22 October 2020
We sat down with Maddie Diamond, the 2020 Young Australian of the Year who founded Trash Gather, a youth-led volunteer group that organise regular rubbish clean ups in Canberra. She is also the Executive Officer of SEE-Change, a volunteer-based community organisation that aims to make Canberra more sustainable through community connection.
Maddie will be the Keynote speaker for She Leads High Conference 2020, a leadership conference for girls and nonbinary people, in years 9 and 10. The conference will take place at Kambri, Australian National University, on 30 October.
We took five minutes with Maddie Diamond. Here’s what we learned.
1) Describe yourself in 30 words or less.
I’d describe myself as compassionate and courageous, though I’m not either of those things 100% of the time. I love big adventures, but I’m also grateful for quiet, calm moments.
2) Tell us about a moment in your life that defined your leadership style.
When I was in Year 1, my teacher yelled at me and humiliated me in front of the whole class because I gave the wrong answer to a maths question (even though I swore I was right!). At the end of the day, she pulled me aside and apologised, confirming my answer was correct, and that she was just feeling really stressed. She gave me a gel pen (my favourite) and a kiss on the head, and I forgave her immediately. Even though I was upset by what she’d done, I appreciated her honesty and vulnerability, and ability to own up to a mistake. She was a good role model for a young kid. I think since then I have always tried to be as authentic and caring as I can be in any kind of leadership situation. I forgive myself and others for mistakes and try my best to approach frustration with love.
3) What’s the question you are most tired of hearing on women’s leadership, and what would you like to say about it, so you never have to answer it again?
I’ve heard time and time again, the notion that women choose not to take up certain roles because their gender just doesn’t suit. That women naturally choose nurturing jobs like childcare and nursing, and men choose competitive or physically demanding jobs because they’re just better at them. This is simply not true, and only perpetuates the cultures and structures that keep jobs so gendered. People of all gender identities are interested in all sorts of jobs. But because of the patriarchy, some are easier to get into than others. Women, non-binary and trans folk are extremely capable of being strong, compassionate and effective leaders – when given a real chance. It’s no fault of their own that those spaces are dominated by men.
4) What were you like as a 16-year-old? Would you give her any advice? If so, what?
As a 16-year-old I was confident, energetic, and a bit of a party animal. If I could give her any advice, I would remind her that it’s cool to be kind. It’s much more important to care than to be popular, pretty, or whatever else I was trying to be. My ability to empathise with others, and deeply care about making the world a better place, is what has shaped me as an adult. I could have started focusing on things I am truly passionate about younger if I’d realised this sooner.
5) What is something that has been challenging you lately?
The biggest challenge of 2020, which I think many can probably relate to, has definitely been stress. I stress about doing things to a super high standard, even though we’ve been living through far less than normal circumstances, where extra stress is basically a guarantee. I’m trying to remind myself to chill out, take some self-care time, and not feel like I need to move a million miles a minute.
If you know or are a student in year 9 and 10 who would like to learn more about Maddie, be sure to join us at She Leads High on 30 October!
To register, visit our ticketing page.