5QQ with Nina Funnell – 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.  

In celebration of the upcoming event, we sat down with one of our keynote speakers, Nina Funnell, to talk with her about leadership, gender equality and what makes her feel POWERFUL!  

Nina Funnell is a Walkley award winning journalist, author, and sexual assault survivor advocate/campaigner. In 2018, Nina created the #LetHerSpeak campaign after learning of sexual assault victim gag-laws which prohibited rape survivors in Tasmania and the Northern Territory from self-identifying in media.  

Since then, Nina has published over 120 articles on victim gag-laws and has raised in excess of $100,000 to fund the legal work of the 17 survivors featured in the campaign.  

In 2020 the #LetHerSpeak/ #LetUsSpeak campaign achieved four law reforms across three jurisdictions. That year, Nina was also awarded the Walkley Award for Public Service Journalism, the Our Watch Walkley Award, a Kennedy Award and an MEAA Northern Territory Media Award for her own reporting on victim gag-laws. Nina has previously served on the NSW Premier’s Council on Preventing Violence Against Women, the board of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, and the board of the National Children’s & Youth Law Centre. 

Describe yourself in 30 words or less. 

Cynical on the outside, soft and empathetic on the inside. 

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

Christmas eve, 1997. There was a knock at the front door. It was a woman from up the street and she was covered in bruises. She asked to come indoors. 

That night she and her children would stay with us as her husband was taken in by police for questioning. I remember her younger child asking me whether Santa would know where to deliver the presents and not knowing what I should say.  

The next day that woman began to take her power back. She packed up the kids and took them with her to her sister’s place. I was only a kid myself – 14 years old – and as I watched on as she packed up the car fitting in everything she could, including the family pets, I could see that what she was doing was scary and tough but that she was extraordinarily brave and courageous to be doing it. 

I didn’t know it then, but that moment sowed a seed in me. 

These days I have the immense privilege of walking alongside, and bearing witness to other women, as they begin to take their power back. It’s an honor and a compliment to walk part of that journey with them. 

What are the questions you’re tired of hearing about gender equality? 

None! We need more questions and discussion of gender equality, not less! 

What is something you do that makes you feel powerful? 

Whatever obstacle I’m facing, be it health issues, lawsuits, or the weight of some of the trauma work I’m carrying, the thing that I find most empowering is to calmly remind myself of all the things I do have control over in my life. At the most basic level, I have control over my own breath. From there, I slowly expand out to list all the other things I have control over. Even in the most helpless of situations this grounds me. 

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

One of the things about battling a chronic health condition is that you learn that the future is not owed to you – or anyone else.  

This might sound pessimistic, but in reality, being able to critically work through your own feelings of ‘health-entitlement’ allows you to live much more in the present and focus on that.  

So I don’t think that far into the future. I focus on the ‘now’ and what I can do in this moment to live aligned with my values.  

If I could go back in time to meet ‘little Nina’ I’d teach her that. 

Our She Leads Conference is SOLD OUT! If you would like to hear more from Nina, get in touch with us 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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