Joanna Williams is a public health advocate and Director of Strategy at Bits and Bods, an inclusive digital platform for teens.
I am in charge of the awkward – and fun – bits needed to run an organisation that starts inclusive conversations with teens about sex, bodies and relationships. My role covers everything from organisational policy and governance to fundraising and external relations.
I've been incredibly lucky to have so many opportunities to work on what I love in organisations that are aligned with my values at such an early point of my career.
Even as a teen, way before started my MPH, my work with Highschoolers Against Homophobia allowed me to enjoy some amazing experiences. Most notably, when a 150 people strong walking float that I coordinated in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade was twice nominated for best political statement at the Mardi Gras Awards.
I now use the skills and experiences I gained running Highschoolers Against Homophobia, and working alongside the NSW Department of Education and Training, NSW Police and ACON, to support and facilitate young people to share their stories through Bits and Bods. This amazing start-up seeks to use storytelling to empower teens to make more informed and pleasurable decisions about sex, bodies and relationships. While I think all the work we do is amazing, I'm most proud of how I produced our upcoming web series where 34 diverse young people talk openly and honestly about their experiences of sex, bodies and relationships. You can see our teaser trailer here.
For me, the highlight of studying at the University was the amazing people I got to learn from and study with - both staff and students. I was lucky to be taught by such passionate experts who always treated us like their equals and went out of their way to build us up. But what really blew me away was the knowledge, experience and support shown by my peers, who came from such diverse professional and personal backgrounds. These (future) leaders probably taught me as much, if not more, than my lecturers. They have become my best friends, my collaborators, my cheerleaders and my (future) colleagues. A lot of this came from running our student association, which provided me with an amazing opportunity to really get to know the student body and to support them to connect with each other, alumni, staff and public health organisations.
The University made many amazing opportunities available to me which really helped to put me where I am today. One of the most memorable opportunities was being a rapporteur at AIDS 2014 which sparked my interest and move toward facilitating and supporting young people to share their lived experience.