HANNAH Wandel wants young dairy farmers and industry people as well as students in dairying regions to follow her footsteps from the country to creating change in Canberra.
Hannah, the founder and voluntary CEO of Country to Canberra, made a call to action at a Young Dairy Network Australia (YDNA) forum recently to inspire young people to pursue their dreams.
“The country is the lifeblood of Australia and I want people in cities to understand that,” she said.
“One of my ingredients to success is being action-oriented – getting things done and having a go.”
A social policy adviser at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and gender equality advocate, Hannah made a real impact on the Gippsland Young Dairy Network (YDN) representatives at the forum.
The region’s coordinator Irene Baker said Hannah was extremely inspirational through her energy, passion and clear enthusiasm for Country to Canberra.
“She was great to listen to and very engaging,” Irene said.
“Something Hannah said that I will take with me every day is as long as you aim high and strive to achieve, you can do what you want and be who you want to be.”
Gippsland’s YDN has about 400 members and Irene said programs like Country to Canberra and the YDN were extremely important for the younger generation.
“It gives opportunities for all demographics to be involved, encourages networking and brings likeminded people together to share great ideas,” she said.
“They also play an important role to help build skills and leadership and knowledge in the dairy industry to ensure the longevity of dairy and its leaders.
“It also provides an avenue for personal and professional growth, while encouraging others to become involved in a great industry in dairy or other agricultural sectors.”
Hannah, 27, grew up on a sheep, beef and cropping farm at Blyth in mid-north South Australia.
She loved the lifestyle and community but became disenchanted about the challenges facing young people in rural areas.
So, that’s why she launched Country to Canberra in 2014, a national not-for-profit empowering young rural women to reach their leadership potential.
A $2000 grant from the YWCA got her started with a website and logo and Hannah encouraged politicians to support the campaign.
“I became frustrated that the more remote rural students are, the worse their education outcomes and the harder it is to access mentorship and tertiary education,” Hannah said.
“I also wanted to do something about the under-representation of women in politics and in business and to help young women in rural and remote areas overcome some of the gender inequalities.
“We started in 2014 with one program and only three girls involved. Now we have a leadership competition called Power Trip, a blogger team so girls can talk about their communities and voice their opinions, and a new leadership workshop series in rural schools called Project Empower.”
Hannah says it’s also campaigns like Legendairy and the Legendairy Capital program which help improve positive attitudes towards rural Australia and particularly raise the profile and reputation of the dairy industry.
“It’s using passion and motivation to promote the industry and rural communities in a positive way, and like Country to Canberra it tries to provide an avenue for discourse between city and regional areas,” she said.
“There should be no barriers to opportunity.”
She says motivation, having good mentors and networks, learning how to apply your skills, and positive leadership and values is the key to success, but inequality for women and prejudice against rural areas continue to bother her.
Country to Canberra will launch new leadership workshops called Project Power in rural schools next year to talk about goal setting, leadership development and career strategies in local communities.