Kyabram’s Andrew Cooper and Shepparton’s Peter Holland are community leaders in the making.
Part of this year’s Fairley Leadership Program cohort, the Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) employees aim to give back to their communities to ensure they remain sustainable for years to come.
Designed to educate emerging leaders about the challenges and opportunities impacting on the Goulburn Murray region, the program equips people for leadership in their own organisations and the wider community.
Mr Cooper, who is GMW’s Water Distribution Services (East) assistant customer service manager, said the most important ingredient for leadership was passion.
“I have gained the drive to give back to a community that has given so much to myself and many others, and the want to build an adaptive, resilient and attractive region for many years to come,” he said.
“I want to develop a skill set and networks that better places me to become a leader within our community.
“Small towns such as Kyabram have given many people a great lifestyle and opportunities. In recent years, our community has had significant struggles that has led to more vacant shops, business closing and less community involvement.
“I want to work with passionate people to create an environment where small towns can continue to thrive and grow as they have previously, which creates so much positivity and opportunities for all involved.”
GMW’s Information Technology manager, Mr Holland said he wanted to gain a better understanding of the community and the issues and services within it.
“I have been involved in volunteering, mainly around community sport, for a long period of time and as my kids are getting older, so I wanted to explore other opportunities that may exist,” he said.
“I wanted to look outside of the sporting field to see if there was something of interest.”
The 11-month program offers a mix of learning environments, including face-to-face, online and intensives – where participants gain invaluable access to key decision and policy makers and change creators.
Some of the themes the group has covered include agriculture - visiting Plunkett Orchards, Valley Pack, Rick Cross Dairy and Avonlea Flowers – and water; listening to, among others, Fairley Fellow and GMW Water Storage Services general manager Martina Cusack about ‘Women in Water’.
Other topics have included cultural diversity, project management and community project planning.
“Part of the program is that we deliver a community project with the intent of having a lasting impact of a part of our community,” Mr Cooper said.
“We continue to learn so much throughout each session, from understanding our community and what we currently offer, to the issues that we are facing and need to address.”
The 12-year veteran of GMW said one of the most enjoyable aspects of the program was networking and building friendships with the cohort.
“We are such a diverse bunch of people,” he said.
“They are all interesting, passionate and infectious people who just want to see our community build, support and be the best it can for many generations to come.”
Mr Holland, who has been with GMW for almost eight years, said the culture diversity day gave him an insight into available services, particularly around immigration to the area.
“It’s been terrific to hear and understand the challenges people have when moving to Greater Shepparton and hearing from the wonderful volunteers we have in the community,” he said.
“I have gained a lot from listening to some very generous guest speakers and to our cohort who also have been brave and insightful in their own journeys.
“The program is also giving me the opportunity to see a whole range of different leadership styles and form strong new connections within the community.”
The rest of the program will see the pair visit Benalla as part of ‘Small Towns, Big Hearts’, Echuca for a mid-year retreat about economy; and Canberra and Melbourne for study tours, as well as taking part in a virtual Federal Parliament and sessions on education and young people; care of the vulnerable; and health and wellbeing.