Eliza Watters - Case Study

From shy country kid to community powerhouse.

As a shy and studious country kid, Eliza Watters always knew she would go to university. What she couldn’t foresee was the huge impact she would have on members of her future communities.


Such leadership qualities don’t just grow on trees. They are developed by actively putting yourself outside your comfort zone, being persistent, learning to work in a team, being confident in your own ability, extending yourself by taking on more projects, and by practicing conflict resolution.

Eliza first embarked on this journey as a year 9 student when she saw an advertisement for an Alma Doepel voyage in her school newsletter.


To a kid living in Stanhope, a small country town with less than 750 residents that’s almost 200 kilometers from the sea, spending nine days learning how to sail a tall ship seemed like a fabulous adventure, despite being well and truly outside her comfort zone.


She could go, her parents said, if she contributed half the cost—a hurdle overcome with persistent hard work by providing cleaning and odd job services to her neighbours.


Once onboard, she says the physicality of the voyage was one of the biggest challenges.


“For this one activity, we were dropped on Mud Island and told to make our own way back to the ship. It was very difficult but so much fun. We had a navigation map, a radio and some clues, and had to work together to find where the ship had gone. It was cold and dark by the time we got back, but I still remember the glow of the stars on the water, and laughing once we were back aboard Alma.


“We also had to take it in turns to skipper the ship, which meant I had command over the entire crew.


“These sorts of activities gave me a lot of confidence in my own skills. They also taught me I was capable of far more than I thought. And I learned a great deal about being independent,” she said.


“Another challenge was coming out of my shell and creating some strong friendships from all walks of life, many of which I still have.”


These friends have been instrumental in setting the path Eliza’s life has since taken.


“One of my closest friends from sailing invited me to travel overseas with them, when we were barely out of high school. While I was in London I met my future husband, who I’ve been with for almost 20 years.


“We’ve just bought our first house in West Footscray. And we now have four children – a 6-year-old daughter, 4-year-old twins (daughter and son) and a 2-year-old son.


“I have spent more than a decade as a volunteer on the Alma Doepel, but I am now a full-time mother and a part-time vet nurse, with two other volunteer jobs.


One is in a research laboratory and the other is for the Westgate Multiple Birth Association, a support group for families of multiples in Melbourne’s inner west, where I am on the committee, organize the playgroup, and help coordinate information sessions and events.This group was a wonderful support to me when I first had my twins and I felt I should give back.


I am also currently studying a Masters in Wildlife Health and Population Management. This will update my skills and bring together my previous qualifications in vet nursing, zoology and the environment.


“Without the Alma Doepel experience, I would probably still be a conservationist, but my personal life would look very different, and I doubt I would have had the confidence and motivation to pay so much of my good fortune forward,” says Eliza.

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