Hannah on Founding Country to Canberra

Kaurna Land (Blyth, South Australia)  and now lives on Ngunnawal Land (Queanbeyan, New South Wales)
Founder and Chair of national non-profit Country to Canberra
Community/regional development, gender equality issues, and of course, my 1 year old Corgi called Roy!

Hannah Wandel is the 2019 ACT Young Australian of the Year, a senior public servant, a public speaker, and the Founder and Chair of national non-profit Country to Canberra, which empowers young rural women to reach their leadership potential. Hannah’s has been named one of Australia’s ‘100 Women of Influence’ by the Australian Financial Review, won the 2019 James McWha Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Adelaide, won the 2017 National Emerging Leader Award from the Institute of Managers and Leaders, and attend the 2018 United Nations Commission for the Status of Women in New York.

Hannah’s Story

What is Country to Canberra?

Country to Canberra is empowering young rural women to reach their leadership potential. Founded in 2014, our award-winning not-for-profit runs nationwide programs that provide education, leadership and mentorship opportunities to regional, rural and remote teenage girls. We are a leading voice for young women, and are committed to strengthening rural communities into the future.

Why did you create Country to Canberra?

I’m passionate about ensuring regional Australia thrives. But growing up, there were two challenges I could see impacting regional communities like mine. The first was access to education and services. No matter where anyone lives, they deserve access to strong education and employment, services, and opportunities. The second was gender inequality. Even today, there remains an underrepresentation of women in political leadership and business. Whether it is the gender pay gap, women’s representation in media, or family and domestic violence, a range of issues still significantly impact women and girls.

I wanted to do something to combat these gender and geographical issues, so I founded Country to Canberra in 2014 to empower young rural women to reach their leadership potential.

Our latest program, the C2C Leadership Competition is actually open right now for young women and non binary folk in grades 10-12 – it closes on 23 July. Winners score a Power Trip to meet incredible politicians and CEOs, undertake leadership training and more. Details can be found at

Winners of the Country to Canberra leadership competition

What are you doing now?

I’m the Chair of Country to Canberra’s Board and a Senior Executive at the National Recovery and Resilience Agency. I handed over the CEO reins of Country to Canberra in 2020 to an amazing young person, called Han Worsley, who was part of our first ever program. It is important to me that C2C provides a leadership pipeline for young people, and is run by young people, for young people.

How did the opportunities and experiences you had in your hometown help you get to where you are?

Blyth’s mantra is ‘small town big spirit’, and it is a vibrant town of incredible leaders and go-getters. It has a strong volunteer culture, where if you want something to change – you need to step up, volunteer, and be part of that change. This has formed a big part of who I am. Every person has the opportunity to create change, but I’d also argue that we should all be doing ‘our bit’ to make our local school, sports club, organisation, or community better.

What advice do you have for rural young people?

Don’t let fear hold you back from what you want to do. Ask yourself, ‘what would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ and go from there. You have the power, value and ability to do whatever you want in life, and there are a ton of organisations and people out there that want to see you succeed.

More Inspiring Rural Stories