Speaker profile: Hannah Wandel

Ahead of tomorrow’s Story-Share, we catch up with on of our speakers, Hannah Wandel to find our more about her experience and the advice she would give to her teenage self…

Tell us about you in a nutshell.

I’m a social entrepreneur, gender equality advocate and the founder and CEO of a national not-for-profit called Country to Canberra, which empowers young rural women to reach their leadership potential. I grew up on a farm outside of a tiny town in rural South Australia, before heading to boarding school, university (studying a double degree in law and media) and working overseas. I’m a Board Director at YWCA Canberra, a Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum and work full-time as a public servant in Air Force Headquarters (it’s Canberra after all!) I love discussing the big issues, but also need at least one happy hour a week with my mates and some kind of sports adventure to let my inner competitor escape (watch out Lyneham social netballers).

I believe we all have a part to play to make our communities better, and my mission is to ensure all young women have equal opportunities to realise their full potential and incredible self-worth.

What’s the biggest thing about your life now that your teenage self would never have expected?

Definitely being the CEO of Country to Canberra. Despite family members having the entrepreneurial spirit, I never saw myself innovating and leading a national movement. Hand-in-hand with this, my teenage self would be surprised at how willing I am to risk embarrassment or failure (in fact, she would be 100% mortified). As a teenager, being cool was pretty high on my priority list. Now, I constantly disclose ideas to public forums, host events, take risks in the media, and importantly, put my failures out there for people to see (with social media amplifying this tenfold). Essentially, I’ve learnt that trying and failing is better than not trying at all, and unsurprisingly, this is when I’ve gained the most success and met the most amazing people.

What’s one thing you know about yourself now, that you didn’t know back when you were in high school?

That a bob haircut and flared corduroy pants do NOT suit me. Slightly more important, I know that whatever I do with my career, it needs to have a strong link to improving Australian society. I’m never going to be driven by the pursuit of big pay packet, but rather, what I can achieve to help achieve social welfare, equality and a safer society,

I think part of this stems back to being 13, when our family home burnt down. I remember seeing all our possessions turned into ash, and despite wishing we still had mum’s wedding dress or our family photos, I realised they were just ‘things’. It was the community that meant something to me, and over time, I’ve learnt that this forms a critical part of my value-system.


You can hear more of Hannah’s advice for her teenage self on Wednesday 6 July, 7pm at Smith’s Alternative in Canberra City. Find out more here!

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