Skip links


In 2019, we awarded travel scholarships to two of our individual members from regional Australia, Pushpa Bakshi and Yen Hawkes, for their participation in a leadership program run by our sister alliance—the National Rural Women’s Coalition. The RRR Canberra Muster is a 4-day residential leadership program held yearly in Canberra. The program provides an exceptional opportunity to women from rural, regional, and remote Australia to interact with inspirational leaders and receive formal leadership training in a collaborative group environment.

Our scholarship recipients reflect on their experiences:

Yen Hawkes

I was one of the 12 women (and first from Southwest WA) to be selected from a pool of 90 applicants to take part in NRWC’s RRR Canberra Muster 2019. NRWC RRR Women’s Canberra MUSTER 2019 program is supported by funding from the Office for Women, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I am very grateful to Harmony Alliance for sponsoring my travel and travel-related costs for the program.

At the launch of the 2019 program, I met with NRWC CEO Keli McDonald, President Leonie Noble, Facilitator Meredith Turnbull, 11 inspiring women from all across Australia and other stakeholders. I listened to introductions and project pitches and did mine too. My heart was beating so hard when I introduced myself in the room, but I knew I did well. I told myself that I will learn from everyone and make the most of the program.
Facilitators Meredith Turnbull and Ruth McGowan taught us about leadership skills, social media and board governance. The sessions were well planned, informative and interactive. There were group discussions to learn from other participants to further enhance my leadership skills. At one point, Meredith asked all of us who our “heroes” were, to which I said it was my Mom. At the wrap-up, Ruth showed us a photo of herself as a little girl and asked us to shut our eyes and imagine seeing ourselves as little girls. She said, “what would you say to that little girl?”, “is she proud of your journey?”. It made me emotional looking back at the paths I have taken.
We spent a whole day at The Australian Parliament House, which made such a great impact in my leadership journey. As I entered the building, I had goosebumps as I had never imagined myself spending the day at the APH, having the opportunity to meet and speak with or sit next to influential leaders who inspired me through their stories. Minister Marise Payne, Hon Melissa Price MP, Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie, Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Senator Larissa Waters, Hon Nola Marino MP, Hon Justine Elliot MP each had their own style to inspire and contribute towards my leadership journey.
I would like to say thank you to the NRWC team and Harmony Alliance for making the difference in my leadership journey through the NRWC RRR Women’s Canberra MUSTER 2019 program. I received and continue to receive so much support from the team. The bond among all of us was precious as we laughed and cried together during the program every time we shared a piece of our story. It is the program’s fifth year and I would like to encourage other amazing women in Australia to apply for the program and I assure you that you will go home feeling recharged, motivated and you will challenge yourself to be a better leader in your community.

Yen Hawkes
Individual Member
Harmony Alliance


Pushpa Bakshi

I am grateful to NRWC and Harmony Alliance for their sponsorship to support my attendance at the Canberra 2019 Muster. I gained incredible insights from a range of speakers who shared their personal leadership experiences with us. The topics covered included framing advocacy issues, bringing an issue to the attention of policy makers, shaping public opinion, and strategies to have voices heard.

Having recently gone through the 7th most despairing grievance in my personal life, the NRWC Muster 2019 was an absolute confidence booster. The opportunity provided me with exposure to possible support avenues to pursue my passion for community engagement.

I have had a deep passion for community work for a long time. I have carried out most of my community work silently so far. However, my will and passion has always been to reach out to a wider audience, on a larger scale and more so to women and youth. 

The leadership muster has given me the valuable opportunity to do just that for our rural, remote and regional areas. The muster helps each of the participants develop and deliver independent community leadership projects. This is a starting point for me; because of this muster and my project delivery, many lives will change at a new level.

My project for the muster is Stanthorpe Leadership & Motivation Rescue Project. The aim of the project is to support the Stanthorpe community, located south-west of Brisbane. Due to droughts and recent bushfires, this community has suffered considerably. While the community has been incredibly resilient in face of such adversities, the overall spirit is low, and they desperately need some support and leadership during this time. 

The project will deliver workshops on accessing leadership skills from within and spirit lifting. I will also share leadership resources and provide education and training on the importance of well being and mental health. The main message of my project is that it is okay to ask for help and take the lead where possible to impact the community in a greater way.

Following on from this project I will to go back to Stanthorpe to ensure a sustained and ongoing support system is established. Over the last 20 years, I have been delivering food baskets to homeless people, women’s shelters and children’s homes around Christmas. This year, I will carry out my Christmas foundation program in Stanthorpe. 

I have dedicated myself to ‘living a life of service’, which requires a significant amount of leadership capabilities. I believe that successful leadership is available to anyone who is willing to make a conscious choice to develop the skills. Whilst some may appear to be natural born leaders, the reality is, the skills that make a leader great can all be taught, learned and strengthened.

Pushpa Bakshi
Individual Member
Harmony Alliance


Back to Harmony Empowers

Return to top of page