What I’ve learned outside of my comfort zone

Despite being what most people would call extroverted, I actually find it quite tricky to meet new people. Especially when I’m not sure if we have anything in common. I’m not sure they will find me at all interesting or will we have anything in common to talk about.

So, these past few days, I made the trip to our nation’s capital for a little thing called an un-conference known as Junket. Junket has been organized by Junkee, an online magazine who wants to serve politics and culture in a way that respects the intelligence of it’s readers. They invited 200 of young Australia’s best and brightest minds to talk about issues that mean something to them and put it to the brain trust to solve.

The Junket delegates comprised of Aussies across the nation who are from every field imaginable; tech, healthcare, science, engineering, arts, politics, skateboarding and robots even. And the conference was not in any way like anything I ever go to. There were no suits, no planned-months-in-advance schedule. Just inspiration.

I have met some incredible people. I met Young Australian of the Year Drisana Levitzke-Gray, who is deaf and an amazing advocate for the deaf community and introducing AusLAN far and wide. We chatted about the use of AusLAN interpreters in healthcare. There was accountant student Chloe, who wants to teach financial literacy and get doctors to the country. Bridi is a post-doc fellow at Black Dog Institute who is tackling suicide by connecting people. Amrita is an incredible dancer and choreographer who taught us how to dance like Beyonce and wants to preserve Aboriginal culture in a digital age.  Mikey is the first professional skateboarder I’ve ever met and he wants kids to get active, preferably through skating. Jessica who is a paralympian (in two sports, no less) and is trying to get people to look after their precious eyes. I ran a session with the delightful Laura, who organizes TEDxSouthbank and is heavily involved in philanthropy. And there’s Sophia, a super clever Women in STEM champion, Olli who uses her day job as a model to publicise important political messages and Neil Ackland of Junkee who wants us to switch off to get connected. And that list doesn’t even scratch the surface.

This is a group of people I may not have otherwise met. Whose ideas and diverse day jobs, skills, hobbies and opinions I may have never gotten to hear. I think if I go away from this with a broadened view, that is wonderful. I had never even considered some of the solutions opened up by talking to other delegates. While our politics and opinions won’t always match up, what the two days taught me is that mismatching is okay, sustainable and necessary to progress. Broad representation is the key.

This is precisely why this is an incredible place to be and an incredible idea. As I heard someone say here, when we put the same people in the same room, they will come up with the same ideas. With different people in different rooms, we have changed the conversation already. We may even be able to change the progress we make with all the very, very important topics we presented. We were so lucky to access each others’ networks, expertise, ideas and experience to keep our ideas and solutions headed in the right direction.

The thing though that will stay with me, is that Australia is in very good hands. Passionate, intelligent, motivated and unwilling to accept the same busted ideas. Just here, there is a group that just wants to make the world better. I am so inspired to have just been here. And I am thrilled to have been thrust out of my comfort zone to meet some incredible people.

Still can’t dance like Beyonce I’m afraid.

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