Junket

Junket 2015 : 200 youth leaders in Australia (including yours truly) get whisked away to the QT Canberra to solve problems. Ideally, they’ll solve the biggest problems facing Australia today. It’s invite-only; you could only “buy” your way in with ideas.

I cried when I got the email inviting me out of the blue (sent to the WISE inbox), nearly tried to convince the current WISE president that the email was actually meant for her, and looked at the email about fifty times over the next two days to ensure it was real. I carefully didn’t mention that I’m a New Zealander.

I’ve seen enough startups that claim they will solve the world (or even just fill a niche) be impractical and overly optimistic and frankly grating with their buzzwords. I wasn’t super hopeful that hashtag junket was going to be any different – even when I signed up to the conference-specific app it seemed like everyone was more enthusiastic/less moderately jaded than me. I felt it was going to be an impractical love-fest full of people saying words like “disruptive”, “agile” and “lean”, but food was provided, and free food will get me just about anywhere.

a bowl full of donuts with a greeting card welcoming Ms Frentz to the QT Canberra
An example of the free food with which I can be bribed places

I cannot explain to you exactly how different it was.

It was a love-fest, sure – everyone was always excited to see you and keen to talk to you about who you are and what you’re doing. But it was practical. It was grounded. On the second day we had five hour-long sessions, with 11 options for each one, and every single one asked for practical action points at the end.

A lot of the sessions had people working in the field of interest, from arts to the sciences to education to indigenous issues to medicine; the list goes on. This meant that people took action points back to their work and can start putting ideas in place as early as this week. But it gets better than that.

Every person there was doing good things. It was an experience reminiscent of the International Biology Olympiad to me – I’d found my people. These were hyper-intelligent polymath overachievers with a social conscience the size of a bus. The core of Junket was the fact that people who wouldn’t have otherwise met were brought together to discuss things that mattered to us. I met other people who care about women in STEM, who think the social norm that is university is kind of bullshit, a volunteer for the Missing Persons Advocacy Network, queer activists, mental health activists, engineers, scientists, dancers, artists, all full of energy and passion.

I not only pitched about women in STEM at the opening night, but ran a session and pitched about a women in STEM students network in an actual elevator. I’ve got about three pages of my own notes as well as the write-up Junkee is going to supply to start taking action on. Everyone had really good ideas and I’m looking forward to putting them in action. Watch this space, I guess, but not too closely – I still need to recover.

Dark room with project screen featuring the word "Junket"
Scene from the opening night at Junket

While I’d love to focus on the content of the sessions or discuss the disconnect between corporate sponsors and social justice that is apparently a Big Deal but 100% doesn’t seem incongruous to me, that would bust this blog post out to thousands of words. Junkee.com will be writing articles on it over the next few weeks.

What surprised me the most about Junket, what mattered the most about Junket, was that I felt comfortable to be fully honest about myself and my experiences. In my daily life there’s a lot of things I don’t share, neglect to mention, avoid discussing – even with you, public forum of the Internet. I try to fit in and in doing so become a version of myself. I did not do this at Junket; there was no need.

At Junket I was open and honest. I was challenged and inspired. I was reinvigorated and changed and it was fantastic.

picture of every attendee at junket arranged in rows with a spotlight on them holding yellow flags saying
Final family photo at  #junket 2015 – photo shamelessly stolen from Jess Scully (curator of Junket 2015 and probably now my personal hero)
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