SI Melba, held an Empowering Young Women through Education Breakfast on 17 August 2017 at the National Australia Bank (NAB) Headquarters located at Docklands, Melbourne. 128 Year 9-11 girls who are disengaged at school, along with their teachers and women mentors from the community, come together to see how the education opportunities they have now will shape the lives they have in the future.

The girls were inspired by the impressive and heartrending stories told by our amazing guest speakers Naty Guerrero-Diaz and Annabelle Chauncey OAM. The event was proudly sponsored by Adviceline Injury Lawyers.

Naty shared the many struggles she experienced along her journey to her successful career as a lawyer. From moving to Australia as a child refugee, having to learn a new language, a new culture, hating school, having lots of jobs and constantly feeling like she didn’t fit in, many girls felt a connection with her story. Naty was able to show how in the end education has made a significant difference to her life choices and those that she helps each day through her work with Adviceline Injury Lawyers.

Annabelle from the School for Life Foundation in Uganda who spoke about the challenges of growing up in a tiny town in rural NSW, moving to the busy metropolis of Sydney to university and hating it! But then of her life changing move to Africa where she volunteered and eventually went onto to found a grassroots educational foundation and returning to Australia to complete her law degree. Again it was education that made a difference to the choices Annabelle has been able to make and also to the many children that are now able to attend the school she has built and move out of poverty.

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However the event is not simply a talk fest, it is an interactive event, where the aim is to provide real, practical strategies for the students to take away with them, to help them cope with the challenges of teenage and school life. Each table of students had a mentor, a woman from the business community help them make sense of what they had heard and how they could use that information in their own lives.

A special interactive session was led by three young students from Monash University, who are participating in a Global Challenges program, who shared their stories of how they overcame challenges at school and they cope with life in general.

The mentoring session was based on the fundraising lunch that was hosted and sponsored by Adviceline Injury Lawyers, that was held in June this year. At this lunch we asked women “what would you tell your 15 year-old self?” The responses were captured and passed onto the girls at the breakfast. These are shared at the end of this article.

Each table mentor was invited to reflect on this question and share her own thoughts with her table. Then the Monash Uni students posed three questions to the room:

  1. You’ve heard what adult women have written to their 15-year-old selves. What would you write to your 21-year-old self as your aspirations for yourself at that age?
  2. How can school and other education opportunities help you achieve those aspirations?
  3. Are there obstacles you might need to overcome? What are they and what could you do to overcome them?

The table mentors facilitated the discussions at their tables but also encouraged each girl to privately write down her own thoughts and notes that she could take away with her. At the end of the session, each table was invited to share one key take away.
Judging by the feedback from the girls and their teachers, the event was a massive success, 97% said they left feeling more confident about their future and all the teachers said they would recommend this event.

We thank our table mentors, volunteers, teachers who brought along the girls as well as our incredible guest speakers. But in particular our heartfelt thanks go out to Adviceline Injury Lawyers who helped make this possible with their generous sponsorship and support both at the women’s lunch and the breakfast for young women.

So, what would YOU tell your 15 year old self?

We’ll leave you with these pearls of wisdom…

“Stay true to yourself, be teachable and never stop learning. (And don’t take yourself too seriously!)

Don’t be afraid to make your own decisions no matter how scary they seem and to take the first step. Remember your future is up to you.

You’ll have many choices to make, sometimes you won’t make good ones. Forgive yourself, find out what’s important to you and follow it through. Determination and grit will bring many rewards.”

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