In Sunday’s Canberra Times, seven prominent Canberrans were invited to share a letter to their 17 year old selves, of which our Director General Anne-Marie Schwirtlich was one.

Dear Anne-Marie,

At 16, you are back in Sydney – a family newly minted as Australians. Your bewilderment about some things – coeducational schools for one – will dissipate but when, in 40 years, you attend a highschool reunion, you will realise that the boys you never spoke to were probably very kind, funny and creative people.

Change is something you have taken in your stride and, together with your curiosity and independence, will serve you well. Chances can multiply if you are prepared to take them.

You have had great role models from whom to learn about love, fairness, resolution, friendship, generosity, loyalty and humour. This won’t stop you from making many mistakes. You will learn from them especially if you do so with grace.

Not too far from now you will enter a sanctimonious phase. It is deeply unattractive, so keep it short. Really. It will come as a shock, given the number of strong women around you – mum, nana, aunts, teachers and friends – that women don’t run the world, but the lessons you learnt in India about how educating women is the catalyst for change in families, communities and beyond are not to be forgotten. Your opportunities for education and learning are a privilege. Don’t waste them.

Try to remember all dad’s wise advice about managing money, financial independence and running a business. He is right when he says that clothes, no matter how fashionable, are not a superannuation strategy. I could give you a tip about the shares you should buy but I can see you rolling your eyes a mile off.

And, nana was wrong in her firmly held belief that Australian men were mad and not to be married. There is one of whom even she might have approved.

With love from 2014.