Tag Archives: HMEF volunteer coaches

ByCara Varian

Let’s celebrate girls around the world in shaping a more equal future

Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world

It’s at the heart of everything HMEF does and why we exist – to enable the future female leaders of Australia to build a better world. It’s simple  – empowering the next generation of women to reach their potential and forge futures with no limitations benefits everyone the world over.

Our strongest example of this is the fact that the Australian of the year, the senior Australian of the year, the young Australian of the year and the local hero for 2021 are all women – women who are passionate, educated and driven to ensure that the next generation have a safer journey to success than they did and that their families, their children and their children’s children understand the sacrifices made to rewrite the future for girls across Australia.

For HMEF the two women who we believe are extraordinary visionaries are our Founders Kim Harding and Irene Miller. It is because of their hearts, minds, deep passionate for education and belief in girls potential than over 600 outstanding young women from low socioeconomic circumstances are seeing their futures brighten through education. The vision is to have 8000 girls receive HMEF scholarships over the next  two decades and we are well placed to make this a reality (meet our team who are making this happen).

March 8 2021 is International Women’s Week and the theme this year celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future. Women bear the brunt of problems ranging from poverty to climate change, but they also possess assets and talents to solve them. (source).

To celebrate this day HMEF in collaboration with EY are hosting an event on Friday the 12th of March to celebrate our first two years of the HMEF alumni program, who are now forging careers across a variety of sectors.

The keynote speaker for this event is Jo Masters, EY’s Chief Economist Oceania in 2019. Her passion for economics stems from her commitment in providing businesses with deep insights to the economy on a macro-level and what it means for them. She has been a part of the economic discussion in Australia for over 20 years and is a trusted advisor in economic and policy issues nationally, and on a global scale. Prior to EY, Jo was a senior economist at ANZ and spent over a decade at Macquarie Bank. She is a Member of the Committee for Economic Development Australia’s (CEDA) Council on Economic Policy, as well as an Executive Member of the Australian Business Economists and sits on the Advisory Board for the Financy Women’s Index.

Jo is a champion of driving women’s equality in the workforce and holds a strong passion for developing female financial literacy as well as promoting economics to young Australians. She believes economics is relevant and relatable to everyone in the community, and uses her public platform to encourage interest in the importance of understanding the impact of the macro-economy. Jo is committed to giving back to the community and has been involved with Gold Week at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, FoodBank and The Smith Family.

Jo has a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics) from The University of Auckland, where she was awarded the Senior Prize in Economics. She also has a Master of Economics from The University of Sydney.

ByCara Varian

Supporting Queensland Girls Education

Supporting Queensland Girls To Excel

It’s not by chance that the Quinn Femelle Foundation, a Queensland based private, family foundation chose to collaborate with Harding Miller. They were actively researching Australian scholarship programs that would focus on providing  educational support for girls across Queensland – high potential girls that is, who are from low socio economic circumstances. 

Harding Miller, established in 2015 is the premier scholarship program for girls across Australia. It is the most generous academic program of it’s kind, having awarded over 600, 4 year, $20,000 scholarships to girls since inception. HMEF has built a model that empowers philanthropists to make a valuable and evidence base difference through their giving. It is unquestionable and identified by the UN sustainable development goals, that supporting the next generation  of women to advance will see future systemic and societal improvements globally.

Harding Miller is focused on establishing formidable partnerships that aim to rewrite the future for Australian girls in need.  We are an Australian Public Benevolent organisation established with the clear purpose to show indisputable impact, both for our scholars and at the broader systemic and societal level. Deep, inter-generational, positive impact – we’re in it for the long haul, says Cara Varian, HMEF’s Executive Director.

2020 was the first year of the HMEF/Quinn alliance which resulted in 25 Queensland state school students beginning their 4 year, $20,000 scholarships in Year 9. In 2021 the Quinn’s supported 30 more girls and every year for the foreseeable future, Queensland will see at least 25 girls a year receive these life changing opportunities.

One of the Quinn Femelle scholars is Kya Dulhunty from Bribie Island State High School. “The school award I received for 2020 was the Academic Excellence Award. This is awarded to the top 10% of students at each year level. ” Kya wants to study Anthropology at University and is a straight A student.

Scholarship support begins with the essential tools and resources needed to make the most of their education. “It’s a fallacy that public education is free, says Cara, the cost of technology, data, textbooks, uniforms, school excursions, sport participation and other extra curricular activities all adds up and can easily enter the thousands of dollars. Multiply that by the number of siblings in the family and suddenly the financial strain for some families becomes untenable and its the kids that miss out who suffer the most.

ByCara Varian

Unique HMEF Enrichment Opportunities

Careers In Focus Webinar Series

Last year we launched HMEF’s Careers in Focus monthly webinar sessions.

We invite all our girls to attend these 25-minute session so they can hear about a diverse range of career paths and the challenges that different women have had to overcome.

These sessions are a wonderful way for our scholars to learn about different career opportunities and “meet” different women with diverse interests and personalities and see how they have all achieved career success in their own right.

These sessions are only available to HMEF scholars as well as their HMEF personal coaches.

Previous Sessions

#1 July 2020 – Marketing & Communications Specialist (Stedfast Group Ltd)

#2 Aug 2020 – Procurement & Supply Chain Manager (Broadspectrum)

#3 Sep 2020 – Director of Real Estate – Accountant (Ernst & Young -EY)

#4 Oct 2020-  Paediatric Retrieval Nurse (NETS)

#5 Nov 2020 – Engineer (BHP)

#6 Jan 2021 – Commercial Manager – Quantity Surveyor (Lendlease)

Procurement & Supply Chain Manager & Procurement & Supply Chain Manager session feedback“As a result of the sessions I’ve attended, I’ve learned about how crucial procurement can be in increasing a company/ organisation’s profit and how they acquire goods for their business. I have also learned about the different aspects of accountancy and how it is a vital position in running a successful business. Accountancy helps a business with profit, loss, debts, expenses and keeps the business in place.

I attend these sessions because I enjoy learning about various careers, as well as to have a wider understanding about them.”

Paediatric Retrieval Nurse (NETS) session feedback“Hi just emailing to say thank you for organising such an amazing session- as someone who wants to go into paediatric nursing I found it really interesting

Thank you for offering the opportunity to us girls I really appreciated it 😊


ByCara Varian

HMEF Coaching And What It’s All About

Being a HMEF coach, what is it all about?

The main purpose of a Harding Miller Coach is to support and encourage the girls to do their best at school and to maximise the opportunities of their HMEF scholarship.

Coaches show an interest and check in regularly with their girls in order to build a comfortable rapport over time.

Not only do coaches help the girls explore experiences that enhance further tertiary education but they act as a general advocate of education in a scholarship recipient’s life.

Caroline Hill, the HMEF Scholarship Program Manager, recently came across a story on the Humans of New York Facebook page. It relates  to a girl and the relationship she had with one of her teachers but it made her think of Harding Miller and the role our coaches play.

” ….it made me feel special that she would take an interest in me ….. she’d ask if I was doing my homework. She’d make sure I was completing my graduation requirements. Mrs Mahfood is the reason I went to college”.

Please visit this page of our website to enquire about becoming a coach with Harding Miller and watch the below video to learn more about the program and hear from our coaches.

ByCara Varian

150 scholarships for 2021

150 high achieving young woman awarded life changing academic scholarships

For HMEF staff this is by far the most rewarding time of the year – when we can award scholarships to deserving young women, knowing that they are truly life-changing.

Every July through to November the Foundation enters the process of identifying the following years scholarship recipients (girls entering Y9).  From July through to September applications are open across Australia and all government high schools and government education departments are informed about the scholarship. We also work with a number of strategic alliance partners to help us spread the word about the program, with the aim being to identify the most deserving applicants from all states and territories of Australia.

In 2020 we have over 750 applications across Australia and are delighted to be able to award 150, 4 year scholarships valued at $20,000 each. These are girls in low socioeconomic circumstances who have, despite their hardships managed to excel in their studies, extend themselves to learn more, take on leadership roles and dream of going to university and changing the world for the better. For these girls their dreams are much closer to becoming a reality.

Every year we are nothing short of blown away by the high standard of applications we receive. This year we had over 70 judges across Australia take part in the judging process and the feedback was resoundingly inspiring. 

Our Founders, Kim and Irene have a dream – 8000 scholarships in 2 decades, and as we enter our sixth year of operation and we are on track to make this happen with community and donor support.

ByCara Varian

Five Benefits Of Tutoring For Students

The main features of tutoring — tailored programs, individualised support and plenty of targeted, constructive feedback — are powerful for all students.
Selina Samuels
Education Expert and HMEF personal coach since 2019

For girls from low socioeconomic circumstances, many of whom have unique challenges and are disproportionately likely to struggle with their confidence and sense of self-efficacy, personalised academic support can have particular benefits. 

Each Harding Miller scholarship includes up to $2,500 worth of personalised tutoring for core subjects every year — a feature I believe has a profound impact on a students’ ability to succeed at school. I love that each girl is given the flexibility to decide which tutor and tutoring format best suits them and their schedule, and is encouraged to explore everything from in-person sessions to a live online format.  

The right tutor, the right program and pace can elevate a young woman’s learning substantially, offering personalised support which can build confidence, increase academic outcomes and encourage a love of learning that just might stay with them for life.  

Here are the top five ways I believe tutoring can help students thrive. 

  • The classroom format is one-to-many. Tutoring is one-to-one 

Access to education in Australia is a genuine privilege. That said, class sizes are growing and many of the HMEF scholars aren’t in a position to receive individual help from family or friends outside their school environment. Tutoring gives these students individual attention to catch up or push them ahead depending on their particular needs. 

For me, tutoring is less about getting top marks than about ensuring that every student has the opportunity to learn at their own pace with a dedicated educator.  

  • Tutoring helps students build confidence and overcome hurdles

Tutoring can absolutely help to improve academic achievement, however a more fundamental purpose is to bolster each child’s confidence and deepen their enjoyment of school so that they become engaged in the process of learning…well into adulthood.  

Tutoring gives HMEF scholars the opportunity to focus on the areas they feel they need the most help with, ask their tutor as many questions as they need, and ultimately help them to see that, actually, they can do it

  • Tutoring fills knowledge gaps

Many recipients come from a range of backgrounds and abilities, but I’ve seen first hand that all show wonderful potential. Some students have missed periods of school for various reasons while others have worked to overcome different barriers. Tutoring provides an opportunity for girls to focus on areas in which they might be struggling, ensuring they can keep pace with their classmates. 

  • Tutoring can be tailored to a range of needs and schedules

Some girls work up to thirty hours per week supporting or supplementing their household income. Others live in quite remote areas or have family commitments. Tutoring is about understanding the individual needs of each student and finding a time that suits their schedule and routine. 

I love that Harding Miller partners with a variety of providers, from online tutors to in-person help, to ensure they can meet the needs of their recipients. 

  • Tutoring gives girls access to a learning partner who isn’t a parent or teacher

It’s not always easy for students (especially the teenage variety) to speak up or ask questions in class or at home. Tutoring offers a dedicated person who goes at the pace of each student. The one-to-one nature of sessions also offers them the freedom to ask “silly” questions or express themselves away from their peers or family members. 


Cluey Learning provides online tutoring options across three core subjects: Maths, English and Chemistry. The currently provide personalised online tutoring to 23 HMEF that their scholarships pay for.
Since 2019 they have donated funds to support two HMEF scholars in NSW with full scholarships across the four years of the program.  One of their scholars is Lily Masters who Selina presented with her scholarship award in 2019 at the Sydney Town Hall.
Selina is also a personalise coach to two HMEF scholars.
ByCara Varian

Get to know Cara Varian – HMEF Executive Director

Q&A with Cara Varian

You have a varied background including a chief of staff role for the NSW Leader of the opposition.  What attracted you to the Foundation?

Good morning. I have had a varied career, most notably as the Chief of Staff to the NSW Leader of the Opposition. But I’ve also worked in the Australian Army, as a Federal public servant, as a political adviser at the Federal, State and Local Government levels as well as a consultant in the insurance industry. Today I am the Founding Executive Director of the Harding Miller Education Foundation and I am here to talk a little about how that career pathway came about.

I have always been driven by the idea of making the best use of my time. Even as a teenager, I liked the idea of a purposeful career where I could look back at something that I had achieved. It was this drive that initially took me to the Army and then back to Canberra for the federal public service. While I was finishing my bachelor’s degrees, I spent a lot of time thinking about what made Australia a great place to live and how I could use my time and career to protect and enhance our society and our country. At the time, I had a low opinion of politicians (one that is probably shared by many these days). I figured that politicians turn over regularly and that, if you took a long term perspective, the changes of government did not seem a great shifts in public policy. And so, I decided that contributing to a smart, energetic and dedicated public service would be a more effective way of making my contribution to Australian society than through the parliament.

But I got to Canberra and I was quickly worn down. So much bureaucracy. Slow moving, opaque and infuriating. And after a couple of years, I decided that I would need significant seniority to make change. My best guess was a mid-level member of the senior executive service is where I would need to be to feel like I was shifting anything. It could take me a whole career to get there. I could have been very bitter and twisted if I stayed.

And so, I started making plans to change my career. I looked at journalism, the legal profession, diplomacy, international development. And in the midst of all of that I was asked to fill in as a Departmental Liaison Officer for the Minister for Defence. It was a role that was classified two levels (and a whole category) above what I was doing at the time. And I am absolutely sure that I was asked because they couldn’t find anyone to agree to take on what was known to be a very demanding role.

I went and I stayed. I worked for a Liberal and Labor Defence Minister (and was one of only three DLOs who survived the changed of government).

All of sudden, while I wasn’t working at that very senior level that I had aspired to I was working with people at that senior level and having influence at that level. It reinforced my view that I needed to be quite senior to have influence but also gave me a taste of being able to shift those levers to affect change. I was hooked and I stayed in advisor and chief of staff roles for quite a few years. It was hard work and I loved it.

It was during these years that I realised I wanted to work in education. I am inspired by the ripple effect that education creates across society and across generations. Universal access to a great education drives a reduction of inequality in society, better health and wellbeing outcomes and greater economic productivity. It is not the only area that can achieve these, but it is the one can do all of these things and one that connects with me.

I had attempted to move across to that portfolio a couple of times while I was in the federal and state parliaments. I even secured jobs but for one reason or another I was compelled to focus on the defence and transport portfolios. After I left my parliamentary roles, I attempted to move into the education portfolio and found it was a closed shop. They wanted teachers and I wasn’t a teacher. So, I worked as a consultant and strategic adviser while I tried to work out how to get into the education sector. I volunteered at education foundations. I joined education policy advocacy groups. I read avidly about education policy and issues.

But these were disheartening times. I’d been travelling overseas for year and the capital that I had from my time in parliament has somewhat dissipated during the time that I was away. I had used up much of my savings while I was travelling. I was doing jobs that I found underwhelming. I had a couple of difficult bosses. I had certainly started to question my choice to leave my political roles. And then I got the call.

Some philanthropists wanted to start their own scholarship program. They had met me through one of my volunteering roles and wanted to talk to me about heading up the program. It was undefined and ambiguous. It was an idea, not yet an organisation. The role went from being part time to full-time in a conversation – and that made me worry that it could change again just as easily. It was difficult to find any information on the philanthropists as they are incredibly private people. It was a risk and, obviously, one that I decided to take.

How has your previous experience helped in your current role?

My previous experience helped me get the job and be good at the job.

I stood out to the philanthropists as a leader because of my ability to coordinate and negotiate with panellists and stakeholders. These are skills that I had honed during my previous roles.

But more importantly, my previous experiences have helped me succeed in my current role. The two skills that I have found the most transferable is judgement and decision making on one hand and communication and relationship management on the other.

My capacity to build and maintain relationships has driven the organisation to what it is today. We 300 hundred students in 130 schools across four states. We have positive working relationships with 3 universities who provide our students with experience and guidance to support their career choices and university pathways. We have over 100 individual volunteers,  and 30 small, medium and large organisations who collaborate or support the work of the foundation. Our number of donors grows annually and our public fundraising has quadrupled in the last year.

Being a Chief of Staff is a busy job and it is done under much scrutiny but ultimately it is a lonely experience. You need to make calls every day and be able to defend them forever. I made between 50 and 100 decisions every day in that role and I never knew which one of them was going to attract media attention or criticism from the myriad of parliamentary, party or community stakeholders. Learning to make those decisions quickly and under scrutiny has helped me make good decisions as an Executive Director in a new organisation.

And incidentally, running a cabinet has also put me in good stead for running a board.

Do you think experience in the NFP sector is something everyone should consider having on their CV?

I have found my NFP experience valuable and interesting. I enjoy moving sectors and industries. Like all moves between sectors or industries, there is much to learn about how and why people work the way that they do. There are also skills and experiences that you can bring to the sector. I find the process of growing the breadth of my experience and skills useful, challenging and rewarding. And working in the NFP sector ha always been on my bucket list.

In fact, being a CEO of a NFP organisation that focused on education was a dream job of mine. But this is not a fairy tale and not everything works out perfectly. There are trade-offs.

I took a significant pay cut to take the job. When I was hired the Foundation was an idea and it was my job to make it a sustainable and effective scholarship program. It was a start-up and I learnt huge amounts about setting up a company, a charity and effectively a small business. I am still learning. In that process, I did mountains of very unglamorous tedious work and in the early days I did it by myself. I consider myself quite self-sufficient, but I found that lack of support and collaboration difficult at times.

If the NFP sector interests you, I would encourage to do your research and work for an organisation that fits your values. Be confident that you can step back into whatever you were doing beforehand if you don’t love the work or the pay is not something you want to accept in the long term. I have been away from the corporate affairs and strategic advice world for four years and I still get recruiter calls regularly.

If lower pay and lower resources means that an NFP job is not up your alley I would strongly encourage you to consider volunteering. You can volunteer on the frontline, as an expert, as an adviser, or as a board member… in fact you can mentor girls on my program if you want. But choose something that you personally care about and contribute to it. Studies have shown that volunteering can help you reduce stress, find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. And the process of volunteering also helps to protect your mental and physical health.

Each quarter the Foundation will profile a staff member – all interesting career paths that have led them to work in education.