces, schools and community, I was very fortunate to be recognised as one of 15 incredible women being inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame. I appreciated the nomination from the very thoughtful ladies from the Soroptimist club of South Perth, who have been amazing members and supporters of 100 Women for many years now. The WA Women’s Hall of Fame has the simple vision of recognising, promoting and celebrating women in Western Australia. The stories of the women who were recognised were nothing short of incredible. I felt honoured to be included and it was a special moment to have my daughter there with me at Government House, and to reflect on all the wonderful women I have in my life.
100 Women, like most organisations, revised our plans for the year – we were asking ourselves, how long would we be in lockdown, what impact would COVID have on women both across Australia and globally, and what role could we play to champion women in this environment. We revised our grants program for this year and took our events online.
I was honoured to facilitate three online events for 100 Women, our first one brought together financial experts to bring information to women about how to approach their finances during a crisis. Our second conversation was with one of Australia’s leading journalists and authors, Madonna King. Her latest books exploring the experience of being a teenage girl in Australia are eye-opening and much needed research and discussion. Our third event was with the incredible Elizabeth Broderick who is Special Rapporteur at the UN Human Rights Council. To hear how COVID was affecting women around the world and her experiences working for change was nothing less than inspiring.
By October, we were so lucky in Perth to have the opportunity to come together in person for our Gala celebration in October and grant $100,000 to 5 organisations including Earbus, Shooting Stars, Cambodian Children’s Fund, One Girl and Bower Reuse & Repair Centre. It was incredible to hear how these organisations were managing, reacting and innovating to the challenges of this year. Thank you to our whole 100 Women team who are so committed to growing our work and impact including our new Chair, Virginia Miltrup!
On a personal note
So even though 2020 was not the year I had planned and very different from previous years in 2019 and 2018. This year, ironically, I got the chance to take a few more little holidays (locally in WA) with my kids who are growing up so quickly. I’ve intentionally spent time redesigning little areas of my home to facilitate the space and conversations I want to have with my husband and kids – a photo board to savor memories, a games basket in the lounge to facilitate family games night. After reading The Power of Ritual I’ve been playing around with weekly, monthly and annual rituals to increase our connection as a family and what’s important to us.
When COVID shut down all the events, my daughter was fortunate to start guitar lessons to Ezereve, a hugely talented singer/songwriter (100 Women member and philanthropist in her own right) and even though her diary got busier and busier through the year when events returned, she kept teaching my daughter each week – bringing music into the house! Thank you Ezereve for your time and talents!
We also lost a dear friend of ours. Helen Fairnie was a trailblazer. She was among the first female vets in Australia and the first female president of the Australian Veterinary Association among a huge list of other achievements – an Order of Australia (AM), authoring a book on female vets in Australia, a doctorate, a committed lifelong community volunteer to many causes including SAVE African Rhino Foundation and Rotary, plus was a loving wife and mother to two kids. She was a huge supporter of my ideas. In 2012 joined the committee that established 100 Women and on the first grants committee too. In fact, she was one of the first people I talked to about the idea of 100 Women. She was a huge encourager of me and 100 Women from the very beginning. I’ll never forget Helen’s laugh, big smile, care for all living creatures and her determined spirit.
So that was the year that was! 2021 looks like the phoenix rising with many new plans in the pipeline including the launch of a new online leadership program! (send me an email if you’re keen to hear more). I encourage you to take time to reflect on your year and plan for the next 10! Our lives are what we make of it!