Stranded in the middle of nowhere with limited food, no spare clothing, covered in head to toe in dust and dirt and sweat may not sound like something you'd want to repeat, but for Kirsty Wall it's something that's left her with a brand new outlook on life.
Winning a Wool Innovation scholarship, she received enough to take her to the far reaches of this sun-burned country as part of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, beginning in 2019.
The Bukkulla woman is no stranger to challenging situations. She's been part of the Flying Doctors, working for a while as the senior flight nurse for the Northern Territory and has worked as a nurse all around the world: London and Botswana to name just a few.
"I met my husband in the Northern Territory, and I ended up returning to Inverell and I now live in the house I grew up in. So it's pretty wild!" she laughed.
She helps run the family sheep - 18.5 micron Merino wool - and cattle enterprise.
"The opportunity to farm, and there's something about that spot and I feel very grounded and secure in thinking that this is a really lovely way to raise a family. It's a tough way, and it provides lots of challenges, but it's great.
The program has changed her view about what leadership is really about.
"It's not somebody with a badge standing up the front, it's actually people doing and acting in every aspect of your lives.
"What it is a leadership program that puts through really uncomfortable situations and challenging situations, and sometimes very risky situation, where growth occurs following that," she summarised.
"It's about allowing time for reflection, space, but also practicing and learning how to change behaviors - and it is about that change, about being authentic, about being you, and being an advocate for change, about affiliating with the right people for change in the regions."
While a lot of what went on in the program is top secret, she tells three main stories to encapsulate the essence.
The first scene is in Bendigo, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
"At 6pm one night, were were told actually we didn't have the night off, yes we had a free dinner, but at 5pm the following day we were going to a play - not only going to it, but we had to write it, script it, choreograph it, perform it, and advertise it, and cater for it.
"And we had to set the standard of what success looked like.
"We had over 50 people coming through the door, one of them was the CEO of Bendigo Bank Marnie Baker, and she was phenomenal. Talking to us about what leadership is, and I suppose it was our first touch into realising leadership isn't necessarily the head of a bank, but standing on the sporting line, cheering your children on."
Cue the curtains for an unknown town in WA.
"We had to hand in our mobiles, and we had no ID, and we had to make our way into a particular community and in 24 hours, had to make an impact.
"We arrived, had nowhere to stay. There were six of us. We considered sleeping on the street, but we decided it probably wasn't the best sleeping location. So we went to library and tried to volunteer at the soup kitchen, but it's really hard to volunteer where you've got no business papers, nothing to vouch for you.
"It was 10 minutes before a combined shop/cafe and grocery store was shut, and the lady in the door looked at us with our one piece of paper - we looked pretty scruffy - and she gave us the keys and the code to the alarm, and said those shelves need to be restocked and I'd really love the window display for Christmas.
"She told us there was a soup kitchen around the corner run by the church and tomorrow their cook is off and they didn't have a replacement, and we have 80 people coming for dinner.
"Well the six of us got stuck into it. We went for tins, supermarket, stocked shelves, learned how to use a pricing gun, an alarm system... and they'd just been delivered mattresses. They said please take some sheets off the shelves - so we slept on the floor of the Op shop and we arrived at the soup kitchen.
"It was so beautiful, but humbling."
Not only did they make 80 meals for that night, but they had 80 ready to go for the next day too.
She now has two aims. One: to give back to her industry - getting young people interest and "getting back to the roots of fibre" and cutting down on fast fashion.
Two: to help create a society with wellbeing frameworks, making it safe and supportive for young people to survive and thrive.
With her graduating class, they've successfully pitched a wellbeing framework which has been adopted by LGAs like Inverell.
"Mayor Harmon was right onto it, an early adopter, and so our initiative which launched in May in Dubbo instead of Vietnam - we had the international component which couldn't go ahead because of COVID - but now we're empowering local government in Australia."
Becoming something of the local wool steward, in consultation with the international wool marketers, she's looking at how to produce activewear.
She's also currently involved in a three year New England Wether (benchmarking) trial with Local Land Services in conjunction with Glen Innes Research Station, concluding this December.
She and her husband Spike have also patented an innovation for stock handling/movements, and can be found at www.livestocklures.com.
"Since the ARLP graduation, I've been invited to be part of the rollout for AWI (Australian Wool Innovation) Future Wool events in the New England and North West of NSW," she said.
"The ultimate end game, for me, the big broad picture - is having a society where wellbeing certainly comes first. But where everybody exists where they need to, to promote a fabulous and safe society for our children to grow into, and to be dynamic, to be brave, to be courageous, and to put yourself in uncomfortable positions so you can grow personally as well.
"It's about fostering, about encouraging, and that's what I see in the future but we have to start with stepping now - it's a big leap but we can take small steps to get there."
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