What Years/Year Levels did you attend Perth College?
I was a boarder from 1980 to 1984 (Years 8 to 12).
Do you have any special memories from your time at PC?
My schedule was pretty hectic and because I was a boarder, some of my special highlights are of the outings we did. One of these was a one-off caving excursion at Margaret River. Not only was it an opportunity to explore some of the magnificent limestone caves – abseiling down ropes, crawling through small, pitch dark spaces, navigating by torchlight and walking through the magnificent forest – it was also a time for developing stronger bonds away from the classroom and sporting field. I felt that as a group we shared in something very special that will endure for a lifetime.
What is special about Perth College?
Perth College was essentially my life for five of my most formative years and has had a significant role in shaping who I am. The more I see of the world, the more I appreciate the excellent grounding and the caring environment the PC community provided.
What career field have you entered into?
I graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Physical Education and a Diploma of Education and worked as a Physical and Health Education Teacher for a year. When I left for the UK, initially to play hockey on a UWA Hockey Club tour, the plan was to base myself there for a couple of years and travel. I could not have predicted the career path I have carved out since then as an explorer/adventurer and as a real tennis professional. My tertiary qualifications have proved very useful for careers as an athlete, coach and educator, but I have also developed many more skills as a writer, presenter, organiser/manager, and now filmmaker.
What have you been up to since graduating?
As an expedition cyclist I have cycled a distance equivalent to twice around the world at the equator and I’m considered one of the top 10 Australasian women explorers of all time. My major expeditions containing world-firsts include:
Trans-Siberian cycle expedition – a 13,400km, five-month journey from St Petersburg to Vladivostok in aid of the children of Chernobyl. This was an opportunity to experience firsthand the ‘new Russia’ emerging from 70 years of communism (1993).
Great Australian cycle expedition – a 25,000km journey through Australia, 7,000km of which were off-road on remote desert tracks. The most difficult section was the 1,800km Canning Stock Route, which involved crossing almost 1000 sand dunes in extreme heat. The expedition was an official activity for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and I created a special education programme to complement the journey (2004 to 2005).
Breaking the Cycle in Africa – 22,000km from Africa’s most westerly tip in Senegal to its most easterly landmark in Puntland, Somalia. Cycling an unbroken line through 20 countries over 10 months, I explored the causes and effects of extreme poverty focusing on what is being done to give a ‘leg up’ rather than a ‘hand out’. In partnership with the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, I created an innovative education programme involving students mostly from Victoria, but also from other parts of Australia and around the world. This was also an official activity for UNESCO’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2010).
Breaking the Cycle South Pole – will involve the first bicycle crossing of the Antarctic continent, a journey of 1,850km which will take about 45 days in temperatures as low as -40C and over altitudes of 3,000m. I will be raising funds for AIDS in Africa as a response to one of the issues I learned so much about during my African expedition. There are potentially several stakeholders, including UNESCO, to contribute to an education programme that will be about leadership with a focus on the environment, social responsibility and science. BBC World News has indicated it would be prepared to broadcast a series of up to six parts (80 million weekly viewers). This expedition will only be possible if I can find the sponsorship funds soon (all systems are in place and technology is being developed) (2015 to 2016).
Books and documentary films:
NJINGA – book published in October 2014. My first feature-length documentary, also entitled NJINGA, has so far won Best Documentary and Best Cinematography and was runner-up for Best Director at the Action on Film International Film Festival in Los Angeles on 30 August 2014. A TV series is also in the pipeline and work will start on this before the end of the year. NJINGA is the story of the Breaking the Cycle in Africa expedition. Here’s a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcbZUgDZkxM
Out There and Back, published in 2007, is the story of my Great Australian cycle expedition.
I am also a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society (UK) and a member of The Explorers’ Club (New York).
Real Tennis: After my 1993 Trans-Siberian cycle expedition I discovered the game of real tennis while working at the Harbour Club in London. I became a professional two years later and have remained in the top five women in the world since then (when not on expedition), despite having incurred a serious knee injury which has led to eight operations and has plagued my playing career ever since. I have won five Australian Open singles titles and many doubles titles.
I currently work as a part-time senior professional at the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club. Prior to returning to Australia I worked as a professional at The Oratory School, Hardwick House and Cambridge in the UK and Fontainebleau in France.
To find out more please visit my website: www.KateLeeming.com.
What skills did you develop at PC that have helped you succeed?
Perth College provided many opportunities to try different activities. On the sporting field I learned to be an all-rounder and to succeed as I did it was mostly about dedication, hard work, adaptability and the ability to focus. I was often given leadership roles because I led by example and fair play – with plenty of encouragement from the School.
As a boarder I learned to mix and get along with a wide range of personalities, but also learned to be independent. I was a strong student academically but because of the effort I put in on the sporting field, I learned to manage my studies well enough to get to where I wanted to go (UWA) and keep on top of my game. My best subjects at school were Geography, Human Biology and English, so those interests have only developed since then, especially my story-telling voice.
My time at Perth College proved to be a great foundation for what I have gone on to do. For me it has been about taking those interests and passions and exploring them to try to find my full potential and to be able to contribute the maximum. Each journey opens my eyes a little more as to what is really possible.
What is your favourite weekend activity?
I rarely seem to have a free weekend these days because I am juggling work (as a real tennis professional) and all my other activities, but if I do I like to escape – a bike ride in the country, a walk along the nearby Yarra River or a lazy Saturday afternoon backyard party.
If you had just $10 in your wallet, what would you spend it on?
Sharing a flat white and a long chat with a friend.