Mary Ann Reen has been inspired to inspire others through the National Mentoring Program

Meet Mary Anne Reen, a trailblazing mentor with a transformative journey from rural roots to a career in HR. Discover her inspiring evolution, navigating male-dominated industries, and advocating for social justice.
Join her story through the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) National Mentoring Program, where she empowers others by sharing her experiences, resilience, and passion.
Learn how her diverse background shapes her mentoring approach, fostering growth and understanding. Explore her insights on the value of diverse experiences and consider being a mentor yourself in this mutually enriching journey.

By Gabrielle Hall 

When Mary Anne Reen finished school, she jumped into her career, boots and all.

But she is the first to admit, she is not the person she was when she first climbed into an excavator on-site for her father’s earthmoving business.

Her growth and development, challenges, insight and lived experience has made this young woman an ideal mentor candidate in the National Mentoring Program.

Having worked through the male-dominated earthmoving and mining industry, Mary Anne has gone on to establish a career in human resources.

Passionate about helping others navigate their way through their own careers, Mary Anne is now on her second round of mentoring, having completed the Drought Resilience Leaders Mentoring Program.

Tough times shape perspective

Now based in Sydney, Mary Anne grew up on a farm at Quaama, in New South Wales’s Bega Valley.

With beef cattle the main focus, there was always an underlying need for supplementary income, and it is something that has helped shaped Mary Anne’s view on success.

“I think that’s what I took into the ARLF, was that with this experience, you know how hard it can be and also how rewarding, but the way we were successful was through community,” she said.

“We had to create small business on the side – dad had an earthmoving business and mum always had a side hustle, growing crops of tomatoes, corn, broccoli, cabbages, or sewing debutante dresses and was just incredible at bringing in income when we needed it.”

Mary Anne said there was always community pulling together to get each other through, even in the toughest times of drought.

“I remember what drought looks like,” she said.

“I remember it being so hard not having water and not having money to pay for basics.

“I remember having this beautiful farm that you can’t feed your cattle on, getting salt licks brought in for them, and you don’t have running water and have to pay the council to truck in water to have a shower and to drink.

“And when you’re in it, it’s the emotional support, even more than the material, that makes life easier.”

Perfect partnership

Mary Anne said she felt “grateful” to be partnered with her first mentee through the ARLF and had so much to give. Being able to share a different perspective and viewpoint, and act as a sounding board was rewarding.

However, her second mentee took Mary Anne “completely unawares”.

“I had this question mark of whether I could really be of help to this person because I felt like she had these extraordinary skills and was just so capable,” she said.

Halfway through the mentoring program, Mary Anne said it was now clear that they were the perfect fit for each other.

“I feel really confident that it’s been the right match because maybe that synergy of familiarity makes it easier for the mentee to find relatability and explore ideas with a sense of there being that understanding,” she said.

Finetuning skills

Mary Anne said the mentoring program had enabled her to fine-tune her listening skills, and, passionate about social justice as a result of some of her early career experiences, it was helping her make a difference.

She said the mentoring program had brought her empathetic skill set to the fore.

“For me, social justice and integrity and opportunity for people is really important,” Mary Anne said.

“I fundamentally believe that comes from being a young female in heavy industry at a time that it wasn’t common for a young woman to be trying to help a family business get up on its feet, and in coming up against the unique challenges that come with that and feeling that it wasn’t fair.

“Having a real sense of what that feels like enables a way forward to look after others and create safe spaces for others where they’re allowed to be and should be.”

Mary Anne said it was heartening to see that it was now “normal” to see women working in construction and mining, and that women like herself had helped pave the way.

More to come

The growth keeps coming for Mary Anne, who is preparing to move to Port Moresby for her first overseas posting.

She admits she is “terrified but excited” to take on a 12-month contract for a construction project with a major energy company, working in the social impact team.

It will be another chapter in her lived experiences, and more to share with others.

“It wasn’t until recent times that I could understand how each of my experiences benefitted me in my career,” she said.

“For a long time, I could not see the value of working for dad’s construction company.

“But I’m not the person I was when I entered the industry.
“I have a lot more confidence and a sense of who I am which has been foundational from my father, so I’m very grateful.”

Inspired to inspire others

Mary Anne hopes others will be inspired to share their own journey and insight, and consider joining mentoring opportunities.

“Every person brings something unique to the arrangement and you’ll be partnered with somebody who requires that support from a mentor so they’re going to be open to that engagement,” she said.

“But it’s mutually beneficial – you will be learning, the mentee will be learning.

“You’ll both come away having gained, not lost.”

The National Mentoring Program is part of the Helping Regional Communities Prepare for Drought Initiative delivered in partnership with the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal under the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.

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