While the world is changing at a rapid pace, the qualities of a great leader remain the same. As the next generation of young leaders begins to emerge, we are seeing leaders that are not afraid to challenge the status quo, making a difference in their communities and beyond. In this blog, we will hear from our young female leaders, who despite setbacks, were able to persevere and show that with determination anything is possible.

Amelia - Junior School Class Captain.
Amelia Williams
Junior School Class Captain

I’m Amelia and I am one of 5D’s Class Captains this term. I started off here at Toorak having no idea about what being a Class Captain was. At my old school, we only had a Junior School Council, which was completely different. Once I found out that a Class Captain was someone that leads the class, I decided that I wanted to be one.

My first attempt for Class Captain was at the beginning of Year 3, I was feeling very nervous and scared because I knew nobody, but I thought I would be able to get elected. Unfortunately, I didn't! That’s ok I thought, “You don’t always get it on your first try”. I was feeling a little deflated but figured it was only my first term at Toorak and everyone was still getting to know me.

I thought that once I had some friends it would make getting votes easier. So with some new friendships, I was confident I would be successful next term. But I wasn’t! I learnt that being friends with people wasn’t the right idea, it was what the Class Captains could offer and help you with. I kept persevering for the next two terms, slowly losing hope that I would ever become Class Captain. I wanted it so much that it kept driving me to keep trying.

When Year 4 started, I thought to myself “There's going to be new kids in my class, so maybe I have more of a chance” and my hopes of becoming class captain increased. I tried my best with my speech in Term 1, but unfortunately, my classmate's speeches were very good, and I missed out yet again. I was starting to get very sad and upset about the process. However, I have good friends that I catch the bus to school with, and with their help and encouragement, I kept working on my speech. At the start of Term 2, I thought I had the perfect speech. Well, it didn’t turn out to be so perfect, as once again I wasn't Class Captain. I tried again in Term 3 and Term 4 and still wasn’t successful.

When Year 5 started this year, I still had a desire to become Class Captain. I worked on my speech and presented it to my classmates. Again I missed out. By now I was more determined than ever. I was not going to give up.

During the holidays I thought about what I needed to do to achieve my goal and set about writing my speech, using the knowledge that I had learnt on my journey. It must have been lucky number 10 for me as last week I was finally elected as Class Captain!

Milly - Head Girl 2023
2023 Head Girl
2023 Toorak College Head Girl

My leadership journey formally began in Year 6 when I was honoured with the position of co-school captain at Kunyung Primary School; however, personally, it started earlier than this. Despite my primary school not having formal leadership roles, I always strived to extend myself by never passing up an opportunity. Although this may be seen as a very fast way to become over-committed, I believe that taking every opportunity available has got me to where I am today. And yes it has forced me to learn to compromise and deal with being constantly busy, however, this is now a great strength of mine. Being open-minded, adaptable, and willing to take risks is, I feel, definitely a learned and practised ability.

My leadership journey has been both challenging and rewarding. I have faced many setbacks and obstacles, but I have also grown and learned a lot along the way. As an SRC and Tutorial leader for many years, I had to learn how to manage my time effectively, communicate effectively with my team members, and creatively solve problems. My biggest challenge was to balance my responsibilities as a leader and my academic commitments. However, I think sometimes I had to remind myself that although academics are of course the priority of school, the experiences you remember are the co-curricular activities. When you look back on your school journey you won’t remember a maths test, but you will remember the incredible people you met or events you initiated.

Embracing the ideas of others and providing support in whatever form necessary has always been my main leadership goal. Above all, I value the input and contributions of my peers and team members who are willing to work collaboratively to achieve common goals. By creating a supportive environment, I strive to inspire others to take risks, share their ideas, and try not to take life too seriously. I believe this leads to increased creativity, innovation, and productivity.

Becoming Head Girl this year was a dream come true. I have the opportunity to represent my school and be a role model to the younger students. Whilst it was, and still is one of the scariest things I’ve done, helping people feel like they are making a difference is worth it.

Overall, my leadership journey has been a rollercoaster ride. But I am grateful for the experiences and lessons I have learned along the way. I hope to continue to grow and inspire others to become leaders in their own right.

Hayley Cull (Collegian, TC’03)

Hayley Cull
Toorak Collegian Hayley Cull

I learnt early on that leadership is about so much more than your title. It’s how you conduct yourself, how you bring people to the table, how you lift up others; it’s about recognising that each and every interaction is an opportunity to create positive change in the world.

My school years were an incredible launchpad to leadership, not just through my formal role as House Captain, but probably more importantly, the leadership skills that my teachers and peers helped me learn every day. Things like confidence, curiosity, empathy, self-care and how to communicate with passion and honesty. Without those, I would never have had the opportunities I’ve had. I was incredibly privileged to have such a great education, in an environment that never made me question whether my gender might hold me back.

My career has focused on trying to make the world a better place for children, and particularly girls. Through my work with the United Nations and non-profit organisations, I’ve had the opportunity to lead global communications campaigns; work with governments around the world to change laws and policies; and play a part in raising hundreds of millions of dollars for life-saving programs. I now work as Deputy CEO of Plan International Australia, a leading humanitarian organisation dedicated to gender equality and child rights in 80 countries worldwide.

Through my work, I’ve realised that the leaders who inspire me most aren’t the CEOs and Prime Ministers. I look up to the teenage girls standing up to challenge unjust gender norms in their communities. The students campaigning for everyone to have equal access to secondary education, regardless of their gender or background. The young women redefining what leadership looks like in boardrooms, parliaments and other spaces of power, not just to get a seat at the table for themselves, but to make the table more open and inclusive for everyone. As a leader, much of my career has involved realising that this is where the real change happens, and that often, the most powerful thing I can do is pass the mic to someone else.

In a world where gender equality continues to be a dream that we may not see in the next 100 years, and where global inequality continues to deepen, I believe we need to change what power looks like in our world. We need more leaders that are willing to challenge injustice, lead with empathy and create space for others to be heard. I’m still learning, unlearning and relearning how to do this every day, and I don’t always get it right, but I’m hopeful that the face of leadership is changing, and that perhaps we might see a more equal world within our lifetime.

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