Celebrated female football pioneer Peta Searle says there is 'no doubt' she gets her work ethic from her mother and grandmother.
Her mother was born in India and the family moved to Australia when she was 13 to follow her grandfather's dying wish.
Searle says she also sees the quality of resilience in both female role models who had to work hard to start life in a new land after leaving their home country.
When Searle shared her story with emerging leaders in Ballarat on Wednesday afternoon, it became clear the quality of resilience too has played an important role in shaping her own journey.
There should be no barriers.Peta Searle, AFLW coach
A trailblazer for women in football, Searle was appointed by St Kilda in 2014 as the first full-time female assistant coach in the men's competition.
Prior to the appointment, she became the first female assistant coach in the VFL with Port Melbourne in 2012 after leading Darebin to multiple premierships in the VFLW.
She has now been appointed as St Kilda's inaugural AFLW coach for the team's first season in the competition in 2020 and was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for her services to the AFL earlier this year.
READ MORE: Saints appoint Peta Searle as AFLW coach
Searle shared tales in Ballarat that highlighted her career-long priority of creating a culture of care in football - an approach that led Darebin to multiple premierships in the VFLW.
"My number one focus was to make the club a place where I wanted to bring my grandmother to," she said.
"I felt if we could do that we would get where we needed."
Speaking about her role as the first full time assistant coach of men's AFL competition, Searle said she had never dreamed of working with the AFL.
"I have always been about looking to continually improve and doing what you are doing now really well. If you do those two things opportunities will open and you will naturally grow," she said.
Searle's growth has played a major role in building the participation of women in football. Three or four women are now in her coaching ranks for St Kilda's AFLW team.
"To me the fact I am the only head coach that is female at an AFL level is atrocious," she said.
"At the end of the day, if AFL was really serious about it three years ago clubs would have picked women coaches based on their potential to grow and develop, but that hadn't happened, so I felt it was our responsibility at the Saints to do that.
"There should be no barriers. It (the growth of female football) has challenged societal norms and enabled any girl to think 'this is what I want to be, I can do it'."
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When asked what advice she would give to the emerging leaders in the room, Searle made three resonating points.
- Understand the people you have to lead and know their values.
"To me that is more important than coming up with four words we all live by as a club because that is understanding each other and connecting with each other and that is what is going to move us through."
- The traditional leadership hierarchy with a 'team captain' is not always the most effective model.
"Women don't get their power through hierarchy, they get their energy through connectedness. In our VFL side this year we had no captains."
- You are always evolving. You don't have to be happy all the time, we are not wired to be like that.
"It is okay to be sad. It is okay to ride that wave... I found a lot of men who have coached women struggle to give that honest feedback because they don't want to have to deal with the tears that go with it. One of the things I have learnt is it is okay to cry."
The one on one interview with Searle led by former City of Ballarat councillor Judy Verlin was part of a three talk In Conversation series hosted by Committee for Ballarat and Leadership Ballarat and Western Region.
A conversation with philanthropist and well-known Ballarat identity Paula Nicholson was held last month, while audience members are looking forward to hearing from appearance activist Carly Findlay in November.
"The purpose of the In Conversation series was to talk about stories of leadership, because stories create connection and impact," Leadership Ballarat Western Region executive officer Michelle Whyte said.
"We hope people feel inspired and realise their own potential."