INNOVATIVE COMMUNITIES

Authenticity, connecting and innovation were the main focal points for the 2018 Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program participants ‘Innovative Communities’ program days held in Bendigo on April 20th and 21st.

We started the morning with an acknowledgement of country provided by LMCLP participant, Phillip, where, poignantly, he remarked that ‘I do acknowledge the traditional owners of land’ rather than I would like to acknowledge. Recognising that acknowledgement is something we don’t just signify as a good to do, but as genuine want.

Southern Cross Austereo opened their doors to our many participants and walked us through the rabbit warren of the station. We spied through a window on Cogho and Ez as they spoke on live radio to their audience and to our surprise invited a lucky few into the studio. Fi, an LMCLP participant spoke about what LMCLP is all about and what we hoped to gain from the radio and TV experience. Cogho, Ez, Tim and Justine all described how through genuine interest and authenticity, radio presenters are able to connect on a daily basis with us, the listeners, time and time again.

We arrived at the ever green Bendigo Race Courses’ Silks Function Centre to sate our social media hunger. Briana Cowan (LMCLP 2008), Mingle Media owner, opened our eyes to the social media world of Facebook and Instagram and how to effectively connect businesses or community groups with your target audience. Briana had many tips to share, however authenticity about your product, business and self rang true. Briana noted that ‘who’ in business is important as it informs your target audience about your product, mission or goal.

Leah Sertori, Executive Officer of LEAD Loddon Murray, stretched our minds a few decades into the future to predict what innovative and resourceful projects could be seen. The group thought and relayed back practical risks and great opportunities such as rent-a-roof, sharing electricity through solar panels across neighbours in a community, to sharing life saving resources through an emergency response disability app. So I put to you avid reader, what ideas come to mind about sustainable use of resources in our future some 20 years from now?

Violet Dhu, Margaret O’Rourke and Peter McAllister along with many other well respected presenters spoke at Bendigo’s first ever Regional Community Leaders Convention thanks to the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions. Violet Dhu, Corporate Communications speaker recounted how two years ago she was offered a wonderful opportunity to speak as a major event in Queensland. Violet’s anguish was apparent as she explained that she turned down the offer due to family reasons. Although despairing to turn down such a wonderful offer, in doing so in a truthful, honest and authentic manner, Violet stayed true to herself and was offered numerous other presenting opportunities with that organisation.

Margaret O’Rourke, Mayor, City of Greater Bendigo, spoke about how important communication and authenticity is to build, develop and sustain relationships in her career. Tough decisions in high positions must occur, however being true to the wider goal, your passions and having supportive relationships will outweigh adversity. Margaret stated that “to be a great leader, one must strive to ask tough questions and be willing and open to accepting hard feedback”.

Peter McAllister, General Manager, Truefoods is taking a holistic, community driven approach to facilitating the development of the Maryborough township. Peter commended the Maryborough communities’ response to family violence and their desire to make their community greater.

All speakers drove home the main points of how communication and importantly, authentic communication, will help great leaders achieve their greater cause, and, that innovation in any space can come from any aspect of our life or the lives of members in our communities.

Friday evening the Bendigo Town Hall was buzzing with energy when our 2018 LMCLP group joined more than 100 other guests from across the Loddon Murray region to celebrate 21 years of the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program. It was a great evening and opportunity for participants to meet with graduates, sponsors and supporters and hear more about the amazing achievements of LMCLP alumni and cheerfully speak about our current program day and learnings from our valued speakers.

“The Regional Leadership Convention was an excellent opportunity for people in regional areas to connect, learn and inspire innovation. To have an event of such calibre and innovation held in Bendigo is a fantastic achievement and will hopefully encourage greater growth in our smaller communities” reflected participant, Shanelle Crole of Bendigo.

Saturday saw 29 LMCLP participants begin their day at the stunning Ulumbarra Theatre. Standing on the steps the group was met by David Lloyd, Manager of Capital Venues and Events, previously The Capital – Bendigo’s Performing Arts Centre in Victoria since October 2004. David started the tour of Ulumbarra, which means gather together or “meeting place” in the language of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, with a reflection on his role as Manager of Capital Venues and Events, the development of the theatre from a prison and the significance of the scar trees strategically placed each side of the entrance.

The two scar trees had been transferred to the location from the new Ravenswood Exchange project located south of Bendigo along the Calder Highway. The trees bare the marks created by first nation people when the bark from trees is removed to be used by the people in everyday life.  The scar trees help to symbolise the location and acknowledge the people of the country and their ongoing association with the land today.

Taking us through the old Prison wall which is now a modern and grand entry to a 1000 seat theatre we were provided with glimpse back to a not so distant past when people were incarcerated in tiny, hard and cold individual cells. The Prison itself was only decommissioned in 2006 having been open since 1863 when it was established as the Sandhurst Goal.

Leading the group around the theatre David explain the many wonderful features of the largest such venue in regional Victoria along with fantastic way in which the design had blended the old, bleak and historic environment with a new, modern and enriching venue capable of accommodating the largest of productions.

David completed the tour highlighting the many benefactors in the project and development of Ulumbarra and the vital role that communities and leaders from within play in the creation and build of even the most significant of federal, state and local government sponsored projects.

Outside the theatre we were met by Kerri Douglas, a Dja Dja Wurrung and Bangerang woman and LMCLP 2015 graduate. Kerri provided a smoking ceremony and welcome to country along with a fantastic opportunity for open and no holds barred Q and A session. This provided the perfect environment for many questions while Kerrie explained the custom of a smoking ceremony and encouraged us to wash in the smoke and cleanse the soles of our feet in the thick smoke created from three different native plants.

Leaving Ulumbarra we travel out of Bendigo to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) offices in Epsom for the rest of the day. Generously sponsored by DELWP through providing a venue and catering, the LMCLP group was able to listen and question Peter Dhu (Public Speaking Dynamics), Glenn Pomeroy (Coordinator, Innovation and Transformation, City of Greater Bendigo) and Mark Brennan (Chief Engineer, Thales Australia) in comfort.

Peter provided some fantastic yet simple technics and methods to practice to improve our public speaking. Embracing your nervous energy when speaking to a crowd and taking every opportunity to practice were the main points provided. Glenn was able get us thinking about how we see the future, what change and how rapid that change can and will occur provided great insight into the Bendigo Smart Cities project. Mark rounded out the day by sharing his experience of leadership through his many years working in the defence industry and explaining that leadership for him had not been so much about having technical skills but about building a team, bringing together the people with the skills to work together to solve problems piece by piece.

Wrapping up the two program days, we were all able to take away a significant amount of advice and inspiration on leadership, be it speaking to a room full of people or leading those around us to think big, think differently but bring all those thoughts together, collectively to drive innovation amongst the broader community.

Written by LMCLP participants Nathalie Brown, Barry Floyd, Natasha Romas, Fi Machin, Phillip Brien, Justine Farley, Shanelle Crole and Jude Hannah.