Written by Leanne Tomkins
“I preferenced Sarah Prime first to be my mentor having never met her before,” says Mayleah House, 2021 Future Leader. “On paper, the only commonality we had at the time was that Sarah had a passion for real-world impact – and I really loved that.”
Mayleah had been looking for a mentor for a year and a half in the environmental space but she hadn’t really found anyone that she clicked with. Then, in early 2021 she saw an email from Westpac Scholars Trust about their Mentors in Residence program, an initiative similar to online speed dating, but with mentors and mentees.
“What’s funny is that I went through it and met all these mentors I really liked, but Sarah wasn’t there on the night – I found her later on the list of other names,” she says. “I could see how engaged she was and how caring she was to the community and building people up, and I thought that was a really admirable trait that I was looking for in a mentor.”
Sarah is a 2019 Social Change Fellow and Founder of Champions Academy, ‘a mentoring and development framework that helps people recognise their full potential and encourages them to apply it to a cause greater than the individual’. She is currently working on a new project to recycle agricultural plastic waste and use it to support and regenerate her local town in South Australia.
A lawyer by trade, Mayleah is admitted as a solicitor in the NSW Supreme Court and High Court of Australia. She is now studying a Master of Environment and Sustainability at Monash University, exploring how corporate duties can require businesses to mitigate climate change – a career move she credits to a life-changing break on the Caribbean Island of Utila, Honduras.
“Spending four months in Utila, I actually saw the effects of climate change, plastic pollution and overfishing,” she says. “And I recognised it was a product of economic malfunction. It was completely destroying the place that I had fallen so madly in love with.”
After returning to Australia, Mayleah directed her attention to the environmental NGO space, working for organisations including Greenpeace and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
“I found it so thrilling, but ultimately I wanted to level up my education and see how I could mix my two backgrounds,” she says. “I wanted to understand what are the governance structures and duties of Australian companies that are really driving the environmental problems that we're seeing, and what kind of reforms do we need?”
Benefits of the bond
“As a mentor, Sarah can really empathise with where I'm at,” says Mayleah. “She's able to see things from my perspective but also see when maybe I'm being a little bit dismissive of ideas or not being open to opportunities. She has got a really good way of navigating my hesitancy towards things and pushing back.”
“My relationship with Sarah is one of the most important things that has come out of the scholarship, and I'm forever indebted to the Westpac Scholars Trust for that relationship and also the broader connections within the W100 Alumni Network,” says Mayleah. “Everybody just wants to support, promote, build up and show off the work that everybody else is doing. It’s beautiful.”
Published 11 November 2022