Start by saying ‘yes’ and apply for a Westpac Social Change Fellowship

Dr Marilyn Metta, 2021 Social Change Fellow

By Dr Marilyn Metta, 2021 Social Change Fellow and Founder of the Metis Centre


Last year, a dear colleague sent me a message suggesting that I apply for the Westpac Social Change Fellowship. I remember thinking, “Hmm, this looks interesting… I wonder…”


As a woman in my mid 40s, I had spent the last 25 years raising my children, working full-time as an academic and trauma counsellor and running a not-for-profit organisation. I had no time to stop to consider me. And that is at the heart of both the problem as well as the solution.


Simply by saying yes to applying for the Westpac Social Change Fellowship, I gave myself the rare and precious opportunity to stop and think about what I need.


The application process gave me the permission, time and space to dream up a future that I believe in. For the first time in my life, I was asked, “If we give you $50,000 to grow and develop you as a social change leader, what would you do?”


The mantra I often share with my Anthropology & Sociology students, “Putting the person at the centre of their story” was exactly what I needed to do in crafting the application and going through the selection process.


I think one of the biggest challenges that every Westpac Scholar or Fellow experiences is believing that you deserve this opportunity.


What I have learnt is this - by taking this opportunity to grow myself as a leader, I am growing my capacity to create the social change and impact that I want to see in the world. The ripple effects of growing a leader are real. And the effort and the risk you take are absolutely worth it! 


And remember that you don’t have to be an extrovert to be a social change leader.  Some of the most inspiring leaders and social change activators in our community are the quiet and steadfast leaders who lead from their hearts.


There is always a place in the world for whatever kind of leader you want to be.


As a woman of colour, I realise how important it is for leaders in our community to reflect the rich diversity of our community because “You can’t be what you can’t see!”


The opportunities that the Westpac Social Change Fellowship have given me are once-in-a-lifetime gifts that keep on giving and growing.


So, start by saying Yes. And then give yourself permission to imagine, to wonder, to dream.  One step at a time…


Published 1 September 2021


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