Jessica Watson's achievements should inspire all

THERE will have been plenty of Australians reflecting on Saturday about exactly what they were doing when they were 16.It's safe to assume that for most the idea of sailing around the world wasn't high on the agenda. It's probably the reason so many tuned in to televisions around the nation, and flocked to the steps of the Sydney Opera House on Saturday to watch a little pink boat sail through a mass of welcoming vessels to end a voyage which will never be forgotten.Jessica Watson's triumphant return to Sydney on the weekend was not only a significant personal victory but a kick in the teeth to the naysayers and doubters. There were plenty of them.That a 16-year-old in a 10m boat could face the worst conditions and seas of the world and complete the trek unassisted defies convention and almost belief.While Jessica's journey didn't get off to the best start - hitting a bulk carrier before the official voyage had even begun - her resolve and determination never wavered.It's patently obvious where much of Jessica's fortitude comes from - her parents, accused of feeding their daughter to the wolves - have coped with a barrage of criticism with good grace and belief that all the preparation work put into the voyage would ensure a safe passage home.In terms of a sailing achievement, it is monumental. Whether Jessica's record becomes "official'' is an irrelevant aside. In terms of inspiration, it stands as a beacon to what can be achieved by a young, determined mind.Too often in Australia, we are happy to chop down the tall poppy. To denigrate the actions of our youth and to dismiss the achievements - except in sporting arenas - of those who are the future of our nation.As Jessica so eloquently put it on Saturday, she is not a hero. "You don't have to be someone special to achieve something amazing. You've just got to have a dream, believe in it and work hard."We hope her achievement acts as a motivator and an inspiration for all Australians, young and old. Her actions, like so many prominent Australians before her, epitomise everything that keeps our nation great.