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A funny thing happened on the way back to Canberra.
Electrician, business owner and stand-up comedian, Caitlin Maggs grew up in Canberra, before exploring other parts of Australia. She and her husband chose to move around when their daughter, Sadie, was little.
“I didn’t want to be one of those people who stays exactly where they are. I just needed to travel around to know that this is where I wanted to be,” Caitlin says.
While the couple had enjoyed their time living away, it was the sense of connection and community Canberra offers that Caitlin had missed the most.
“It just felt like home immediately when we came back,” she says.
“I loved growing up here. We had one of those classical, whimsical streets where all the kids played outside.
“I’m definitely a local — but so many of my friends moved here from somewhere else, and love it just as much as I do.”
Caitlin started in the electrical industry at 17, a week after she left school.
“Seventeen years ago when I started it was a bit less common to have women on site,” she recalls. A few years later, she and best friend Sally Waters started their own business, Empowered Electrical Solutions.
That has created this flow-on effect and we’ve started doing other things around the community, encouraging women into trades.
When the Empowered team is on a building site, she’s noticed there’s a softer energy — and lots of communication.
“When Sally came into it, she’d just given birth to her second child. She wanted somewhere she could ease back into. That’s tricky in the trades. There’s not a lot of systems in place for women after they’ve given birth to come back to work. And not a lot of programs where you can ease into it, and it’s quite physical. [Starting our own business] was kind of our only option at the time.”
I find that the community here is beautiful. I find the accessibility to everything is incredible. We never have to turn down work because it’s too far away.
“There’s not much traffic which is very lucky when you’re driving at tradie hours.”
That convenience leaves Caitlin plenty of time for her other passion: stand-up comedy.
“I’ve always been a bit of a class clown, a bit of a larrikin, and I was relatively naughty in school but I could talk my way out of a lot of things. I found out I had the gift of the gab pretty early on,” she says.
Caitlin attended her first open mic night while living in Ballarat and was instantly addicted. When she moved back to Canberra, she went straight into local stand-up comedy competition, Raw Comedy.
“I didn’t realise it was a competition for more established comedians,” she laughs.
“But I went into it and I won! So my sixth ever gig was in Melbourne in front of a thousand people!”
Being able to drive ten minutes from her house to do a show makes comedy easier in Canberra. And you can be a “very big funny fish in a small pond” here.
It’s not quite as saturated here as it is in Melbourne, so you do have an opportunity to stand out more.
She credits the comedy scene in Canberra as being really supportive.
“Everyone’s friendly. Everyone wants to help each other out. It’s made me stay in the scene.
“There’s something really unique about Canberra’s comedy scene: there’s these little pockets of niche comedy for every style, an audience who’ll support you at every venue.”
And there’s something ‘full circle’ about the path Caitlin has taken. When they moved back to Canberra, the couple settled six houses down from the house Caitlin grew up in.
“That should tell you a little bit about how I feel about Canberra,” she laughs.