The Catholic Women's Mentoring Program is helping young women find professional role models.
As a married politician in Canberra and a mother of five children, Giulia Jones is a very busy woman. She knows there aren't many women like her, who manage both young children and government shadow portfolios. She's hopeful it will become more common for women in the future.
Seven hundred kilometers south, in Melbourne, Caitlin den-Bakker has finished studying a series of degrees and has begun to navigate a career in the public service. It's a role she never initially thought she'd be in but likes that her workplace invests in her.
These two women have never met in person. They are different ages and have different interests and ambitions. Despite this, they have a relationship very few people are fortunate enough to have.
When they call one another every couple of months they are one partnership in a bigger network called Catholic Women's Mentoring. The program aims to empower young women to use their gifts and talents to make meaningful and significant contributions to not only the Church, but Australian society.
Women sign up online as either a mentor or a mentee and are matched according to their needs.
As a mentor in the program, Giulia says, 'Part of partnering up with someone who has been there and done that for a little while can mean you can copy the best bits and perhaps avoid the mistakes we've all made.
'That's the benefit of mentoring when it's an open and honest relationship you can help them fast track their success.'
Giulia attributes some of her own success to being able to ask questions and navigate the different ways she could succeed. As a mentor to Caitlin, her role is to listen and offer suggestions in a way where there is no compulsion or expectations set.
'I've asked Caitlin about what she hopes to achieve and then I try to dispel any myths about how to get there. I also want her, as I want all young women to know that it isn't necessary to postpone a family forever to be successful', says Giulia.
Giulia stresses that if women can change the system, they can improve their own lives and generations of women to come who quite naturally want to be mothers as well as earners. Motherhood shouldn't remain as a trade-off with a career. But the Catholic Church in Australia doesn't often talk about women being able to be both great mothers and career women.
'I think we need to talk about it much more openly and overtly, women from Jewish backgrounds have been running businesses for generations, we haven't so much in our church culture.
'I would like the next generation of women to be able to be savvy, to make it to the top, to where they'd like to go and to have their children, I'm to say it can be done.'
Since first speaking to Caitlin a few months ago, Giulia says she is very happy for her and has noticed her moving forward to achieve what she wants.
The relationship is one of both giving and receiving. It's also a chance for both women to pause in their busy lives and take a chance to stop and talk to each other on a personal level.
Caitlin says it's like having a 'professional friend.'
She first heard about Catholic Women's Mentoring through a friend. She was at a crossroads at the time, having just finished studying at Melbourne University and considering going into a role in policy.
'My friend talked about how there were mentors who weren't only very strong in their careers but also strong Catholic women who we could look up to and share our values and our faith and the things that come with that when we are working', says Caitlin.
The program has an informal structure and it's left up to the mentor and mentee to choose how often and by what means they would like to connect. This builds companionship to foster faith and encouragement in young women.
Through having a mentor, Caitlin has set both short and long-term goals in her life. The sessions the women have together are quite intensive, allowing months in between for Caitlin to implement some of the things discussed.
Caitlin has been learning about how her mentor used resources around her to build different successes in her life. They also talk about politics, Australian culture and trying to practice faith as a modern Catholic woman.
Caitlin is inspired by her mentor and the fact Giulia is both excelling in her job and as a mother.
'I think sometimes in the Catholic sphere we get the idea that it's all about motherhood or all about a career and we ask "can you have both?" It's quite encouraging to see a strong mother and a professional pathway that can come alongside that. She's been so encouraging, which has been so nice', Caitlin says.
The program is also about women building each other up. Caitlin says women sometimes need to tell each other 'Yes' their dreams are achievable. This can propel women through society in a positive way. These two women are in early stages of their mentoring relationship and have far more conversations to come. While they have never met in person, Giulia says she hopes to meet Caitlin when she is in Melbourne. Meanwhile both say that in the modern era, the distance between them hardly matters.
Image: Catholic Womens Mentoring Launch