Last year, when Bianca Russell wanted to learn more about how St John Ambulance ACT…
“I love this place. The lifestyle, the environment, the pace, the people, the energy. I’m very proud to call myself a Canberra woman.”
As Director of Corporate Relations and Communication at the YWCA, Joanna Allebone says she has “the best job in the world.” Her career has been so diverse, she’s in a good position to judge what makes a great job. She’s worked as an intern with Goolarri Media—an Aboriginal owned-and-led television and radio station in Broome—and on a 16-hour music video shoot for Delta Goodrem, and for other Not For Profits—and this was all after giving up a teenage aspiration to be a rockstar!
But now, she’s “living the dream”. Through her role at YWCA, Joanna gets to share important community stories as a communicator, and facilitate positive social change—something she’s shot for all her life.
It’s a dream that weaved its way through various iterations. As a teenager, with green dreadlocks, facial piercings and a “really intense death stare”, Joanna played bass guitar in a couple of punk and metal bands with her brother and friends. “We wrote music about stuff that concerns most angst-ridden teenagers: conformity, oppression, The System—all that. But at the heart of what we were doing was a set of strong values, and a desire to see all people treated equally. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were proponents of social justice principles.”
In her work with YWCA, Joanna’s still striving to reach those ideals, and she’s able to do so in a varied way: “Some days I work with our community services team on events or fundraising campaigns. Other days with the children’s services team to think about how we’ll launch a new childcare service. Other days we’ll be writing strategies about how to inform policy in Canberra. It’s a role that I love and cherish and feel lucky to have.”
Joanna cares deeply about issues like affordable childcare, flexible work and pay equity. She encourages young women to “step up into leadership roles and really take control of their careers and their leadership journeys.”
At sixteen, she says she “agonised too much about what other people were thinking”. Letting that go is part of the secret to success in life and career, because there will always be diverse views.
And this is what she loves about Canberra. “It provides people with the space to have their own ideas. To pursue their own goals, ambitions, dreams. It’s not a competitive town. People will give you a leg up. There’s a really creative group of people who think really innovatively and differently. We’re so fortunate to have those people here and so many of them.”
Going through uni in Sydney, Joanna used to surf every day to wind down. On one occasion she found herself staring out at ten- to twelve-foot waves. “Kelly Slater was out there, the beach was closed, TV news and helicopters were circling. And my mum (a retired surfer) told me to get out there!”
Joanna’s path has been built on grasping opportunities as they arise—whether it’s catching a rogue wave or approaching the YWCA stall at Canberra’s long-running multicultural festival. The latter is something that led to signing up as a volunteer, which developed into a Board internship, and onto the board proper, then to the position of Vice-President and into an internship in Geneva, where she spent some time with the World YWCA and UN Human Rights Council exploring how digital communication can enhance the work of international advocacy efforts.
So, Joanna’s intended “twelve months in Canberra” has become six years (and counting). Her Sydney friends expect her back sometime, but we don’t like their chances: “I tell them I love this place. The lifestyle, the environment, the pace, the people, the energy. I’m very proud to call myself a Canberra woman.”
And we’re very proud to have her call our city home.
Discover the rest of our 15 Women to Watch in 2015 here.
Read about Nellie Peoples, Meegan Fitzharris, Zoya Patel, Belinda Neame, Tegan McAuley, Louisa de Smet, Heidi Stratford, Dr Sudha Rao, Carla & Emma Papas, Tara Cheyne, Sally Moylan, Kylie Travers, Kaleid, Julie Okely, Michelle Melbourne and Joanna Allebone.