Bethany is 19 years old and lives in Melbourne. Bethany recently finished high school and is now employed in the university sector.
Back in 2018, Bethany was not feeling so good about herself or her place in the world.
It probably wasn’t the best time of my life mentally and physically. I had health complications, but I also had mental health complications. School wasn’t very good for me, social life wasn’t very good for me at the time.
Bethany heard about a young women’s leadership program at the local council. All young women were welcome to sign up, so she did.
The sessions were delivered by council staff and guest speakers who covered a range of topics, including leadership, relationships and life skills. Above all, the program provided a safe environment to connect, share and learn.
Bethany said she quickly gained more confidence in herself as a result of the program and now plays a more active role in her community.
I wasn’t the type to stand up for myself or, you know, voice my own opinion … And everything in my life kind of then felt out of control because of that.
I became a person who was able to stand up for myself and speak up.
Bethany explained that the session on financial literacy helped her to understand her rights at work and built her confidence to negotiate, while the session on respectful relationships helped her to see her situation with new eyes and to realise she was not being treated well. The presenters and the other young women helped her feel connected and supported. Bethany said the leadership focus was about building participants’ sense of self‑worth, and this helped her to see herself differently.
I feel the leadership aspect actually comes from finding the leader in yourself.
Bethany has stayed connected to the program and her local community. She is now a mentor and guest speaker in the program and feels good about giving something back.
It was really nice to be able to come back to the group and kind of give what I had already taken and give back to the cycle of everything that happens with these beautiful individuals.
The program has shown Bethany that her voice matters. She now believes that change is possible because she can see there are people who are willing to listen. She also said the program has given her more strength to face the challenges that life will bring, and to ask for help.
The program has also definitely taught me that I’m allowed to not be okay. And that not being okay is a natural thing that happens in our lives. It is also okay to recover, to heal, to get support, to get help from people.
Source: RCVMHS, Interview with Bethany Henry, November 2020.