I am very passionate about helping people with diabetes to have happy healthy lives and also, about encouraging people to think about how they live in the world, to make a difference to their home, their health and their lives. Today I am sharing a post I have also published on Recycled Interiors with you.
Some of you may have followed my journey with the Telstra Business Women’s Awards this year. Have you ever been up for a major award before? If you have not caught up, I was recently awarded a finalist position in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards for South Australia, in the For Purpose and Social Enterprise category.
Just being nominated was an absolute honour, but to go through the rigorous interview process and be selected as a finalist is mind blowing. I didn’t win the category, but I did win in many ways. I am now part of the prestigious network of Telstra Business Women Alumni, which will offer opportunities to learn, collaborate and grow each others businesses and make a difference together. I have taken time out to recognise my achievements and see where I want to go next. Seeing the winners faces when they were announced was absolute gold and I wish them all the best on their journey.
The best part of the night was all of the amazing love and messages of support across social media from all of you out there, for which I am very grateful, and then spending time with a group of people who mean the most to me in the whole world – my family and best friends. The laughter and cheers at our table were full of love and joy, and reminded me of what matters. And in fact, when I walked into the room full of people my introverted heart was quite relieved not to have to go up and give a speech!
As advised though, I did write 2 speeches – one in case I won the category, and then they advised us to write one in case we took out top prize. I did not think I would win either, but thought I should be prepared. Today I am sharing the first speech with you, and later the second, because I want you to know how I feel about all of you and the importance of celebrating what you do in life.
And also to share why I think winning is about losing sometimes. Here is my speech.
“I want to start by thanking everyone involved in the Telstra awards for the opportunity to showcase so many amazing Aussie women in business and supporting us to keep reaching for our dreams. Your commitment to diversity in business is remarkable. Thank you to Commonwealth Bank and News Corp. It is inspiring to listen to all of the amazing things women are doing, and it is humbling to be standing here today among such great company.
I want to thank my darling family and friends, who form a huge part of this award, for without them supporting me on my journey, walking alongside me and sharing the load, I would not be able to do the work I do, helping other people out there in the world. It is their love and dedication that lifts me up. In particular my husband, 3 beautiful sons, my parents and Aunty Viv. Thank you to my colleagues, teams of volunteers, supporters and counsellors, for their passion and support over many years, without which I would not be here tonight. Thank you to my communities online, my readers, followers and friends. Finally to Sally Marchini who is one of the most amazing business women I know, who put me forward for the awards and challenged me to take a chance.
As with many of you, my journey has been strongly affected by the women in my life. My mother is one of the most passionate, caring and strong women I know, and would do anything for her children and grandchildren. She also holds a huge amount of care and respect for the world and for people. She has taught me much. The fact that my parents would not give me a Barbie doll as a little girl because, “she stereotypes women too much”, at the time, was one of my biggest complaints, but I look back now and realise they were taking a stand to encourage my sister and I to challenge the way women were presented. And then my paternal grandmother, now 101, GAVE me a Barbie doll! I cherished it (and actually bought new clothes for her as an adult – bit of a Barbie envy issue there!) but this combination of messages told me it is ok to be a pretty woman AND have brains, you can dress up and be sparkly and have a strong voice, a passionate career path and be a mother.
My mother is one of 5 girls and these Aunties also form an important part of my life, in particular my Aunty Viv has been a core part of my business for many years. My other grandmother, no longer with us, was a feisty, funny, outrageous and strong woman, who taught me about not trying to fit in or be like the rest of the bunch, about intelligence, learning and love.
Here I am years later, a wife and the mother of 3 sons, living in a house full of men, and despite my frustration at the toilet seat battles, the never ending sport talk and the smell of teenage boys shoes, they have taught me much about being a woman. They work from the front, what you see is what you get. They cherish me and our relationship speaks of the deep love between a mother and her sons.
These awards are vital to highlight the need for equality. It is important we keep shining a light on what women are doing and encouraging our young women to reach for the stars. But as a mother of boys I think we also need to remember it is the gender boxes we must challenge. The suicide rate of men in Australia is testament to the pain our men experience. I urge you all to think about the way we treat, talk about and present both men and women, and that we encourage our young people to do what they have passion for in life, and not what is dictated by their gender.
I always wanted to do work that helped people, made a difference to the world, and I wanted to write. I thought there was much power in words. Journalism was my career passion but a lack of political knowledge prevented me from entering this pathway. So I chose the ultimate helpers job of social work and found myself at age 21, working in child protection. I thought I would make a difference here, but in this system I was not able to do so, and eventually those broken families and children broke my heart, and me.
After suffering post traumatic stress following a nasty case, depression and anxiety, I felt like I was no longer capable of helping myself, let alone anyone else. But then something magical happened, a little thing called the internet. My nerdy heart fell for it at first sight and I began to think there must be a way to use this to connect to other people and make a difference to their lives. The other part of this picture was my personal journey living with type 1 diabetes since I was 12 years old. I was told at diagnosis that I would likely go blind, lose my legs, kidneys, die an early death and should I dare to have babies they would be born dead or deformed. I proved them wrong.
As many of you know, diabetes impacts every aspect of your life and is like living on a roller coaster. It requires decisions every day about its management and can become completely overwhelming. 280 people per day are diagnosed with diabetes, that is one person every 5 minutes. It is a worldwide tsunami. More than 100,000 Australians have developed diabetes in the past year. What many people don’t know unless they have diabetes, is that people with diabetes suffer twice the rates of depression, reduced wellbeing and quality of life. I had looked for help myself with this at the time, and could not find it, so when the internet came, I had a little idea to start an online counselling service for people with diabetes – Diabetes Counselling Online was born. Nobody in Australia was really doing this and there were no guidelines about how to do online counselling. I quit my job and the rest is history.
15 years and tens of thousands of people helped later, Diabetes Counseling Online is a charity, I have won many grants, written and published a children’s picture book; created Apps, e books and am part way through my PhD. We support thousands of people thanks to a strong and passionate group of volunteers without who I would never have been able to support so many people. Each and every time one person says they no longer feel alone, and that by reading our stories, or hearing our words, they feel better equipped to get on with their lives, it makes all the hard work worth it. You out there make it worth it.
2 and a half years ago, I started Recycled Interiors, a blog aimed to help people have happy healthy lives, while making difference to the environment. This grew rapidly and now has over 100,000 people following me on social media, and I am signed with one of Australia’s top blogging agencies, as well as curating a sustainable homewares online store. Always a disrupter, my goal has been to shake up this industry and challenge the idea of a need for seasonal change, and encourage people to think before they buy. It is also about supporting people to have happy healthy lives and it is amazing how powerful something seemingly small can be. I recently ran a 30 day reader challenge for a happy healthy home. Almost 1000 people signed up – all women. I had readers telling me they had just walked out of a 27 year marriage and that my daily email was keeping them alive, women who were dealing with depression, stay at home mums who felt overwhelmed – this small act has had powerful ripples. There again is the power of communicating and connecting, and the power of the internet.
Once again I want to thank everyone who has contributed to me getting here today, my family, friends, readers and community, congratulate all the amazing finalists, and I look forward to what lies ahead.”
My family and friends ended the night in hysterical giggles, making jokes, cuddling and boosting each other up. Despite not being on the front page of the paper today, this was the star moment of the night and something I will never forget – the joy of love in the moment, being silly together after dark, in the quiet of the magnificent Adelaide Oval. A life that’s good. Sometimes it takes someone else to force you out of your comfort zone and look at your life. It makes you realise how wonderful your journey has been so far, and excites you about what lies ahead and for that, I am a winner, as are all of you.