How Layne Beachley met Julia Gillard: A relationship driving change for women - Women's Agenda

How Layne Beachley met Julia Gillard: A relationship driving change for women

Layne Beachley

When Layne Beachley really wants something, she’ll do everything possible to make it happen.

It’s persistence that saw her win seven world surfing titles – at one time working four different jobs to support her surfing career.

So when Beachley decided that former prime minister Julia Gillard would make an excellent patron for her Aim For the Stars Foundation, she came up with a very good plan.

First she agreed to speak at an event where Gillard was also appearing. Then she wrote up a letter inviting Gillard to join the foundation, and ensured she was first in line for a book signing of Gillard’s My Story, so she could give it to her in person.

“She received many letters during the book signing and I quickly realised that it was the wrong place to do it,” says Beachley. “My letter disappeared, but fortunately Tim [Mathieson, Gillard’s partner] found it and sold her on why she might want to get involved.”

It helped that Beachley had personally met Mathieson and struck up a conversation with him while sharing a table at an event. They had agreed to stay in touch and swapped numbers.

So with some help from Mathieson, Beachley managed to appoint our first female prime minister as patron of her foundation helping girls to achieve their ambitions.

It’s a lesson in persistence – but it also proves that no matter how determined you are, you can always use a little help from others in order to achieve what you want.

Indeed, it was a little bit of support from a former employer that helped propel Beachley’s surfing career. When he saw how hard she was working and how determined she was about winning, he wrote her a $3000 cheque to help her get overseas.

“It was a catalyst,” says Beachley. “An employer said, I believe in you, it instilled confidence in me and I then went on to win my first of seven world titles.”

Beachley says Aim For the Stars was born out of reflection, and the support she received during her own career. She wanted to prevent girls from having to go through the same levels of financial adversity that she experienced trying to achieve her dreams.

“When you’re number one in the world, everyone gives you what you want. When you’re number two, it’s very challenging. I was working 60 hours a week in four different jobs.”

Following her sixth consecutive world championship, someone from Macquarie Bank asked if she wanted to start her own foundation. Beachley realised that no other professional surfer had their own foundation and “that was a good enough reason for me”.

Aim For The Stars offers assistance to those who need a little extra help to achieve their ambitions. It receives around 1000 applications every year and will this year assist 40 girls, offering $162,000 in scholarships. Beachley says those who’re successful have three common traits: commitment, conviction and courage.

“They have to have the work ethic, the passion and commitment to achieve something,” she says. “Then there’s the conviction to pursue it, and then the courage to put their hand up and say, I need help.”

Successful applicants in the program cross academic, sport, cultural and community pursuits, and have achieved in a wide range of fields, including biology, human rights law, body image activism, martial arts and V8 driving.

This year, Beachley says the next class will also benefit from all-year-long support from an online program that’s being specifically developed, as well as from mentors like Holly Ransom and Ann Sherry. The Foundation is aiming to work with more professional women in order to garner necessary support, such as through regular donations and mentoring.

In November last year, Aim for the Stars ran a sold-out fundraising event in Sydney with a number of presentations from female leaders, including Gillard. They shared their mistakes, their lessons, and their advice.

Next month, they’re offering a similar event in Melbourne with Beachley promising all attendees to walk away, “Feeling incredibly inspired and motivated, especially by Julia’s remarkable presentation.

“It’s an event that proves the value of mentoring and of sharing knowledge, wisdom and experience in order to prevent women from going through the same adversities and challenges that other women have experienced. True leaders learn from other peoples’ mistakes.”

Women’s Agenda is a media partner for the upcoming Women’s Leadership Forum on 13 May 2016, raising money for Aim For The Stars. 

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