Shire's leading women share their stories

Shire of Esperance community support manager Melissa Ammon, Shire president Victoria Brown, marketing and reporting manager Priscilla Davies and deputy Shire president Natalie Bowman. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
Shire of Esperance community support manager Melissa Ammon, Shire president Victoria Brown, marketing and reporting manager Priscilla Davies and deputy Shire president Natalie Bowman. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

More than 50 people have gathered to hear some of the most prominent women leaders at the Shire of Esperance discuss having the passion and courage to take on challenges.

The event, hosted by the Esperance Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was held at the Esperance Museum on Friday morning, August 23.

The event was delivered in conjunction with the Shire of Esperance, with Shire president Victoria Brown, deputy president Natalie Bowman, marketing and reporting manager Priscilla Davies and community support manager Melissa Ammon speaking at the event.

Speakers shared stories of times when their passion had led them to take on a new challenge.

In Shire president Victoria Brown's speech, she discussed her passion for theatre, poetry, her work in broadcast, feeling creatively fulfilled whilst raising a family and running a farm office and the many challenges of serving on council.

Mrs Brown took the opportunity to announce that, after eight years on council, almost four of which have been spent as the shire president, she would not be standing again at this year's election.

"I took a long, hard look at my family, and the opportunities the years ahead may bring, and decided not to stand for council in October," she said.

"I realise that I'm ready to embrace the next exciting phase of my life.

"You may not be able to pursue your dream career, there may be moments of unhappiness and self doubt in life, there will be times for change and for pushing into new horizons.

"If you can look outside the box, you can adapt your passions to suit your lifestyle and have an amazingly fulfilling, rewarding and varied life.

"Be willing to adapt, to tackle the challenges, to shift the goal posts and to realise that if you don't get as high as you dreamed of in your chosen field or passion, that's OK.

"You can live out your passions in the most unexpected places. Roll with the punches, celebrate the milestones and never ever lose your sense of humour or the courage to try new things.

"The challenges and opportunities to indulge in your passions are endless, it doesn't matter where you are, you just have to open your eyes and look for them."

Mrs Brown thanked the Chamber of Commerce for giving her the opportunity to speak and reflect on the rewarding life the community had given her over the last 37 years, despite the path having been challenging.

The Shire of Esperance council, with Shire president Victoria Brown and deputy president Natalie Bowman. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

The Shire of Esperance council, with Shire president Victoria Brown and deputy president Natalie Bowman. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

Deputy Shire president Natalie Bowman spoke at length about how her passion for Esperance and the local community drove her to stand for the Shire of Esperance council back in 2011 and encouraged people to take opportunities.

"Standing up and taking on a challenge doesn't require a remarkable person, it requires someone who cares and someone with passion," she said.

"When I thought about how I got here, it was a series of passions.

"I had a passion for learning, which still holds strong today, a passion for Esperance and a passion to work.

"If there's one message I want you to take home today, it's to take every opportunity to learn, especially about yourself.

"After considering it [running for council] I figured I had nothing to lose, plenty to learn and everything to give.

"Eight years later, I can say that I've loved every minute of it, and learned a whole lot, but it most certainly hasn't been without challenges."

"I do what I do because I love Esperance. I grew up here, I want to retire here, my children and, hopefully, one day my grandchildren will live here and I want to make sure that it continues to be the beautiful place that it is.

"Take every opportunity to learn, especially about yourself.

"When an opportunity comes your way, take it, even if you think you're not ready for it."

Marketing and reporting manager Priscilla Davies talked about a few of the most pivotal moments in her life and her lifelong desire to persist and succeed.

After moving from Cunderdin to attend high school in Kelmscott, Ms Davies completed her university degree in marketing.

Just days after her final university exam, Ms Davies took on a job with CBH Group in Lake Grace.

Ms Davies told attendees that it wasn't long before she travelled to Esperance and fell in love with the place, rethinking her decision to work in export marketing at CBH.

Ms Davies said the next pivotal moment was having children, where she took time out of workforce but couldn't sit still. In 2007, Ms Davies began working for the Shire of Esperance.

Throwback: Priscilla Davies (centre) back in 2012 when she served as the Shire's Coordinator of Corporate Relations. Photo: Esperance Express.

Throwback: Priscilla Davies (centre) back in 2012 when she served as the Shire's Coordinator of Corporate Relations. Photo: Esperance Express.

Over the next six years, Ms Davies went on to hold seven roles at the shire before becoming the marketing and reporting manager.

"I've seen huge changes from a communications and reporting perspective," she said.

"One of the great things that I do in the role now is that I get to be involved in some really cool events.

"The big one for me, over the last six years, has been the change in the media and the way we deal with the media as a society, as a community and as an individual.

"I do a lot of the media with some fantastic staff in my office and it's disappointing to see the changes in a lot of the media perspectives, and I mean more the social side."

Ms Davies encouraged attendees to face their fears and remain inspired.

"I think the big thing is that you have to be inspired," she said.

"Fortunately, I work with people who inspire me all of the time.

"I am a firm believer that we lead all of the time, with whatever we're doing.

"If you're doing your role well, you're leading in that role."

Shire of Esperance community support manager Melissa Ammon reflected on her journey from the city to the country and making the move from her role as Westpac's branch manager to the shire in 2005.

After attending a course and assisting the incident management team during the 'perfect storm' in 2007, Mrs Ammon said she realised she wanted to be in the emergency management area.

Mrs Ammon soon assumed the role of emergency services coordinator in 2008, overseeing the shire's emergency management responsibilities and working around community awareness and preparedness.

The Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria in 2009 saw a renewed focus on recovery processes nationwide, with Mrs Ammon describing a training session with a local government mayor in an area affected by the fires as a 'wakeup warning'.

"I realised that nobody is above it," she said.

"What do we do? How prepared are we? I returned to Esperance with a new understanding and a new appreciation of the fact that this was our wakeup warning."

Reflecting on the November 2015 bushfires, Mrs Ammon said it was a difficult time but the generosity, support and the resilience shown by the community was amazing.

"Our first recovery meeting was amazing," she said.

"We put the call out and encouraged people to come along, that we'd see what we could do to help out.

"In the council chamber, we had church groups, local business owners, accommodation houses, and all of these community groups wanting to help out.

"It made that process so much easier for us moving forward. Our community really came together over this time.

"All of the science tells us that these kinds of events will continue to become more frequent.

"It would be great if we knew the exact date, time and whereabouts of the next event, but it's not going to happen. All we can do is plan to expect the unexpected.

"As a community, we're better prepared and need to keep working together to get up quicker and stronger than we did the last time."