After eighteen months with the Australian Rural Leadership Program, my cohort graduated last night in Perth.
We started strong last May, roughing it in northern Western Australia with heavy packs on our backs as we saw some spectacular land. Since then we've travelled across the country spending time with politicians, industry leaders, local government leaders, primary industry, secondary industry and tertiary institutions.
We’ve also been overseas. The Indonesia study tour in June this year was an opportunity to see leadership in a different political and cultural context. That fortnight challenged many of my assumptions and much of my thinking about our neighbour.
It was an enormous privilege to take part in the ARLP. For more than two decades this iconic program has been developing and supporting leaders from across the nation. Thanks to a scholarship from the William Buckland Foundation, I’m one of its newest graduates.
Broadly speaking, the program’s role is to improve the capacity of rural leaders so that they can step-up to the challenges facing regional Australia. Have I learnt much? Yes. I've broadened my horizons and my understanding of leadership and had an opportunity to explore more of the issues that are affecting those of us who live outside metropolitan areas. The program's based on experiential learning, it teaches you skills, then gives you space to practice these. I've learnt more about working in groups and teams, how to recognise, manage and take risks; the importance of communication, and gained more of an understanding of the different leadership styles.
To be part of the ARLP I made it through a competitive national selection process. Then, there were fifty-nine days away in six blocks over eighteen months. After the Kimberley, we visited Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney. We skipped across to the Riverina and then spent what felt like a long fortnight in Indonesia, before a final week in Perth. The program was also a commitment (opportunity) for my husband and toddler* to fend for themselves while I was away.
Undertaking the ARLP avails me to an extraordinary professional and personal network of leaders. It also surrounds me with peers from outside my region who have had similar experiences and are grappling with like challenges; their counsel – sometimes generously offered at 2 am around a campfire, or character-building advice against a breathtaking backdrop – has helped me see some challenges from a different perspective.