Heywire 2015

This week I went to the Belconnen Westfield in Canberra with a girl called Kimberly. We went to buy props for the Heywire Ideas Presentation – cardboard, bucket hats, a football that would later cause trouble with Parliament House security. As we wandered around the shops, we talked about a lot of things. When I said that I went to uni in a place six hours from my home, she said that six hours was about how long it took to get from Tiwi Island where she lives to the lands where her father’s people are from in the Northern Territory. She told me about the boat ride she takes to go shopping in Darwin and about her boyfriend who comes to stay on weekends. She said that her father cried when he put her on the plane to Canberra, and we rolled our eyes about how  protective (well-meaning) dads can be.
Kimberly told me about her family and her culture. And then she asked me about mine. She asked me where my parents are from, where my ancestors are from, what languages they spoke. When I said my mother was born in England she wanted to know where in England my family lived, whether I had been there, what it was like. I told her about Winchester Cathedral and how my mother had come to Australia on a huge ship when she was little.
Kimberly reminded me that I have a cultural heritage (of course I do), even if it’s one I take for granted a lot of the time. She made me realise that learning about your own history and where you come from is a pretty important step in understanding the culture of others.
In 2011 I went to Canberra for the Heywire Summit as a winner, representing the north coast of NSW. This week I got to go back, as a staff member. A lot has happened in the intervening time, I’ve moved from Grafton to Newcastle to Melbourne. I’ve started and finished university. I’ve done a bunch of different jobs, paid and unpaid. The experience was very different this time around – I did a lot less brainstorming and a lot more dashing between places carrying heavy things – but it was no less inspiring.
When I finished high school, I made a choice. I decided I would learn how to be confident. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and I worked hard to get to know the person I wanted to be. There’s a collection of experiences from that year that I credit with putting me on the course to being that person. Writing for Good News Weekgave me confidence in myself and my abilities. The Young Endeavour taught me to do the things that scare you. Heywire showed me how important it is to have pride in who you are and where you came from.
When I first went to Heywire it taught me to be proud that I am from the country. It made me realise that where I grew up is an incredibly important part of my identity. Here’s what I wrote in another blog, at the time:
The coda to the whole thing came as I was juddering about in the skies above Grafton in the teeny Rex plane. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that descent clearly. There’s so much more forest when you see it from the air. It made me realise that we really are patches of civilisation in the wilderness. And that’s a huge part of what the country is about. You can ride your bike to a place where you can pretend to be the only person on Earth. There will always be more trees than buildings. And more grass than concrete.

And I’ll always be proud to say that’s where I’m from.

That realisation is so much a part of who I am now that I’d actually forgotten Heywire was such a catalyst. Regional Australia is something I’ve been passionate about ever since. Helping young people outside capital cities get access to opportunities is something that’s informed almost very professional decision I’ve made. I’m so glad those decisions lead me back to Heywire.
Every year Heywire brings together forty or so young people from across the country. It instils in them passion, purpose and confidence. It gives them faith in themselves and their stories. It says that they matter and that there are people who want to hear what they have to say. Those young people take these things with them back into their communities. They go out into the world and they change it. Some of those changes are big, some of them are small. Every year, because of Heywire the world is a little bit better.
Coming back to Heywire was a pleasure and a privilege. Between all the running around and driving around and carrying giant foam letters up and down stairs, I didn’t really have a chance to think about how the experience was affecting me. I didn’t go into the week expecting it to be life changing. I didn’t think about what I might get out of it.
Last year was hard. I started 2015 with less confidence than I’ve had in an awfully long time. I’ve been worried that I was going to have to relearn some things, go back to old strategies and work my way back to a place where I barely noticed my anxieties. I knew from experience that learning these things would take time. In reality, it only took a week.
Heywire has been the kick that I needed. I remembered that it’s okay to be anxious sometimes, as long as I manage it. It’s okay that sometimes I need a break from the mingling. It’s okay to have a moment to myself. It’s okay to pursue potential friendships because letting someone slip by is much, much harder than the nervousness of making a new friend. This week I remembered that the world is full of remarkable, inspiring, wonderful people. And that maybe, just maybe, I am one of them.
Heywire reminded me that it’s okay to be proud of the person who I am.

You can see more photos from the week here and learn more about Heywire (and the amazing winners) at their website.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year