I would like to thank the National Council of Women for inviting me to take part in this prestigious event and I’d also like to thank Councillor Edwards from Moorabool Shire Council for supporting me here today. I feel tremendously honoured and excited to have the opportunity to speak with our next generation of leaders today and I hope that my story will inspire each of you to strive towards being the best person that you can be, both professionally and personally.
I grew up in the small town of Creswick, which is just outside Ballarat and recently I was visiting at my parents’ house when my Mum dug out this piece of paper from my grade 6 graduation which detailed what each of we students wanted to be when we grew up. To my horror, mine said when Michelle grows up… she wants to be a biscuit. Obviously, my career prospects were looking pretty bleak at that stage.
Thankfully, at the age of 17 I was lucky enough to pick up a business traineeship with the State Government Department of Regional Development, Victoria and afterwards progressed into the role of Grampians Region Project Officer. From there I moved into a community development role with the Northern Grampians Shire Council. It was there that I discovered my true passion for working with communities to build their capacity to function on their own at high levels.
I can remember the exact moment that my true career path became clear to me. It was in St Arnaud, where a small group of community and council staff had gathered for a ministerial announcement. The announcement was for funding that I had recently acquired which was for security lighting at the Queen Mary Gardens to deter vandals from defacing the Gardens that the committee worked so hard to maintain. The committee of the Gardens was beside themselves with joy at the news. So much so that when the Minister made the announcement the President of the committee let out a whimper… and fainted.
Now that is probably the smallest grant I have acquired throughout my career, but that moment will stay with me forever as it demonstrates that sometimes what we might perceive as having the smallest of significance is in fact of the upmost importance to the community.
After my position at NGS, I moved between State Government departments. At DEECD I managed pre-accredited program delivery and even did a stint at the Supreme Court as a Jury Manager. I commenced my role with Moorabool Shire Council in 2013 and have had some fantastic opportunities to develop myself professionally. In 2014 I managed the community leadership program, in 2015 I commenced my Masters Degree in Business and for the past two years I have been managing the community recovery for the Scotsburn Fires for both Moorabool and the City of Ballarat.
It is important to note that I have also faced many challenges in my career. I have been discriminated against, told that I was not good enough for a position and I’ve even had my personal brand threatened for questioning an internal process. I was once told by someone that an MBA was too advanced a study path for me. I’m now delighted to say that this year I won the 2017 ALGWA Bursary, which is awarded to an aspiring female leader in local government studying at university. I’m also proud to say that I’m on track to complete my MBA in two months and I’ve also achieved a Grade Point Average of 7 (high distinction).
Whenever someone tells me I’m not good enough, or that I can’t do something… it just fires my determination to prove them wrong. No one can determine your own self-worth but YOU. I will always challenge the status quo, I will never standby and allow myself or others to be treated poorly and I will strive to inspire others in their own personal journey to success.
Throughout every job I’ve ever had I’ve been fortunate to have been mentored by some very strong women. These women have acted as key supporters, taking the time to encourage and inspire me and to develop my leadership skills, paving the way for me to follow in their footsteps. It is as a direct credit to those women that I can celebrate my successes to date. And I say to date because there are still plenty more to come.
Thank you for listening to my story and I look forward to hearing your take on the Victorian Local Governments Women’s Charter’s three principles.