Read how Emily is making a difference every day, and her vision for the future...

Tell us about yourself.  Anything and everything, we’d love to get to know you.I'm a primary teacher and instructional leader by day, and toy library president by night and on the weekends.  The core parts of my work outside teaching a classroom include supporting teachers to implement evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning. With teachers, practice is very personal because we take it as a reflection of ourselves and our ability to educate children. I made a decision a couple of years ago to lead with joy, and that is something that I try to stick with. I encourage teachers to show themselves grace as they focus on their practice, and acknowledge that no one is perfect. I also have two beautiful children with my husband Bill, who are aged 3 and 7.

Tell us a little more about what you’re doing in the community to help make a difference? I'm someone who thrives on volunteering and giving back to the community, for several years I helped run babywearing meets locally for parents and carers to learn how to carry their children safely and comfortably. I was also vice-president of Carry Australia, a national babywearing organsiation.I first joined the Melbourne Community Toy Library when it moved in across the street and my first child was born (about 7 years ago). As a strong believer in the power of community and the importance of volunteering, I quickly joined the committee. A few years and another kid later, I agreed to take on the presidency.One of the biggest issues for the organisation has been that it has been funded by endless short-term grants. Covid had thrown a massive spanner in the works of our library processes, and we could see that there was scope to improve what we were doing, while trying to find a more sustainable long-term model.

With an incredible committee working together, we started by extending hours, and got lucky with a few grants that we could use to revitalise our toy collection. Most recently, we have updated our laptops and tablets to make checkout processes smoother. After some solid campaigning, we've gotten the exciting news that we will be transitioning to a new model where our 3 toy libraries will have stable ongoing funding. Through this transition my goal is to ensure that the Melbourne Community Toy Library continues providing the same great support for kids and families, and that volunteering opportunities enhance what is able to be provided.

What do you love about the Review style?

I discovered Review when I was at university, and got this top from an opshop that seemed to be amazing quality. I couldn't afford a lot, but when I started working as a teacher I'd sometimes go during the school holidays and buy a $79 dress, which always felt like a huge luxury. What I find amazing is that some of the clothes I bought then are still going strong now, almost 20 years later! They're the items of clothing that I have carried with me through overseas moves and adventures near and far, the dresses that I have worn to friends weddings and other special occasions.

Who/What inspires you to do this amazing work?
I find the young people I get to work with as a teacher incredibly inspiring. They drive me to be the best person I can be and to lead by example, not just with words. I want my students to see that it is possible to be a strong, confident woman. That it is okay to be constantly learning, and that you can be a leader and a change-maker while also still being a parent. My Grade 6 students and I have started the year talking about character strengths, what it means to be a leader and what strengths we value in others.
When I look at the work we do at the toy library I see a natural flow on effect. At the toy library, we are raising children who are connected to community, who learn how to share and respect toys, and who have increased opportunities for rich oral language development and developing conceptual understandings through play. There's a lot of power in supporting the next generation, in building compassion and knowledge about the world.

What does it mean to you to be recognised as part of the Review International Women’s Day digital campaign this year?

Mostly I have massive imposter syndrome, like many women. I ended up nominating myself because I was too embarrassed to ask someone else, and I thought to myself "actually, I have achieved a lot in the last few years". At the same time, it was very shocking to actually be chosen, and I am now feeling a mix of excitement, overwhelmed and proud that someone else thinks I have done a good job too.
On a personal level, the last year has been hard and I felt like I launched from crisis to crisis, struggling with chronic illnesses, trying to just manage situations as they popped up and just trying to hold everything together. Being recognised in this way makes me feel like maybe, just somehow, I managed to get through and actually achieved some great stuff in the process. 

What does it mean to you to be a strong, inspiring, woman contributing to make a difference?

One of the things that matters most to me is feeling like I am making a difference in the world, and that is one of the reasons why I have been drawn to volunteering and community activism. I have been lucky to have amazing mentors and female role models who have shown me the power of acting locally to drive change. I feel like they inspire me to be better.
A very wise mentor of mine (former MP Colleen Hartland) said to me that you can change the world in different ways at different stages in your life, and that all of them are valuable in their own way.

Are there any specific projects, events etc that you’d like to tell us (and the Review community) about to raise awareness, support, information?

Are there any specific projects, events etc that you’d like to tell us (and the Review community) about to raise awareness, support, information?
I'd love if this profile encouraged people to get out and enjoy volunteering in their local communities! The last 3 years have been such a bumpy ride and I know that alot of people have felt isolated. One of the great benefits of volunteering is that it builds community connectedness, and helps people feel like they belong to something and that the problems of the world can be solveable (even in a small way).
I'd also love to get the message out about the benefits of Toy Libraries. I've found that there are some common misconceptions, where families feel that toy libraries are just for disadvantaged families, or that they're unclean, or that you don't need them if you can afford your own fancy toys. For me, toy libraries have three main benefits : reducing waste from cheap plastic toys in landfill, supporting children's development through play, and building community connectedness. These are things that all families can benefit from. If you look on the Toy Libraries Australia website you can find a toy library near you and I am certain they would welcome your support - whether it is donations of toys, money or time. Encourage your local council to see the value in these vital community services that are working hard to support families and our next generation of Changemakers.

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