What do Ebola, basketball and activism have in common?
Girls attending the sixth Women Showing the Way forum in Bendigo heard from experts on all three topics.
Presenters included nurse and midwife Anne Carey, whose work as an Australian Red Cross aid worker has taken her around the world.
She used her 20 minute speech to relate the need for kindness and courage, framed by her experiences tackling the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone.
“The thing I ask you all to do is make a difference through kindness,” she said.
“Have the courage to question fear.”
Bendigo Spirit basketball player Kelsey Griffin spoke about leadership and personal development.
She shared her journey with the 135 female high school students seated in the Bendigo Town Hall, focusing on the challenges she had faced and how they had helped her grow.
“Find your balance – don’t be all about one thing,” she said.
She said moving to Australia had helped her find a blend of professional life and personal interests she enjoyed.
Curator, consultant, author and activist Tasneem Chopra addressed the need for tolerance.
She spoke about how growing up in Bendigo had inspired her to work for social justice.
“I used to live in Strathdale and there was a park at the end of my street,” she said.
“I remember being at the top of the twirly slide once and the boy in front of me did not want to go down.”
Though she was in grade one or two at the time, she remembers the boy turning around to her and asking her why she was “brown.”
“He wasn’t being deliberately hateful when he said it, he was genuinely curious,” she said.
Ms Chopra is of Indian heritage and was born in Africa.
She feels there has been a “huge shift” in the climate of racialised conversation in Australia.
“The difference was based on ethnicity that wasn’t embedded in a hatred of religion or a culture,” she said.
“We’ve shifted from difference being quirky to difference being scary.”
Women Showing the Way showcases inspiring women and their contributions to society to young central Victorian women.
Students came from Eaglehawk Secondary College, Weeroona College Bendigo, Bendigo South East College, Girton Grammar, Bendigo Senior Secondary College and Crusoe College.
The forum was organised by the City of Greater Bendigo and championed by Councillor Lisa Ruffell.