Smithton, TASMANIA

Jodie Saville wants local girls to thrive, not just survive. Too many miss opportunities while they are waiting to ‘escape’ Smithton, a small isolated town on Tasmania’s north-west coast.

Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation, Soroptimist International of Circular Head and Smithton High School ran the ‘I Am’ Project, involving 17 secondary school aged girls, with support from Highways and Byways. I Am aimed to empower young women to reach their full potential by helping them to develop a positive body image, increased confidence, resilience and a strong sense of self.

Each week the girls were taught new skills, all the time supported by local women and women who had been educated in Smithton, but who had pursued a career elsewhere, or who had come back to Smithton to work.

“We wanted the girls to see that they can achieve a great deal during their schooling and life at Smithton and not just think of escaping. But we also wanted them to learn about career paths and feel comfortable about pursuing something outside of their town,” said Jodie, the I Am Project coordinator.  “The idea was to also create a sisterhood amongst the girls and their mentors who are local women they will continue to see around.”

The girls organised an event at a local café where guest speakers including a paramedic and a vet, talked about their own lives growing up in Smithton and pursuing careers. The girls organised everything from the decorations and tickets and food to greeting guests at the door. They also participated in an I Am graduation night where they walked on stage and had their photos taken.

“All but one of the girls walked on stage and that’s pretty incredible to see,” Jodie said.

Jodie believes the I Am Project was a great success and said some of the girls have since joined the Circular Head youth leadership group, one successfully applied for part-time work and another girl felt confident enough to sing publicly for the first time during a local ‘Out of the Shadows Walk’ this year to raise awareness and remember those lost to suicide.