The Road to Uncertainty

There’s really no easy introduction on this one… so let’s leap straight into the painful truth. I wrote this 48hours after the life altering accident that continues to unfold and forces me to lead through uncertainty. Here’s what I journaled at the Royal Brisbane Hospital just over a week ago.

I was washing my car. It was parked on a hill. The hand brake failed. It ran over my ankles.

I know… take time to draw a deep breath. It was, as you are probably thinking… horrible!

The feeling of a tyre and 1.5 tonne of vehicle running over my legs is something I’m still processing. My cheek flat to the bitumen I watched my car as it slammed through the fence across the road.

Oh my god! That is going to be bad… Oh my god! Is anyone home? Oh my god… My legs? Oh my god… that just happened… a car just ran over my legs, oh this is bad… oh my god, this is bad. I did not lose consciousness. I was both witness and participant to this freak accident. A 5 second moment of chaos unfurling like a slow motion reel of wreckage. This was actually happening to me. ….I’ve been run over by a car. Oh my god, S***! This is real…

The road was hot, all points of contact were burning. I could not move my ankles, knees or wrists and I could feel something wet running from my chin down the front of my neck.

How still and quiet it seemed after the whirr of the car reversing and building up speed on the incline, the effortless bumps of hard rubber over flesh and the final crack of metal through wood.

The next I heard was – “Darl, oh god… don’t move… don’t move – I’ve got you.”

I said “Get me off the road – I’m burning, get me off the road.”

He said “I don’t want to move you, your back, your neck. Stay still… don’t move.”

This is a message of gratitude… To the builder working next door who had just completed his first aid certificate, to the woman who stopped her car to sit beside me with her open umbrella shading the harsh sun from my disbelieving and fearful eyes. To these two strangers who spoke to me in assuring tones. Everything is OK… Bodies heal… that’s it, you’re doing OK. Stay with me, what’s your name?… The ambulance has been called, everything will be OK.

To the man who held my leg steady and wouldn’t let it touch the ground and the woman who kept a hand on my arm under the shade of her umbrella. I thank you. The literal protection of strangers at a time of extreme vulnerability and need. They both spoke such clear and optimistic words, kind and simple words. There was a lot that happened in the next 14 minutes and 24 hours. There is a lot that has happened since…
You see, I was at the complete mercy of people and processes set up for this very type of accident. I am very lucky to have received immediate care and attention. It is not lost on me and I am deeply moved and grateful to every person who supported in the act of stabilising my body. They didn’t know me but they knew what to say. They kept their heads though they were speaking from the hearts. From that place of pure humanity and helping even though, no doubt, their hearts were racing like mine. There is nothing quite like the intense eye contact you make with people when you are frightened, when they are frightened and you all stay deeply rooted in reality, humanity, courage and just sheer hope.

So since then I’ve been on bedrest and laying next to uncertainty. An uncomfortable bedfellow that has stolen my sleep, chattered too loudly and a couple of times whispered some really scary thoughts into my ear. Those thoughts call for forbearance and for the night to end quickly. One morning, post hospital and in Marina’s gentle care, the dawn light was filling the spaces between the foliage and the birds began to call in the new day. I was reminded that there is a certainty to life and a cycle that continues regardless of your current circumstance. Emily Dickenson wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

I know that life and beautiful moments continue to cycle around me regardless of my physical condition. I know I have support from strangers and from people who know me well. I know the next stage is going to be challenging but I also know that faith and hope and a considerable amount of courage, will serve me well in my recovery. Whatever my new path looks like, I’ll walk as slowly as it takes and as a full witness and participant. There are tears and the road burns when you fall unexpectedly but help, hope and simple words can make it easier to deal with the uncertainty.

I am so grateful to be writing this, truly… thank you for your support. I look forward to seeing you for International Women’s Day at State Library on the 8th for more courageous conversations.

Why social enterprise

Hi, my name is Bronte Wilson and I am the Relationship Lead of Feathersome. I thought it would be valuable to share the story of how I came to be in this position, before you read the topsy-turvy stories of my journey with the start up so far.

To put it simply, it all began with a chance meeting. The community engagement project I was working on at the time led me to Janine and her passionate cause in what can only be described as fate.

In hindsight, it was the sign and direction I so badly needed, with the backdrop of a degree and career path I was continuously questioning.

Like so many university students and friends of mine, I craved something bigger than uni and myself to feel content and fulfilled in my day to day life.

I had tried a few different volunteer roles, some requiring application of business skills and others just time and presence. All were rewarding and gave me back more than I could have imagined, yet none were the perfect fit or balance for me.

Feathersome struck that balance and a chord with me on a personal level. Women’s empowerment and leadership was something fostered in me from a privileged education at Brisbane Girls Grammar School. The school culture revered academic pursuit and women’s equal place in society. Feathersome drew a parallel, seeking to uplift women leading and empower women facing domestic violence. And, so it began, an uncertain, undefined journey with Feathersome to improve the lives of women.

I wasn’t to know that 10 months later I would still be walking this path, more passionate and practiced than before. My love of engaging with people and talking these issues has naturally carved out my role as Relationship Lead. With my university degree of commerce and economics still ticking along, I am able extend myself in new and different ways through Feathersome.

I think my ‘why’ for being involved in Feathersome is a beautiful culmination of factors. For one, I find it easier and a lot more rewarding working for a cause I care about, especially when the outcomes of my efforts are visible and measurable. It is also a joy to work with the wonderfully diverse chorus which support Feathersome, who are united by shared values, and continuously surprise and delight me.

At the end of the day, I believe working with a social enterprise is more than a job, it is an application and an extension of your life and who you are as an individual. Therefore, I have found what I give of myself in time and energy to Feathersome, comes back to me in a myriad of ways that go well beyond my expectations and a wage.

If you’d like to learn more about your “why” you might consider booking a ticket to WOWFestival where we will be delviering a journaling courage workshop on Friday. We are also super excited to be collaborating with the Idea HUB at UQ to deliver an all female incubator program. We will be sharing more in our next newsletter.

Brilliant Women and bifocals

As the great Maya Angelou suggests in this video excerpt “a library is a rainbow in the clouds”. In my own experience libraries are places of great hope, democracy and discovery. My first fulltime job was in a library. At the time I remember feeling grateful for the money, the stability of routine and being employed with the Pine Rivers Shire Council. Thank you enterprise bargaining and above average superannuation contributions, don’t think they’ve been as high ever since. All that was great but only now in hindsight can I acknowledge the impact of the mentorship of senior female librarians. I was fortunate to have the guidance of two women who occupied the end offices. Their doors were open though they would still look at me over the top of their bifocals as I approached… eeek. Both these women, the Director of Library Services, Rosalind and the Librarian, Marion, were powerful in my eyes. At 18, what did I know of powerful women and leadership but what better place to learn and be led with serious, intelligent and hard working women who cared for the broad resourcing of these institutions. These women were a little scary at times… after all they were librarians and they liked quiet. You have to understand that I am a true creative and creatives like a little chaos and a little noise. Children’s Book Week was always fun, I’d hand draw and cut out flyers, make crafty posters to sticky tape on walls and string bunting low around the knee height book boxes enticing chubby little fingers to pull out brightly illustrated titles to keep them company on the bean bags. How wonderful that they let me experiment with my artistic (read crafty… underdeveloped but well intentioned) skills. Then, because I was also singing in bands at the time, there was one Christmas where I made the staff dress up as the nativity characters and sing carols every day for the week… yes singing in a library! Quickest version of “We Three Kings” you’ve ever heard.

They must have turned a blind eye so many times, I’d be chatting boisterously with the patrons when I should have been filing books on shelves. Side note, just like reciting times tables there’s nothing quite like the Dewey Decimal Categorisation System to stick in your head and teach you something about organisation. Heavy library bag laden patrons were seeking to check out their books and I’d be having a good old chat. If you know me… you know I love a good listen and a chat! This was all happening late naughties, pre-self-checkout machines where I actually had to hold my tongue just the right way to beep each book through the special laser thingy on the desk. I’d have to make conversation and I knew the regulars by name. It did help that they had library cards with their names on them – they are busy places libraries. What was magical about this was they would share recollections about what they were reading. What genre, authors and the stories that made them laugh, cry and learn something. It was a fantastic job! When I left there to study design (actually properly learn how to make a brochure and a poster) I continued to work casually in many local libraries and found the Thursday night and Saturday regulars to be the same kind of people. Always learning… This incredibly diverse set of life-long learners all visiting these quiet places to expand their knowledge, to lose themselves in a story and connect with words on a page was glorious. I was so fortunate to have had this experience of equality. I say equality because libraries are open to everyone and public libraries are essentially free, if you get your books back on time that is. They are one of the most potent and pure forms of democracy, in fact I can’t think of another institution that rivals them for accessibility.

It’s true that over the years libraries have had to fight for territory. With the explosion of the internet and access to information so readily available and beamed to us through our screens, libraries have innovated and tweaked their business models. They were some of the first to accommodate technology with catalogue searches. I remember logging in using MSDOS and hearing the squeal and ping-pang of it connecting. Libraries now host meetings, events, workshops and are a place of greater connection, not only to publications but to people and place. I for one say nice pivot and thank you for the lift on the shooshing.

Through my many years as a graphic designer I have been blessed to work with The State Library of Queensland and TheEdge on creative projects. It is with absolute pleasure that currently, as the creator of an organisation that is based in equality and is stewarding the sharing of authentic female leadership stories, I find myself and the Feathersome team partnering again for International Women’s Day this year. We will be hosting a You Me and a Cup of Tea on the Queensland Terrace on March 8th. I will be having courageous conversations with Anna, Nora and Prudence over cups of tea. Come along and ask your questions, fill out a One Hope to Give Postcard, sip, listen and chat with people who care for democracy, learning and equality. Be one of the first to see our pre-release journal. Can’t wait to see you there… I’ll be the one chatting away, with the biggest smile and beaming a rainbow full of gratitude for the opportunity to be once again surrounding by books, big hearts and brilliant women!

Allow me to introduce you to two women on the team Bronte and Marina.

 

 

The thrill of learning

As part of my education this past year, I have delved into books, magazines, podcasts, movies and Ted talks to immerse myself in women’s stories. I have been both inspired and incensed by the stories of women who have been deprived of a basic education (literacy and numeracy) or who have had to fight for the right to receive this education have moved me. I have become aware of how limited their lives are because their societies do not value educating women. For many of these women it is as if they have few human rights – their lives are dictated by customs that remove their decision-making power, their ability to enter public life and their opportunities to support themselves and live independently from key male figures. So I am convinced that education liberates and provides opportunities to experience a better life – especially for women who still have fewer freedoms and opportunities. Even in Australia, where education is compulsory for children, education opens doors for women to participate more fully in business and STEM, which continue to be male domains.

I truly value all the education I have engaged in and continue to participate in. Most recently, I learned a great deal – about myself and social enterprise – whilst participating in The Difference Incubator (TDi) Two Feet Program. Eager to step into Two Feet, I appeared at the first workshop brimming with enthusiasm to connect my knowledge of not-for-profits and new ideas from social enterprise. I have emerged from this learning experience realising the extent of valuable knowledge I already have and that this could be tapped into to benefit others.

So I was thrilled to pilot the Feathersome LeadHer Story program with Mabel Park High School. Developing the program and enabling young women in high school to explore leadership through storytelling has been incredibly fulfilling. Meeting these amazing young women who express their hopes for being seen, heard and valued as people who have worthwhile contributions to their community and society was inspiring to me. The influence of a positive and passionate female role model at school is leading these young women to aspire to exploration and study of STEM, with only 16% of women being STEM qualified.^ Reading and listening to the work the young women produced as part of the program uplifted me – knowing that this quality of person is going to hold my future in their hands is comforting. The whole experience has just reinforced how crucial education is to women and their ability to participate fully and with integrity in all aspects of life. Read the story Gina Rambold-Dent and Anastasia Walker created about their teacher Stacey King in Feathersome Journal Edition 1.

This year I continue to be provided with opportunities to share my learning. My involvement in social enterprise over the past 2 years has elucidated the barriers that women experience in industry, evidenced by an under-representation of women in the start up space. According to a report by the Office for Women 2015*, the numbers of women in business remains at just over 30% and women are currently entering business at increasing rates. The OECD Women in Entrepreneurship Report 2016# adds to this picture, noting that women remain risk averse and this may account for fewer female entrepreneurs worldwide. I am therefore thrilled that Feathersome is collaborating with the University of Queensland’s Ideas Hub to deliver the Start Up LeadHers program for female entrepreneurs to resource women to enable them to develop their business ideas and pursue entrepreneurship as a viable means of work.

Education is going to continue to feature in my life. I am certain that each day I will learn and I will teach; I do that every day of my life. Learning is such a natural part of life – it is our survival skill – because as human beings we are all built to learn. What did you learn today? And what will you teach?

Allow me to introduce you to two women on the team Bronte and Janine.

Eager listening with a side of rhubarb

It’s Tuesday morning, and I am sitting down to write about my experience interviewing someone for the first time. Beside me I’ve got a cup of crunchy cinnamon granola softened with creamy greek yogurt and roasted rhubarb, the perfect companion to an early morning working from my bed.

My first interview took place on a sunny Wednesday morning at the State Library of Queensland with the beautiful Hayley Dunne, founder of the social enterprise Little Delish. I was excited to meet Hayley from the moment she was described to me. Who could be more fitting for this experience then someone who shared a similar love of food, and had channeled that passion into creating an ethical and social catering company.

It was my curiosity and eagerness to meet Hayley which helped ease my nerves about the whole interview process. I was going to learn that every future interview would entail a similar level of excitement and anticipation, given the stories and nature of the women Feathersome seeked to capture.

In preparation of the interview I spent a lot of time racking my brain for the most natural, flowing questions I could imagine, creating the scene in my head of how one question will steer the conversation and lead into another. During this process, completely unhelpful questions would come to me, drifting into my head and clouding my thinking like smoke; will it be obvious that I have never interviewed someone before? What if it’s awkward? What if my questions don’t prompt her the way I think? I found you can only go around in circles so many times in your head before you lose all sense of clarity and direction. That’s the point you bring in a second pair of eyes and realise your first or second set of questions were the best; stop second guessing yourself.

Another thing which worried me a little about interviewing someone was my own voice in this interview; I love talking and quite frankly struggle not to interject my opinion or personal story on topics that interest me. Luckily, through some preliminary research on interviewing techniques I had uncovered the TEDX talk ’10 ways to have a better conversation”. Amongst other great tips such as; enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn, use open ended questions, don’t equate your experiences, and go with the flow, it demonstrated how to be a better listener. I was to embrace the gaps and somewhat awkward silences in conversation, allowing a ‘pregnant pause’ to give way to a more in depth answer and self exploration from the other person.

Whilst my preparation and compulsive practice of the questions leading up to the interview filled me with a calm confidence, it proved quite unnecessary upon meeting Hayley. It turns out she is a talker as well, and with my first question she was off. It also helped that I was completely engrossed in her story, filled with wonder listening to her explain Little Delish and all that it represents and challenges. Hayley, as I saw her was a leader in her own right, choosing the less travelled road to ensure her impact was ethical, environmental and for the charities her business supported; life changing.

It was a culminating moment for me in my journey with Feathersome, where the varied previous pieces of work I had done, and the overarching mission to uplift women leading, came together. I had just found myself a relatable role model, and I knew then she was going to be the first of many.

Allow me to introduce you and share the stories of two women on the team… Marina and Janine.