5QQ with Amy Thunig – 2021 She Leads Conference

1 July 2021

The She Leads Conference is back! This time it’s being held at Kambri at the ANU on Friday 23 July.  The She Lead Conference is our biggest leadership event of the year, providing emerging and established women and non-binary leaders with the opportunity to develop their practical skills, knowledge and networks to accelerate their leadership journey. This year’s Conference theme is POWER! What it’s like to have it, own it, and challenge it.  

We sat down with one of our keynote speakers, Amy Thunig to talk about her childhood, leadership journey and what makes her feel POWERFUL!  

Amy Thunig is an academic in the School of Education at Macquarie University, where she is also undertaking a PhD in education with a focus on Sovereign/Indigenous women in academia. A Gomeroi/Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi woman, Amy began her journey into formal education as a Primary School teacher, attaining a Masters Degree in Teaching before moving into her academic role.  

In 2019 Amy was invited to give her TEDx talk, ‘Disruption is not a dirty word’ and in 2020 signed her first publication deal for her forthcoming book of personal essays ’Tell Me Again’. A freelance media writer and panellist, Amy regularly appears on television programs such as ABC’s The Drum, and writes for publications such as Buzzfeed, Sydney Book Review, IndigenousX, The Guardian, Junkee and Women’s Agenda. She is also the founder and host of the podcast ‘Blacademia: yarns with First Nations/Indigenous academics’ which launched in 2020. 

Describe yourself in 30 words or less. 

Loud, tall, passionate, energetic and tired – all at once! 

Tell us about a moment in your life that kick started your leadership journey. 

I come from a long line of agitators, change makers and leaders, but I grew up in a very difficult and complex environment, with parents who had health and addiction issues, who were often living in survival and struggle mode. My dad was incarcerated when I was little and I had younger siblings who needed me, and while we had a lot of love, we just never had enough to make ends meet. I remember feeling immense pressure to grow and excel and contribute from a young age, as hard as things were, all the adults in my life had really high expectations of me and that was always made clear.  

I remember around age six asking my Grandmother, “what do I have to do to not be poor when I grow up?” and she told me (without looking up), “be a lawyer and so my follow up question was, “how do I become a lawyer?”, and she said go to university. That was it. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know anyone who had been to university, or that I didn’t really know what uUniversity was, I became obsessed and focused with getting to university from age six. I became determined to grow up and be something other than poor and had it in mind that for me that meant university. I had that fire and focus lit really early for me, and leadership kind of grew alongside, around, and through that. 

What questions are you tired of hearing about gender equality? 

‘What do we need to do?’ 

This is probably the question I hate most when it comes to structural change issues, because there are so many enquiries and commissions and studies and reports that already inform the answer! It is just a matter of power holders being willing to action the recommendations! 

What is something you do that makes you feel powerful? 

Exercise. I loathe most forms of exercise, but I try to work out weekly. When I do, I feel so powerful. I naturally have a fairly imposing physical form because I am a tall person, which can be a strange thing in social settings as people rarely anticipate it, but when I move my body for exercise I really become aware of my size in a way that makes me feel connected to my ancestors and reminds me of how many fights were fought so that I could be here today. It reminds me of what it took to grow and birth my children, and how fortunate I am to be living this life. That makes me feel powerful and capable. 

Imagine yourself in fifteen years. What leadership advice would your older self give to you right now? 

Continue to persist, to say no, and remember that rest is a right not a privilege. 

Our She Leads Conference is SOLD OUT! If you would still like to hear more from Amy, get in touch with us today by emailing sheleads@ywca-canberra.org.au to be added to our waitlist.   

Scholarships are still available. Check out our event page for more information and to apply.  

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