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Women to Watch: Heidi Stratford

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“My job is to turn 350,000 Canberrans into advocates for Canberra—one person at a time.”

Born and raised in Canberra and Queanbeyan, Heidi spent a few years working interstate before returning home in 2007. She’s now Senior Project Manager for “Brand Canberra” (or CBR as it’s known) for the ACT Government.

In that role, she’s able to work with Canberra’s most talented, passionate, creative and innovative people—creating a ‘grown-up city’ brand for a place that’s really found its feet in recent years. A city that’s only now starting to ‘own’ what it has to offer.

Heidi comes across as someone with endless enthusiasm and energy, and perhaps that’s because she has a clear grasp on the briefness of life. One of the defining moments in her life was losing her step-father in his prime, at forty, when he collapsed in the National Mountain Running titles (he was the Australian champion). She says, “It was a defining experience for me—the suddenness, his age, his level of fitness, the unexpectedness… Life is not a dress rehearsal. I see ideas everywhere and just want to get in and do those things!”

Get in and do them she does, perhaps borrowing from her grandmother’s energetic, courageous outlook. Her grandparents left everything they’d known in Germany and moved to Australia in the 1950s. In fact, Heidi still wears one of her grandmother’s leather skirts from the 60s and perhaps this inspires her love of vintage and boho fashion now.

Heidi and her partner, Eric, have four nearly-teens between them. She dreams of taking them all overseas to see some of the world and awaken that thirst for exploration. “I’d really like to get out a bit more, too, and look at how other interesting cities and places are doing it well”. (Her passion for the branding work she’s doing for Canberra is never far from her mind.)

When asked what people would be surprised to learn about her, Heidi explains that she’s a lot ‘deeper’ than people tend to think. She has a “fairly serious ‘spiritual bent’. While she doesn’t define herself as a regular church-goer, she enjoys the opportunity to take some time out. “Sitting in a church, reflecting, thinking about bigger things than ‘Have I met this deadline? Am I doing this or that? Are the kids all right?’ We’re part of a bigger picture and bigger connection.”

What she values most about Canberra is that it’s such an open community. “I’m proud that we’re leading the way in things like marriage equality and we’re so open to new ideas, new things, diversity… There are some great minds in Canberra. We can go to ANU public lectures and experience that knowledge. I love our galleries, our national institutions, our Enlighten festival… Sometimes we don’t really appreciate what we have here. It’s a beautiful place.”

If Heidi could advise her 16-year-old self of anything, she’d say this: “Never worry about being different. Ultimately it will be your greatest strength.” It’s great advice for young people, and poignant advice, perhaps, for the capital city that Heidi loves. A city that’s always been different, too—and should be proud of it.

Discover the rest of our 15 Women to Watch in 2015 here.

Read about Nellie PeoplesMeegan Fitzharris, Tegan McAuleyBelinda Neame, Zoya Patel, Tegan McAuleyDr Sudha RaoCarla & Emma PapasTara CheyneSally MoylanKylie TraversKaleidJulie OkelyMichelle Melbourne and Joanna Allebone.

Home page image by Lori Cicchini of Loriana Fotografia . Make up by Ali Price Makeup. Hair by Angela Pavlovic of Kosa Studio. Clothing from Canberra Centre.

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