“I’m glad I finally said yes to something that terrified me,” comedian Mandy Nolan told a room of women gathered for The Exchange in Armidale.
Referring to her run for a federal parliament seat earlier this year, despite missing out on the candidacy, she said watching her community engage with politics made her realise “You don’t have to win to win.”
Perseverance was the theme of the two Exchange events HealthWISE hosted in Armidale and Ipswich recently. Part of a series funded by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women, these networking events are designed to support rural women in business and leadership positions.
The Armidale event also featured BackTrack Youth Works CEO Mel Phillips and Sarah Bradfield, manager of Homelessness Programs for NSW, while Ipswich event goers heard from Jordan McGregor, who built a successful eco-product business, mental health nurse Catherine Elliott and Professor Rowena Barrett, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Entrepreneurship at Queensland University of Technology.
“I’d like to acknowledge the fact that every woman is here today because of perseverance. The nature of the women’s movement – that women are in business, that we vote. It hasn’t been that long,” Mandy said.
“It’s all hard-fought and we stand on the shoulders of the women who have come before us.”
“If you are fixed to a routine, innovation dies,” Jordan told the Ipswich crowd as she shared her experience establishing Bare and Boho, which focuses on selling cloth nappies and other reusable wares for parents. Bare and Boho products are now on the shelves of Aldi, and ship globally.
She discussed how the seasons of business, life and the economy may all provide bumps in the road that require perseverance and purpose for success.
Catherine shared her experiences working in her private practice – Expressive Arts Therapy – in the Southern Downs Warwick and Stanthorpe, and the role perseverance plays in mental health nursing.
Rowena spoke on perseverance in relation to innovative thinking and entrepreneurship.
“This was a fantastic event and I am thankful to have been a part of it,” said one attendee. “What great speakers and panel members!”
In Armidale, Mandy advocated for more women’s voices in politics to create systemic change. “We need compassion, we need insight, we need humility. We need the power of lived experience to inform policy,” she said.
“That takes perseverance. That takes belief. And that takes, I believe – and we saw at the last election – women.”
Mel joined BackTrack Youth Works in 2006 after seven years as the CEO of Vivability Disability Services. She spoke about the difficulty of leading a growing organisation, and said she considered perseverance to be an attitude that must be applied with intention, and must be learnt along the way.
“We made decisions that people didn’t like. We took directions that people didn’t want. But if you don’t have that perseverance, if you don’t have that overarching goal and passion to get where you need and want to go, you can’t get through that,” she said.
Sarah has a diverse career spanning 20 years in public services in Australia and the UK, and is a strong advocate of vulnerable communities and equity of access to services.
She discussed the importance of ‘soft skills’, the ability to lift morale and unlocking employees’ potential by helping them find meaning in their roles.
“If I find out what drives them, what’s really at the heart of why they come to work… That’s when you unlock the real potential in people,” she said.
“That’s when they become really purpose driven and you can’t stop them. They work from a place of purpose.”
The Exchange is part of a series of events run by HealthWISE in their service footprint, and was held free of charge with support from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women.
The next Exchange events will be held in 2023.