2020 She Leads College – Get to know Han Worsley

4 March 2020

Phi Phi Nguyen

Phi Phi is the Communications Officer at YWCA Canberra

The She Leads College Conference taking place on Thursday 12 March, is a one-day event aimed at young-woman, non-binary and female students in years 11 and 12. It is designed to equip participants with the practical skills and knowledge they need to become confident leaders. Today, we chat with Han Worsely, one of our keynote speakers at the upcoming She Leads College Conference.

Hailing from a property near the rural town of Nullamanna, population 40, Han has been on quite a journey to end up studying Primary STEM Education here at the University of Canberra. After a failed stint in a medical degree, a challenging time living in Sydney, and coming out as queer, Han found their groove in Canberra. Drawing on lived experience, Han is passionate about gender equality, LGBTIQA+ rights, and accessible education. She volunteers with organisations such as Country to Canberra and The Pinnacle Foundation to make a difference to disadvantaged young people across Australia. Today we caught up with Han to chat about their upbringing, their academic journey and their experience volunteering for Country to Canberra.

Can you tell us a bit about where you grew up and what that was like?Han_Worsley

Our family farm, Maryland, is about 20km from Nullamanna, a tiny village of roughly 40 people. We travelled 40km to Inverell to go to school, do the shopping, and participate in sport and community events. The distance and the isolation were a challenge – when we got internet it wasn’t reliable, we had to travel long distances for many goods and services, and educational opportunities were often limited or prohibitively expensive. There were also challenges with my sexuality and gender expression, and I am still not out and proud in my community.

But I very much miss my country home. As a kid, I spent a lot of time outside horse-riding, building treehouses, mustering, driving our old utes, and swimming. It’s a different set of sounds, smells, and company to the city, and the sense of community is fantastic, especially when you have generations before you from the same community like I do.

What made you decide to study medical science and what made you realise it wasn’t for you?

When I was considering a career, I knew I wanted to be rurally employable, to be able to help my community and to work with people. Being a doctor of some kind ticked a lot of boxes, and it aligned with my love of science as well. But honestly, the choice was made with some external pressure too – I was the “smart kid” at my school, and I felt the pressure to use my ATAR points and study something really academic. Other careers that appealed to me, such as teaching, floristry, and environmental science didn’t have the same reputation, and I was even discouraged from pursuing them.  

I realised a medical degree wasn’t for me fairly early on. Although I enjoyed the science aspect and the challenge of the degree, I found no satisfaction in the practical job. Hospitals made me depressed, I was disillusioned with the way junior doctors and medical students were treated, and the highly stressful and time-demanding nature of the work didn’t appeal to me. I felt that I could make more of a difference and find my passion elsewhere.  

What made you decide to study STEM education instead?

It took me a while to decide what to do after dropping out of medicine. I worked back home in the shearing shed, as an au pair, a nanny, a florist, a tutor, and at Questacon over a year and a half before commencing the degree. I went back to my values and attempted to learn from my mistakes. I thought about my passions, and the fact that working with children, and in education, had always made me feel happy, fulfilled, and motivated. I had also experienced first-hand the difficulties of education in rural or disadvantaged communities, and the difference a good education can make. I wanted to be a part of the solution.

What is your role at Country to Canberra and how did you get into volunteer work?

I lead the Project Empower Team at Country to Canberra. That means I, along with the rest of the team, develop and deliver workshops across the country that aim to empower young feminine-identifying people to reach their leadership potential. We also train other volunteers to deliver these workshops and provide manpower and support at our other events. I see this role as an extension of my career, and a way to target a disadvantaged subset of students.

I’ve volunteered with many organisations and have been encouraged by my parents to give back where I can. For Country to Canberra specifically, my involvement began back in high school when I was a part of one of our programs, and I’ve been involved as a volunteer in some capacity ever since.

What advice would you give to yourself when you were in College (years 11 and 12)?

It sounds ridiculous, but just breathe. Don’t rush. Taking my time to jump between many jobs, experiences, and locations has helped me see that there are many paths to success and fulfilment. The time pressure we place on college students to make decisions is fabricated, and I believe students can suffer as a result. At any stage in our life, we can benefit from making decisions based on our own intuition – heading into medicine and going to live in Sydney straight out of high school wasn’t the right choice for me, and I knew that. At the same time, it was a valuable experience that gave me perspective and courage and reinforced that every “wrong” decision we make takes us closer to the best one.

The She Leads 2020 College Conference is sold outContact our team SheLeads@ywca-canberra.org.au if you wish to be added to our waitlist.

Comments are closed.