Country to Canberra

15 January 2018

‘Don’t limit your dreams’ is the lesson that Education Centre Gippsland College student, Rachelle Dowling, wants to share with local youth.

Rachelle was one of only ten people across the nation to be selected for the prestigious ‘Country to Canberra’ program, a not-for-profit initiative that empowers young rural women to reach their leadership potential.

On the back of a powerful essay about gender equality in rural areas, Rachelle was awarded an all-expenses-paid ‘Power Trip’ to the ACT. During the visit, she was able to meet with politicians, connect with mentors, undertake leadership and public speaking training, tour Parliament and develop friendships with other young trailblazers. The experience was life-changing.

Rachelle country to Canberra with Julie Bishop

Country to Canberra participants master the group selfie with the Honorable Julie Bishop MP

“As a young person growing up in a rural area, it can feel like it is hard to succeed,” Rachelle said. “Coming from a foster care situation, I wanted to show my peers that you can actually do great things if you put in the effort.”

Rachelle, who had never been on a plane before, said that the trip was scary to begin with, but also rewarding.

“I felt like a baby bird, pushed out of the nest in order to learn to fly,” Rachelle said. “But with the support of my teachers at ECG, I made it. After Country to Canberra I have more confidence, I know that opportunities are available to me and I have a clear vision of where I want to go in the future.”

Rachelle has now enrolled in Certificate III in Education Support at Community College Gippsland.

“I want to become a primary school teacher,” she said. “On the trip I realised that I have a pathway, and one that will get me into working with children sooner. I am excited about becoming a teacher’s aide and training to be a learn to swim coach so I can work while I complete my studies. It’s not a dream – it’s a plan.”

Community College Gippsland CEO and Principal of Education Centre Gippsland College, Sue Geals, said that it was amazing to see Rachelle bloom in the classroom.

“Rachelle is a very inspirational role model for her fellow VCAL students,” Ms Geals said. “She has transformed from a shy girl into a confident, capable young woman. Rachelle is proof for our students that you really can achieve anything you set your mind to.

“We are so pleased that Rachelle will be back on Campus in the New Year, pursuing further qualifications that will help set her up for life.”   

For further information, please phone (03) 5622 6000 or email