“The world is waking up and we are the change.”
Believe it or not, being bullied in a Darwin schoolyard was part of the making of Meg.
Inspirational climate campaigner Greta Thunberg says of her generation that: “The world is waking up and we are the change.” Meeting people like Meg reinforces awareness of this fire that’s burning in young and inspired leaders across the planet.
Believe it or not, being bullied in a Darwin schoolyard was part of the making of Meg. She recalls it as a turning point in her short but eventful life. An earlier pivotal moment had been when her parents packed up their safe and secure life and moved to Darwin. “The six of us were crammed into the car and we travelled all the way up to Darwin and lived in a trailer park for a year. Now that I think about it, they were insane to have that many young kids jammed into a caravan,” laughs Meg. >
The experience was “eye-opening” for the Grade 5 girl from a private school in Wonthaggi who simply loved climbing trees and playing in the family garden. Oh, and eating worms. At school in Darwin she remembers “getting beaten up in the playground and coming home in tears. Mum and Dad would sit me down and say that I really needed to think about the background of these kids and where that anger was coming from. I was like, “Cool, sounds good” … then I’d go back into the playground and get beaten up again.”
It took a few more playground clashes before Meg made friends with most of the kids. The rest she just steered clear of. “I realised that I’m pretty lucky in the way that I’ve been born into this world. It’s all luck. It was an eye-opener. Now I’m like ‘Yeah, check your privilege, check where you come from’.”
Resettling in Bass Coast, Meg started her high school years at Newhaven College with a determination to reinvent herself and commit to study. “I made the conscious decision to be a nerd, to study hard and take every opportunity. That’s how I got where I am now.”
Now in her final year of VCE, Meg also works in the kitchen of a local music venue where she often runs the show and holds her own amongst her bosses, talking music of all genres and enjoying the creativity.
Saying yes to any opportunity literally opened up her world. Aged only twelve, she started venturing to the remote Wollangarra Outdoor Education Centre on her own. “I’d meet the leaders at the Traralgon train station and spend my weekends chopping wood or bottling fruit. Then every school holidays, I’d go up there for a week and go for a hike with them.” Gaining access to the isolated camp involved riding a flying fox across a river. “The staff are there to build a community and the resilience of young people and to get them into high places.”
In Year 10, she ventured further afield on a month-long World Challenge Expedition to India. (She raised funds for her trip through raising and selling her own herd of jersey bulls on the family property.) “India was pretty crazy, eye opening and amazing as well,” she recalls. As well as the adventure, she admits the biggest lesson from that trip was how to communicate with her peers. “I learnt so many things about myself. I’m better at having emotional conversations now.”
Opportunities for adventure kept coming and Meg said ‘yes’ – even as she sometimes thought ‘…no’. She was lucky enough to be selected to go on a ten-day, 160-kilometre fundraising Alpine Walk with Wollangarra. Each participant had to raise their own funds to help with general upkeep and running of the centre. “Then you get to go walking for eleven days with a big bunch of strangers, which is fantastic because you are best friends by the end.”
Later that year – despite her tendency toward motion sickness – she applied for a berth on the tall ship Young Endeavour. “I’d never thought about getting on a boat before. I’m very much a landlubber and would much rather be sitting by the ocean or in the mountains than in the middle of the ocean.”
She applied on a Friday, was offered a berth the following Tuesday, said yes, then got to work on the logistics. “I didn’t know anything about sailing ships, and there was so much to learn.” Being an old hand at motion sickness actually came in handy, because Meg was expecting to be seasick. The first few days on the ship were “like being overwhelmed with information combined with keeping night watch, combined with vomiting non-stop … it was nasty.”
They weighed anchor after two days and the captain told them to go ashore and hug a tree. That reset everything, and she continued on the voyage with no more illness. On the eighth day, the ship was handed over to the crew. “This was another one of those opportunities where young people are put in charge and have to navigate their way around communication, leadership and getting things done. We made so many mistakes, but learnt so much too.” >
Meg was awarded the Order of Australia Association Young Endeavour Award. Her dad calls it the ‘best on boat’ award. She was also nominated as Bass Coast Shire Young Citizen of the Year in early 2019.
Back on land and between study, work and adventures, Meg is busy fundraising for various projects and campaigning for causes close to her heart such as climate change and stopping domestic violence through the Foundation for Young Australians’ Gender Equity Project.
After VCE, she’s planning a gap year and perhaps working at Timbertop, the Year 9 campus of Geelong Grammar. “That’s like dream job material. But I’m not too fussed: I just know I want to take a break from the books.”
Despite her achievements and accolades, Meg is humble and down-to-earth. “My friends are all doing such exceptional things. Everyone is different and we’re all learning how to be in this world in our own unique ways. The things they’re doing are so cool – no matter how big or small, they’re really incredible and inspiring.”
Meg is comfortable not to have her future mapped out. “Don’t focus on one goal – there is so much happening in your world. If you don’t take new opportunities, you won’t find yourself in the middle of the ocean at the top of the mast of a sailing ship, or sitting on a midnight train in India.”