"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

By Xavier Healy

At family weddings, at school or by our friends and family - we’ve all been asked to announce our aspirations and given some form of an answer. When you were a child, did you ever say that you wanted to be a member of the fire department, a police officer, a queen, a footy player, or the prime minister? Your five year old selves weren’t short on ideas for the future, or short on blind belief.

Our answer to this question will have changed through time, and may never see any permanence. I once wanted to be a police officer, and then an architect or a town planner, a teacher, a diplomat, and now I just worry that I’ll be flipping burgers at Maccas. Thank you, meme culture, for giving me Maccas anxiety.

Why is it that our aspirations change? And why is it that I’m over-analysing our childhoods? The reason is bound in the idea of exposure – to unfamiliar places, people, cultures, ideas, opinions and emotions. It is the basis of our thoughts and colours the course of our lives.

Our personal realities are based on that which we have the ability to draw information. If we aren’t able to realise that the legal profession exists, and that it is accessible to us, we won’t have the tools to consider applying ourselves towards a legal career. Conversely, if your parents are both lawyers, you probably weren’t considering becoming a farmer. If you don’t know where the cookie jar is, you’ll be missing out on the sweet, sugary bliss. But once you know it’s location on the shelf, how easy is it to inhale those cookies in rapid-fire succession? 


For me, I can pinpoint a number of exposure-giving events that have brought me to where I am today. That’s cheesy, but it’s true.

I come from a small, rural Victorian town and a relatively modest upbringing. My family went overseas for the first time in 2011 and saw the cultures of Europe and the Middle East. This experience opened my eyes to a million possibilities, all previously unfathomable. While for many well-off families travel is the norm, this was a rare experience for a farm boy.

Later, while working at a BP Service Station, a customer told me that I “would make a good politician”. I don’t necessarily want to go into politics, but the sentiment caused my mind to wander.

Moving to Ormond College and studying at the University of Melbourne have further pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and aided in the development of my view on life.

These experiences have helped to colour the course of my life, as a range of experiences have helped colour yours. 

Now I study Arts, and being exposed to vicious memes has made me anxious about my career trajectory.

Without these experiences, who knows where I would be; would I have ever gone to university, or would I have stayed to work on my family’s farm?

Why do I have so much to say on this very, very vague concept? Well, ‘vague concepts’ are a common theme of Arts degrees.

I’m also the young-person-in-charge of Rural Inspire’s development, where we’re showcasing rural success stories in order to encourage young people to get thinking. I think I would hope to at least pretend to know the importance of exposure.

Basically, exposure is crucial. It will help you answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, and it can’t hurt for you to analyse your life’s path so that you can understand how, and why, you are who you are. 

Don’t forget to get exposed!


Karmai Alliance Leadership Day

By Catherine Brooks

When I woke on Wednesday morning, I peered out to a horizon of emerald green. There’s a layer of grey mist, but slowly peaking out from the clouds a country sun is going to break through. On days like this, you wake up and not even the anticipation of a new day is enough to chip away the optimism.  

Kurumburra is the home of some of Victoria’s most productive cattle farms and as Mitch and I walked out the door of Bill’s house, jumping into the car and heading down to the local football clubs, I can’t help but say: “It’s not too bad, is it?” 

Mitch and I are both country kids who now live in the city, but there’s something about a clear blue horizon and the fresh air that always feels like home, much more than Melbourne ever will.

This is the first time The Rural Youth Ambassadors’, in collaboration with the Country Education Partnership, have run a student leadership day. We aren’t nervous, just excited. As we carry in the boxes of booklets we prepared the night before, Kaylee - a fellow Ambassador and Kurumburra local - waves at us eagerly. She’s working with us today, too.  

By around 9:30am, 75 Year 5/6 students from across the local region wander in. And so it begins.

We’ve been invited here to empower these kids to find the leader within themselves. We want to hear about their dreams and aspirations for the future. I can only hope that we are able encourage them enough to think about what they want to change, and to realize that they are the ones who can make it happen.

Empower, Encourage, Inspire.

As the day progresses, we get the students to identify leadership qualities within some famous people from literature and across the world. The exercise is to get them to think “who is a leader?” and “what qualities do they have?”

The aim is that they will realize many of the qualities they see in other great leaders, are indeed qualities that they possess already.   

We then get them to discuss their own dreams and explore what they are passionate about. It’s at this point that Bill, the past principal of Kurumburra Primary School, brings in his good mate “Cobra”. Cobra is the same age as Bill, but there’s one clear difference.

After a cricket accident, Cobra is in a wheelchair: he is a quadriplegic.

Unable to do much for himself, and with very limited movement in his body, many would’ve thought that the outlook for Cobra’s life was grim. In spite of this, he is incredibly positive. He is brave enough to admit there are challenges, and, sure, sometimes he wishes the accident hadn’t happened, but he’s involved with the football club, he goes to all the games, he lives independently, and he has great mates and a family who he credits with being able to make the best of a bad situation.

When Cobra leaves, the kids are silent. Into this silence, Bill asks the crowd “What did you learn from Cobra’s story?”

The kids chime in one by one.

“Never give up”

“Even though things are bad.. They could be worse”

“Just because everyone says you can’t, doesn’t mean you should stop trying”.

Empower, Encourage. We’ve done it.

The kids are doing well and as they edge towards the afternoon I don’t see their enthusiasm wane.  

The next bit is perhaps the hardest... how do we inspire them?! We talk to some of the kids in the crowd, some have been selected as potential soccer stars and one girl is the 6th fastest swimmer in the state. It’s quite phenomenal the amount of talent that can be hidden in our rural communities. Usually this talent is most often recognized in the sporting arena, however, if you spend a few moments talking to other young people, you can see that the future is shining bright under the blue skies of Eastern Victoria.  

When the final 10 minutes of the day came, Bill asked the students to raise their hand if they had found the day valuable. Every single hand rose.

As the crowd dispersed I got a few hugs, a few high-5’s and a great number of “thankyous”. In the quiet and empty foyer of the football clubs, there was a strange empty feeling that I didn’t anticipate. I stood back and realized that despite our best efforts, our energy and our nerves, we may never know if we made a difference to these kids today. As discouraging as it sounds, all we can do is say that we tried. If we play by the percentages, more likely than not, at least one child should remember the day fondly. We may have changed a life. I hope we did.

 I might have to return to Kurumburra in a few years to find out.


if you have any questions for us, don't forget to send them to xavier@cep.org.au!

Getting Ready - Rural Youth Ambassador Program

By Lauren Cain

Hi everyone! Earlier this year I began working with CEP and the 2015-16 group of Rural Youth Ambassadors. I’m very excited for this opportunity, as the Rural Youth Ambassadors have always been close to my heart – I was one in 2011!

The Rural Youth Ambassador Program aims to give rural students the chance to step up and tell the stories of their communities. It allows them to address both the positives and the negatives of living in a rural area, to discuss these issues with like-minded peers, and to work together to improve education in rural areas.

We want every young person living in a rural area to know that they have a voice, they have been heard and that they can make a difference. 

 I’m really excited about the upcoming Rural Youth Ambassador forum in July! I’m looking forward to meeting the new group of ambassadors and to hearing their stories. I hope to aid them in coming up with a project that will eventually improve their schools. Throughout the program, we also want to help the ambassadors improve their leadership skills through public speaking, presentations, and leading group discussions.

Coming to Melbourne and spending three days with strangers is a daunting concept for many, and it’s a big step that must be taken by the ambassadors. However, every year, with each & every group, life long friendships are formed, and lives are changed. 

THAT is how powerful the program can be, and it is one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about it.

If you get the chance to apply to the Rural Youth Ambassador Program: do it. I'll be there, looking hopefully towards what the rest of the year holds.