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Learning from the Nature and Entrepreneurs

 

Twenty participants of the Australia Awards Short Course – Women in Leadership Journey had the opportunity to take part in a journey of self-exploration, self-challenge and learning on Kangaroo Island, Australia. The purpose of this regional study tour was two-fold: to develop the participants inner resources through some moderately physically challenging outdoor experiences; and to link participants with a variety of entrepreneurs on the Island who, with the support of the local government, are applying a regional economic development model through strategies such as regional branding and agricultural and aquaculture eco-tourism. The experiential methodology underpinning the study tour requires participants to move out of the classroom and into the “real world”.

Reflecting on the experience, participant Ly Thi Thuy Duong, Deputy Director of Centre for Technology and Start-up Assistance, Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry shared that: “Together with other participants, I underwent the “Wilderness Leadership Challenge”. During our stay on the Island, we said NO to hotel accommodation, Wi-Fi and other comforts of modern life. Instead, we spent time with the nature, camping out under the stars with wild kangaroos, and sleeping koalas on the trees. Importantly, we also listened to the entrepreneurs’ stories of how they are building a regional brand for the Kangaroo Island.

 

We built tents together to enjoy the night with nature
We built tents together to enjoy the night with nature

After spending an hour on the ferry trip from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, our group was welcomed with the “dance” of a mother whale and her baby. Ms Cara Ellickson – team leader of the short course - was overwhelmed with joy because it had been ages since the last time whales had come to Kangaroo Island. This, she said, could be a sign for an extraordinary journey. We were all extremely excited about the experiences and challenges ahead.

We were welcomed with the dance of a mother whale and her baby
We were welcomed with the “dance” of a mother whale and her baby

On our first day on the Island, we had the opportunity to talk to two wonderful women, one was in charge of the Board of Business and Community Development, Kangaroo Island Council – representing the local authorities and the other was the Director of Kangaroo Island Business Association. Listening to their introduction about the Island, we were impressed by the pride of Kangaroo Islanders. The Island has only about 4,500 residents but attracts 250,000 tourists each year. The sheep farms, bee farms, eucalyptus oil farms, vineyards, etc here taught us the lessons about entrepreneurship, solidarity, cooperation for development by more than 90 enterprises on the Island. Love and passion of the people here put into every single local product has become the brand of the Island.

We listened to the stories of entrepreneurship and solidarity cooperation for development by the enterprises on the island 1

We listened to the stories of entrepreneurship and solidarity cooperation for development by the enterprises on the island 2

We listened to the stories of entrepreneurship and solidarity cooperation for development by the enterprises on the island 3
We listened to the stories of entrepreneurship and solidarity, cooperation for development by the enterprises on the island

On our second day, despite the hail, we went to Remarkable Rock – one of the natural wonders on the island to officially start our “Wilderness Leadership Challenge” in the freezing weather. There was no word that can fully describe the beauty of the Remarkable Rock, as it seemed graceful, but still had a “tough” appearance by standing in the middle of a rugged area. Remarkable Rock felt like a strong and independent natural woman. As we continued our journey up the rock, we discovered that all the tourist attractions here are accessible to everybody, including people with disabilities. Long wooden bridges at every attraction make it easier for people in wheelchairs to come and enjoy the beauty of nature. They also serve to protect the natural habitat from being trampled by tourists.

Long wooden bridges at every attraction make it easier for people in wheelchairs to come and enjoy the beauty of nature
Long wooden bridges at every attraction make it easier for people in wheelchairs to come and enjoy the beauty of nature

On our third day, we were at Little Sahara, where the huge sand dunes formed a beautiful landscape. We had our sand sliding experience in the middle of a freezing cold winter day. At first, we all hesitated, but right after the first try, everyone was all excited about this challenge. It felt “Yomost” when we slid from up high and fell rolling down the cool sand.

It was at that moment that I understood that my own thought of “Because I am a woman, I cannot” was the very obstacle to all the fun, exciting experiences in my life.

It felt Yomost when we slid from up high and fell rolling down the cool sandIt felt “Yomost” when we slid from up high and fell rolling down the cool sand

After a lunch in the natural surroundings, we had an interesting afternoon at the Wildlife Park. True to its name, kangaroos, koalas, and other endangered animals are conserved here. We were able to “touch” the kangaroos, which previously we could only see on TV. This trip has truly broadened our mind and knowledge on how the local authorities undertake eco-friendly tourism.

We had the chance to touch the kangaroos which before could only be seen on TV
We had the chance to “touch” the kangaroos which before could only be seen on TV

Sleeping koala on a tree
Sleeping koala on a tree

20 participants of the WIL Journey supported one another and became more connected after the interesting experiences of this course
20 participants of the WIL Journey supported one another and became more connected after the interesting experiences of this course

We – 20 lucky women participating in the Women in Leadership Journey were from different organisations, but thanks to this course, we are now understanding one another, learning about women in leadership, including women’s economic empowerment, as well as enhanced our knowledge and skills to promote gender equality in our own workplaces.